Running through the empty hallway in a panic, late for the orange bus, the “banana bus” that takes me home, the vehicle that lifts me up off the concrete slab and transports me away from the place of torture, the group of buildings often referred to as a school where sitting still in a hard desk for hours is the requirement. Please, please don’t let me miss it.
God, if it is there waiting for me I’ll quit cursing, I promise, no more shits and fucks and even damns. Sliding onto the loading dock all is quiet except for my thundering heart. There are no school children. The line of buses has disappeared. My bus is nowhere in sight. Surely it is already on the open road heading for its first deliveries, with one seat empty, missing me. Missing me! Me, standing here with panic rising to my throat and hot tears to my eyes and down my cheeks. I’m stuck. Oh shit, oh fuck, oh damn, I’m stuck a thousand miles from home, an infinite distance, an eternity to cross without my trusted banana boat. Am I going to have to walk? Spend the night inside the creepy hallways or out in the bushes alongside the highway? All is lost. Darkness falls…
In the middle of the night I awake sweaty and confused. Elation comes upon the realization that it was a nightmare, that I’m lying safely in my bunk bed far away from the place of torture. I look up to see the sliver of silver hanging upside down and I breathe in the cool Autumn air blowing through my open window.
It would become a recurrent childhood dream of struggling to reach home but never quite reaching it.
Naked, we stood in single-file line holding our paperwork and waiting to squat and cough in front of the single guard in the back of the white tiled room. My eyes, like the eyes of the others, stared at the floor. We’d been stripped of our street clothes and our dignity, and now we waited like cattle to be processed. No one spoke.
Like them, I was lost in the prison system, and all roads led to other jails and prisons.
In this system the bus was both a means of torment and a ray of hope. You rode it handcuffed and shackled. It transported you to a new facility, a new place to adjust to, new rules to learn, new inmates to befriend or confront, and often it took you deeper into the system.
Sometimes though, it was the next leg of the journey out.