Few things give me more anxiety than trying to hold on to the empty seat beside me during the 20 minutes it takes the rest of the passengers to board a Greyhound. A half second of eye contact with a passerby can easily be mistaken for an invitation to take the aisle seat, turning my La-Z-Boy into a church pew.
Luckily on this particular trip my anxiety was curbed by that fact that I would be seeing nearly all of my best friends when the bus stopped seven hours later and I stepped out into the familiar streets of downtown Pittsburgh.
We planned weeks ahead to have a reunion, and it was all I could think about since. I’d been counting down to this moment – waiting in line for the overnight bus from New York to Pittsburgh. I chose the overnight bus because tickets were only $10 and I love waking up with back problems from using a metal bar as a mattress and a vibrating window as a pillow.
As the first person to board the bus, I enacted my five-step strategy to get both seats to myself:
- Pick a seat in the first four rows.
- Pile luggage haphazardly on the empty seat beside me.
- Put headphones in ears (music optional).
- Open a magazine (reading optional).
- Look as pissed off as possible (emotions optional).
The bus was fuller than I expected it to be. With each new passenger my nerves escalated. I looked out the window. Three people left. Although I was curious, I didn’t dare compromise my operation by sitting up and looking back to see how many seats were still open.
One person passed. Then the second. I felt the bus move as the third and final person walked up the steps. I faced away from the aisle and looked as angry as possible. He stopped by my seat. My stomach dropped. I felt him looking at me, contemplating his next move. I didn’t budge. Five seconds of stillness. Then I heard his footsteps shuffling down the aisle.
When we started moving, I looked back. Just one other person had both seats to herself.
I nodded a “job well done” to my silent companion and settled in for the night.
There are certain people who are extremely important in your life. People who have shaped your views and personality nearly as much as your family has. People who you can go months without seeing only to pick up exactly where you left off when you’re back together.
These people remember everything – good and bad. That time you pooped your pants in the car? They’ll remind you about it. Or when you barfed on Forbes Avenue like nobody’s business. They remember that awful haircut you had in 9th grade and that one night at the casino where you became a chain-smoking Blackjack fiend. They remember the water bottle of theirs that you lost 4 years ago and didn’t replace. And that dreadfully ugly person you hooked up with on more than one occasion.
They also stick with you when things are crazy. And when you are crazy. They’re the people who know when you’re happy, when you’re sad, and how to deal with it. They disagree with you, but support you anyway. They’re the people whom you never owe money, because “in the long run, it all evens out.” They carry you through break ups, hangovers, and lost basketball games.
Few things in life feel better than sitting around and collectively doing nothing with them, because even though you’re doing nothing, you’re doing it together.
Friends. Amigos. Assholes. Whatever you call them, they’re irreplaceable.
I settled into my seat for the long trip. Ten hours this time – via Philly – until I’d be back in New York. I used my five-step strategy as the bus filled. The familiar anxiety returned. Passengers scuttled by, taking seats alone, then with the people who took seats by themselves. The last person to enter the bus – a huge, 6’6” man – did not look the ideal bus buddy. I concentrated as hard as I could on the magazine I was pretending to read.
“Can I – “ he points to the seat beside me.
“Oh. Yea sure.” I fumbled my things, placing my enormous book bag at my feet and my pillow and jacket on my lap. He took the aisle seat and made himself comfortable.
His left leg protruded into my space, giving me approximately two thirds of a bus seat to call home. Once situated, he immediately fell asleep. Two minutes later, I had to pee.
In this situation, I’d normally get angrier than a Texan outside an abortion clinic. Today, though, it didn’t bother me. Instead, I got lost in thought looking out the window as we cruised through the rolling hills of Central Pennsylvania.
I reflected on the weekend and felt a pinch of sadness that it was over. The time, although only a short three days, was exactly what I needed. I began thinking about my friends – not just the ones I’d seen this weekend, but all of them. The ones I don’t live near or see as often as I’d like. College friends. High school friends. And the ones I see everyday. New friends. I felt a ball of emotion well up inside me that I hadn’t felt in a long time.
It was there, squished against the window, that I realized the emotion I was feeling was blessed. Blessed to have some of the best friends I could have ever asked for.
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