Sick Children, Shadow Men and the Desperately Weary to the Back of the Bus

Ever since, if I can at all battle my way there, I try and make it to the back of the bus. At the back of the bus you find the Fuck Man et al, magic creatures with messages and powers, sympathy and fate, all easily cupped in their hands, waiting.

The Fuck Man, you know; he smells funny, sits somewhat hunched, usually fidgets or scratches and always mutters something interspersed with a liberal sparkling of way beyond gratuitous fucks.

Right there included with the Fuck Man you'll find eccentric and brilliant robotics engineers who like to have high colonics to pass the time. There are Mexican Ladies and other dark men with crazy soft accents telling tales of immigrating to Yellowknife to work in the mine, then moving to the relative warmth of the coast as soon as they could.

"The cold, it's like a punishment", they tell me.

Occasionally, there's a Guatemalan Man with a jealous Red-Haired-Irish-Wife and always lots of Rock n' Rollers just waiting to make it big time any time. From time to time there are Ex-Professional Mimes and always Students of all sorts, Mothers with Babies, BusinessMen with cell phones, Women-With-Pointed-Shoes and Insurance Ladies with sick husbands at home and of course ~ me.

When I was a child my Mom had to take me to The Big City for an operation.

"There's something wrong with you", was the only thing I was told.

I remember riding on the gurney in the Hospital, counting backwards, being wheeled down a wide long hallway dressed in a opened backed white gown, caught between the novelty and a vague disquieting shame.

I remember getting into the elevator on the gurney and being surprised. The gurney with myself on it and several other people standing around it, strangers in green gowns and hats, all managed to not only squeeze in, but to do it with room left over.

Of course, before the gurney and the elevator I'd been given serious hints that I was embarking into an alternate reality.

"There's something wrong with you". I would wonder quietly in my pretty little head, trying desperately to stay in the lines, colouring in my fat new book, riding on the bumpy bus. "There's something wrong with you".

Buses and big bridges, endlessly twisting roads, glaciers and mountain streams, new crayons and a big new colouring book, strange bathrooms and stale sandwiches consumed in noisy cafeterias just off cavernous and echoing rooms. Strange people wearing strange clothes, doing strange things and always talking, always talking, always talking. Lots and lots of strange people everywhere. Escalators, bright lights at night, buildings bigger than the high school in the small town we'd started out from. The list was endless. Paradigm shift.

"You are now entering Oz Sigred. Remember your manners."

I remember waking up in the Hospital after my operation.

I was in a crib!

To say I woke up indignant would not begin to describe how I felt. I hadn't even complained when they made me wear a nightgown with no back but this was simply too much.

I pleaded and carried on and wept and yelled and banged bars still too weak to climb over until my Mother came, whereupon I was promptly put into a proper bed suitable for a Big Girl.

The nurses ceased to be anything like indulgent with that child after that.

"Can I have a glass of water?"

"Get it yourself."

I remember the bus trip home.

A 12-hour trip extended several more for detours and a breakdown, the occasional change of bus as well as rest breaks and souvenir breaks and "will you just look at that awesome view" short stops.

My Mother and I rode on the back of the bus all the way home. I was a child. I'd just had an operation. I'd been in the hospital for a week and on the back of the bus I could often lay down stretched out fully and sleep between more stale sandwiches and enormous balls of twine sitting on top of barn roofs beside crude hand lettered signs pointing them out.

At one point when we dipped into the United States of America we sat on the back of the bus just beyond a little swinging gate. I remember the bus driver talking to my Mother valiantly trying to discourage her from choosing that spot. I remember my Mom getting her way, in the way only a Mother with a sick child can.

"It's better for us."

The bus driver shook his head at the Stupid Foreign Canadian Lady but, he didn't stop us.

I remember the dark men, shadows all of them, kind to the little girl riding on the back of the bus.

"They put me in a crib!" I told the shadow men.

"Oh no honey child" they agreed with me absolutely sympathetic, sensitive to the indignity, talking in their special shadow man talk, slow and easy, a thick smiling indolent rhythm, "they should have known better than that" they told me laughing.

That's all I remember.

It was years later before I understood the shadow men were black soldiers originally from the southern States segregated to the back of the bus.