Yep, that’s me. I’m the white chick, sprawled across the cement floor and sobbing in the Brooklyn Greyhound Station; although ‘station’ might be an overstatement. The entire room is not much larger than a ping-pong table. It’s mid-July; the heat and humidity are in a race to the top of the thermometer–(humidity is winning)– and a lone metal fan whirs from a top corner; not even moving the air. Passengers waiting for the next arrival, watch from their blue plastic chairs. No one asks what’s wrong or crouches by my side. They have already completed a mental checklist. Protruding bones? No. Gushing blood? No. Seizure? No. Their collective New York hive-mind knows that I am just a White Girl having a meltdown; so, they let me have it. No need for drama. No need for fluff—after all, it’s not California.
It’s Sunday and this weekend began in Cleveland, Ohio. That’s not entirely true. This weekend really began six months ago, when I awoke with the idea of taking a train across the country; romantic visions of the Old West mixing with the steam from my freshly French Pressed coffee. I am a Shift Supervisor at Starbucks, and yes, they have great benefits; but, I certainly wasn’t getting rich; so the idea of taking a train, across the country for an indeterminate amount of time—seemed unrealistic, at best. But, that is what I did. I set a date for three months in the future, started skipping Happy Hours and Brunches, saved money and bought the first, of many, train tickets. The date came and I boarded the Amtrak in San Francisco. That was 4,000 miles, 18 states and six months ago. And now the more I try to control my sobbing, the more snot bubbles form at my nose. No-one could be more surprised than me, that I am a Hormone Hostage on the other side of Menopause; that thrill ride of night sweats and mood swings where you lose a lot, but gain even more; most notably, your period. Losing your period, much like losing your virginity, leaves some women feeling forlorn and lost. What has become of me? What do I do now? How should I feel? Am I still a woman? Is this as good as it gets?
When it’s your virginity you’ve lost, you get on the pill; when it’s your period you’ve lost, you get off that same pill–very happily, I might add; or at least I did. The possibility of pregnancy now firmly in my rearview mirror–I felt liberated. No more cramps and backaches; no more crying at Toyota commercials, losing my keys only to find them 30 minutes later in the freezer or threatening the life of the accordion player on the street corner. So, my post-menopausal meltdown was a shock to me.
I fumbled with my phone and texted my friend two words: I’m Overwhelmed. The phone immediately rang; his voice on the other end, etched in concern; “What’s the matter, Heather? Are you OK?” Between stifled sobs and hiccups, I explained to him; I am stranded in New York. (sniff/sniff) I bought a bus in Nashville. (Deep, wavering breath). I want to go home…the last sentiment lifting into the ethos in a mournful wail; the kind you hear on Aisle 5 when Mother has just informed her child that they will be eating organic potato cereal as opposed to Count Chocula.
He dives straight into a pep talk—or at least his version of it. It begins, “I don’t understand.” He then turns quickly into ‘problem-solving’ mode which is a series of logical arguments and examples. “People drive big rigs across the country every day; FedEx UPS, Amazon, Wal-Mart….” The list goes on, but you get the picture.
I tell him that I have been living in cities for the better part of twenty years, driving only intermittently and when I did rent a car, it was never a bus.
But he’s prepared.
“This was always your plan,” he continues. “You took a train across the country and now, all you have to do is drive the bus back to San Francisco. That’s it and then you’re onto the next step. That’s all there is to it. It’s easy. You can do this. You got this. It’s no big deal. You are going to love it. You’re going to see so much country …”
Finally, I peeled myself off the cement floor, giving my frizzy hair the obligatory tamp down, straightened my sweat-soaked dress and approached the ticket agent.
“I would like one ticket to Nashville,” my voice wavering only slightly.
The agent remains motionless.
“Tennessee,” I offer helpfully.
She looks at me through doubt rimmed eyes and considers.
How likely is it that this girl is gonna flip out? Lock herself in an overhead bin or try to hijack the bus with a Twizzler?
But the thing I have learned after 4000 miles, 18 states and 6 months is; that even if you are carrying a severed head in a bowling bag, haven’t taken a shower for a month or have a styrofoam coffee cup filled with bull semen; it’s Greyhound and they will always sell you a seat.
Nashville….here I come….