A Memory Rises On An Overnight Bus

Nothing in this landscape should have reminded me of you.

Nothing in the bus seat, rock hard and shoes off; nothing in the moon or the night or the stale air, the rattle of the road. Nothing in the sound coming through my headphones—an ancient blues, tambourine kick pedal harmonica, one-man band wail, from before we were born, either one of us existed—and that died into a vinyl crackle before we ever met, a Here even less like this landscape of palms and rice patties, reflections of headlights and mountains in the still, black water.

But suddenly it was there, I was there or you were there—in any case, it came back. Somehow something in that bus and the night tapped into a wellspring of sorrow, an old sorrow that I still carry in me and carry in me, all over this rotten world—constantly decomposing and becoming something new, an exercise in impermanence—and this hard little rock in me that won’t ever melt away.

I started to cry for you. It’d been years since I’d cried for you, about you, about any of it or all of it. (But what was it?) I stared through the scratched glass and cried—but for what? For missing you? I never had you. No one ever had you, not even you.

For having ever even known you?—the shining star of you, burning cigarette embers on the highway, dancing and I watched you dance. For the little moment that our lives intersected: a train station, crosslegged and howling through the alleys of that town neither one of us belonged to? For what blazed through the madness and fury, the brown eyes pinned and the brown eyes glassy and the brown eyes blown out wide as bowling balls, bawling?

For having loved you in the broken way I knew how?—how to only love things that aren’t yours, that’ll leave you, that’s leave us all, that’ll sicken and die the only way they know how. For the fact that nothing could save you, not even God and least of all yourself.

For everything we ran from. For the immense pain we both lived in, that killed you and not me. What the fuck do you do with that? Where do you put that except a hard rock inside you? What Gods are there for this?

Can you build an altar inside yourself—glowing, plated metal and blinking lights, bowls of foregin fruit, a religion you don’t know, whose rituals you perform without understanding—incense smoldering and churning and coming out in little coughs, little moments like these, when I find myself moving through a dark world that doesn’t have you in it—except in a rock I carry, my heart, a temple of unforgetting.

2 Responses to “A Memory Rises On An Overnight Bus”

  1. 1 phillegitimate February 21, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    Damn, how do you have time to craft stuff like this while on the road? Very, very nice piece. Not that it’s meant to be nice, but you know what I mean. Impressed.

  2. 2 Lauren Schroeder February 21, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    Wow. Yes, me too. Very. Impressed.

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Lauren Quinn is a writer and traveler currently living in Hanoi. Lonely Girl Travels was a blog of her sola travels and expat living from 2009 to 2012. She resides elsewhere on the internet now.

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