This is the waiting room of the dead.
Look to your left. Meth-scarred cheeks only emphasize the youth of a girl who can’t be more than 19. Her whole self vibrates as she bounces the balls of her feet against cracked linoleum. Her hands tap a silent drumbeat against rapidly bobbling kneecaps. Whatever she’s thinking, it’s out of rhythm. You glance at her hands. Raw. Ashy dry. The nails bitten to stubs and the skin around them gnawed. A few of them might be starting to heal. It’s been awhile since she’s been able to score.
Look to your right. You’d make this man for a factory worker. He’s too fat to be a day laborer and his skin is an indoor type of sallow. His beard smells like motor oil and cat piss, even from here. Rheumy eyes open occasionally, but fall again in his half slumber. His arms bulge like giant sausages under the rolled up sleeves of a red flannel. The shirt, like his work boots, is clean. You wonder what he told someone with a better razor and soft loafers when they said he couldn’t come back to work anymore.
Look ahead of you. How many kids can one woman have before she splits in half? And when did this woman go deaf? She carries the listless look of the condemned, seemingly oblivious to the squalling brood caterwauling around her. They deafen their blast radius with rude youth. One of them picks his nose, examines his findings, and wipes the booger on the seat of his pants. His mother says nothing. She doesn’t even see.
Don’t look behind you. That sound is not worth investigating.
Look down. Bomb shelter-grade linoleum, still in its original hue of 1960s puke. Where some industrious souls have chipped away at it’s vintage finish, dollar store peel-and-stick tile leaves oily marks on anyone who has dared to wear new shoes for this trip. And bags. Everywhere bags. Yours is smaller than most, but some people don’t have any bags at all. You’re drawn to the people squatting on mountains of plastic, all their worldly possessions entrusted to Hefty. Guess they thought they could take it all with them.
Look up. Sputtering fluorescent bulbs are pale and weak as a drowning man caught in a swell. More than one emits the acrid odor of singed ballast. You haven’t smelled that since 9th grade Spanish, where the school janitor was always too drunk to haul his vertigo up a ladder and change the light. On the walls, all the clocks are institutional issue and sit resolute behind cages bolted to the cinder block.
Just two fans sluggishly churn stale air, bad smells, and the sound of a hundred people breathing through the wait.
Interminable wait. Time stands still here. Life suspends. You have come here because, like everyone else, it turns out that you’re not the master of your own destiny. This place requires a person to surrender all illusions of control, to offer up their egos to the ancient floors, the dying light, and the merciless, jailed clocks. Maybe everyone is on their way to a better place, but for now, someone else is yanking the strings. Please sit back and enjoy the wait.
This is not a limbo for the damned.
Sometimes a bus station is just a bus station.