Bus Ride Soliloquy / by Izzy Kings

The Lucky Star bus has been taking me from New York to Boston and vice versa since August 2015. But I hadn’t fully grasped the magnitude of my relationship with Lucky Star until recently when I heard the opening line of BROCKHAMPTON’s “STAINS”. In it there’s a line that says, “I spent like a year and a half on the Greyhound bus/ On my way to see this girl.”

I’m writing this on a bus right now.

As a New York native, many of my responsibilities were stuck 216 miles away. These included family, friends, doctor’s appointments, and gross ex-boyfriends. Before college, I had never taken a bus across state lines in my life. But I suddenly found myself making four-and-a-half hour trips almost every weekend, wasting close to 10 hours each week of my life on a bus. I’ve learned the best times to travel and the worst. I’ve sat beside homeless couples, druggies, tourists, and people of every different race, religion, language, and sexuality. I know the familiar rest stops: The Burger Kings, the McDonalds, the Chinese buffet in Hartford, Connecticut. Friendships have sent me to D.C., Philadelphia, Vermont, and Syracuse, but these trips were just secret affairs compared to my lifelong union with the journey to New York.

I remember listening to “Bad Religion” by Frank Ocean constantly when I stared out the window. Behind me, a couple yelled expletives at one another. They seemed to be coming off a substance, eagerly waiting to arrive in New York. The woman was testy, anxiously searching for her bottle of liquor that had coincidentally rolled by my feet towards the front of the bus. The man harshly tried to shush her, “Shut the fuck up. Shut up.”

In the beginning, riding the bus only filled me with sadness, anxiety, and nervousness. You spend a lot of personal time with your brain when you travel alone almost every weekend. It drove me insane and probably hindered the progress of many things in my life at the time: my relationships, my education, my happiness. I journeyed for the sake of home. For loves that should have never been. For the safety in knowing I’d be doing something Saturday night and not potentially wasting away in a dorm room alone with no friends. The bus gave me a lot of time to think about these “friends,” my life at school, and my future. This should’ve made me eager with anticipation but it only blinded me with fear.

“Bad Religion” might well have been my anthem. “Taxi driver/ Be my shrink for the hour/ Leave the meter running.” Replace taxi driver with bus driver and you had the same story. Sure, now I think back and realize that Frank Ocean’s pleas to a taxi driver about his unrequited gay love (to which the taxi driver cursed him in intolerance) hardly compares to the woes of my privileged, anxious college student life. But for all intents and purposes, the Lucky Star bus driver was my shrink for the four-and-a-half hours of the trip.

I always sit on the right side of the bus. My head naturally leans to the left and I like to look out the window. Highways become blurred into concrete tracks and I begin to realize that I am constantly skipping thoughts on them. When will I leave this messy relationship? When will I feel safe at school? When will these bus rides ever feel normal?

Now they do feel normal. I’ve had semester-long breaks in which I was able to tear away from the confines of a bus and instead focus on creating anchors in my new city. Spending Saturday nights alone in a dorm room isn’t as life-crushing as it originally seemed. In fact, the greatest memories have come from the spontaneous things that can happen in college dorm room.

A year or so later I began to take the bus again for doctor’s appointments. Once a month, like clock work. These rides were often filled with impatience, but there was an easiness in knowing I had a life for me when I’d inevitably come back.      

I remember sitting in front of a homeless couple and their friend. “Consideration” by Rihanna blared on my headphones—“When I look outside my window/ I can’t get no peace of mind.” The couple and their friend talked about park hopping, “Just wait till we get to Union Square, man. Then we can score.” I was fascinated by the community they’d managed to create with one another and by how connected all these parks in different cities seemed to be. I then began to realize that no matter how long I stared out the window, I would never find peace of mind. But perhaps like the bus route, I am just getting better at navigating the journey.

Illustration by: Mia Manning