Shallow Dance

by Matty Sullivan

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Bus Ride, Part 3 (Ballad of a Bouncing Amoeba)

When we finally reached the next stop--whatever it was--the driver hollered to us that we had ten minutes to get out and smoke or stretch our legs or spit in the grass or whatever.

"Oh, how wonderful!" said the old lady from Hot Springs. It was the first indication I'd seen that she was aware of her surroundings. "I love going outside!"

I got up and pushed past her as non-violently as I could and staggered my way up the aisle. When the driver opened the doors I was the first one through. I stepped down onto the sidewalk and headed straight through the doors of the terminal. Once inside, I didn't even stop. I just blew through like the wind, past the sleeping bums and the dimly lit vending machines, through the front doors and out into the dark streets of some Midwestern town I've never heard of.

I turned left as forcefully as I could and started walking. I had no idea where I was or where I was going. My bag was still on the floor of the bus, but I didn't care. If you're lucky enough to escape the deadly grasp of the quicksand, the last thing you want to do is go back and retrieve your extra socks.

To tell the truth, I couldn't even recall where I'd been intending to go when I first got on the stupid bus. I'm sure I'd had a destination in mind; I must have. But whatever it was, all thoughts of it had been washed away by the steady flow of the world's upchuck.

Was I going home? Was that it? Or was I running away from home? Beats me. I didn't even know where my home was, or had been. How could I be expected to know such a thing?

I didn't even know what the word meant.

Home.

Hoam.

Hoaham.

Homb.

Holm.

Just another sound made absurd by repetition. Drained of all sense by the battering ram of obsessive consciousness.

Which begged the question: why go anywhere? What was the point of all this movement? Was it simply to get away from crazy women from Hot Springs who couldn't stop talking? Was that it, in a nutshell? Was movement nothing more than a never-ending response to intolerable social stimuli?

If so, I was fucked. The world is full of cobwebs and quicksand.

How long had I been doing this? This running? Bouncing around the country like an amoeba, slave to the slightest touch? And how long would it go on? Forever?

Sure! Why not? If I wasn't looking for anything specific, why not?

On the other hand, what if I was looking for something but I didn't know what it was? How would I know if I'd found it? Who's to say I would do anything more than take a glance at it and keep right on moving?

For that matter, who's to say I hadn't already done that--not once, but many times over? And what if the thing I was looking for couldn't be found by looking? Did the act of looking destroy my chances of finding it?

Fuck it, I thought. Too many questions--from myself, of all ridiculous bullshit. I'd had enough--or at least I felt I had--so I turned my mind off as best as I could. Reduced myself by an act of human will to a simple-minded combination of involuntary functions and motor skills.

Keep breathing. Keep walking.

That's me. In a nutshell.

I looked down at my watch--thirty minutes since I'd gotten off the bus. Surely they were long gone. I wondered if the old lady from Hot Springs had realized she was alone again, or if she was simply talking to the empty seat. I wondered if any of them missed me. Had they waited an extra minute or two before leaving, just to see if I would reappear?

I hope so.

Actually, I hope not. I would've felt bad for putting them behind schedule.

But I hope so.