Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark | Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Last Bus

Tonight is the last of them. The last of them for a while, at least—the last of these solitary nights. Today was the last arrival, the last lonely arrival in a new city. These are the final hours of navigating, days marked by disorientating street maps and spoken directions, however good intentioned, that I always only halfway understand. The tumble of accents, the stretches of streetside markets, the noonday sun and the search to find somewhere to sleep. These arrivals, always different and yet somehow identical, have shaped my routine. First there’s the way a city comes to me through the bus window: the suburbs, then closer clusters of buildings, then factories, parking lots, and finally the station. Always, too, there’s the feeling of not wanting to disembark after the bus has pulled to a shuddering stop, for however long the ride takes, there’s always, afterwards, the familiar comfort of that journey. It's the intangible landscape sweeping by, and how foreign afterwards stillness feels.

And so today was the last of the unknown arrivals, because tomorrow I go to Buenos Aires. I have the address of Donigan’s apartment written down in the little green notepad I’ve had since the beginning; by now, it’s nearly filled with scribbled directions and the email addresses of people I’ve met since Xela. I have a bed, Donigan said, a bed with fresh sheets and, in the fridge, empanadas and salad waiting for us. I have a city that I’ll go to, a city that will hold me for weeks—months, if my money holds out. I see an end to these constant buses, this neverending line of hostels with shared bathrooms, flip-flops in the shower, hasty breakfasts and lonely dinners of rice and stirfry—the frugal traveler's meal.

So why is it, then, that I'm at the brink of weeping? Why is it that I feel like something's over - is it just this Rosario night? Could it be this high-up stone balcony, washed in curls of winter ivy? Could it be the spattering fountain and the curved patterns of the cobblestones in the plaza below? Is it the wide river in sunset, or the lovely, anonymous dinners? Is it sleeping and waking when I want to, and could it be the other, lonely travelers who drink in my conversation like they, too, are dying of the same thirst? Could it be the silent peaks, the silent fields? Is it this sweetness that could not taste this way were it not flecked with sadness? Is it all the cities I have known, but just a little?

Or could it be that each time I reach somewhere new, I fall in love just a little bit more? It’s each place I visit that makes me miss this trip already. It’s the alleys I walk past, the fruit for sale on the sidewalk, the way the days grow just a little longer the farther south I get. It’s the passing over, the constant crossing of lines on the map, and so for this, this, it is the end. But it’s not over, I’m thinking now, and tomorrow I’ll meet a man I’ve never seen but already hold as a friend. I’ll come to Buenos Aires—a magical place, as my mother described it last night—that I’ve dreamed of reaching for so many months. Tomorrow I’ll climb on the bus, the same bus, you could say, that I’ve taken for so many miles already, and I’ll watch out the window and wait for the city to come to me again. First the suburbs, then the clusters of buildings, the factories and finally the station. Will I want to get off, when the bus finally stops? Maybe this time, I wonder, because there's someone waiting, I will. 


  1. Endings of good things are inherently sad. But there can't be a new beginning until there is an ending. I am sad every time I finish a book, then almost giddy (your word) to begin a new one. The best way to corrupt good memories and feelings is to extend them into the mundane.

    Buenos Aires does have a magic, maybe a bit tarnished and elusive these days. There are many things I like about living here (these past 2 1/2 years), and many things that infuriate me. It is not my favorite of the foreign cities where we've lived during the past 20 years; that is probably Berlin. But it is a fine city for a young woman to park and write Kate's Adventures, and you will be living with people who take that kind of thing very seriously. The making of art from life's stories.

    So welcome to the end of the buses, to the end of the frugal traveler's plight (and wonders). Welcome to the beginning of the next part of your adventure.

  2. PS: It's raining this morning.