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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Ode to Miss Texas: Pt. IV

An unadorned, unexaggerated account of real life intrigue

Thursday morning was a bright and cloudless, hardly a setting conducive to despair. Nevertheless, Miss Texas sat on the edge of the bed, and sighed. Her fear had given way to sadness. Tears gushed down her face. Breakfast proved to be a rather poignant experience. I encouraged her to order anything she wanted, hoping that might cheer her up a little. She ordered a number of dishes, nibbled little samples of them, then passed them to me, asking that I clean the plate.

We got back to the apartment about 11:00am. I asked if she wanted to do anything. She didn’t. Although her bus wouldn’t leave the Port Authority until 3:30 that afternoon, we both decided to head out at about 11:15am. We then walked down 42nd St., neither of us uttering a word.

Since we arrived four hours early, we didn’t bother checking in at the ticket counter right away. We went downstairs, bought Cokes, and took a seat across from the Greyhound office, where she continued the silent sob of that morning.

“Hey!” I said. “You’re home free. I’m going to watch you get on the bus, so there’s still somebody expecting you to be at a certain place at a certain time.”

“No. The CIA man’s still going to get me,” she lamented.

“How? He’ll be in New York, and you’ll be fifteen hundred miles away.”

“You don’t understand. He’s got people everywhere. As soon as that bus stops someplace, somebody’s just gonna take me out back and kill me. I know too much.”

If she were pulling some type of con, then she had definitely missed her calling. With her looks, she could have gone to Hollywood and won three Oscars by then. But there she was, shivering, crying, broke and living out what she believed were the last hours of her life.

On the other hand, my patience with the paranoia bit had reached its end. I told her that she would be fine. After an hour of discussing the implausibility of the situation, she nodded and said, “You’re probably right.” I thought that I had finally “talked some sense into her,” and that she had just realized how silly her fears sounded. As soon as she could manage a permanent smile, I reached out to give her a hug. I don’t know why, but something about that hug gave me pause to think. I don’t really remember if she did anything special. I couldn’t tell you whether she simply hugged me back, or if she clung to me. But something in her touch made me realize that the terror her terror remained. Nevertheless, she saw what all the talk of her impending doom had done to me.

I still didn’t believe that she was really in any danger. I only knew that she believed it. True or not, spending three days on a bus in mortal fear is not what I would consider fun. I looked over at the Greyhound office and, then it hit me.

“C’mon,” I said, rising so quickly it startled her.

“What’s the matter?”

“I have an idea.”

With that, we joined the line. Still resigned to shuffling off this mortal coil, she didn’t ask what I had in mind. She only heard it when I explained it to the ticket clerk.

Presenting her ticket, I asked the lady at the counter if that were the only bus to Denton. She typed into her computer, and confirmed that it was. The bus that left New York for Texas had sort of a square route, with major layovers in Washington DC and points south, with a change of bus followed by stops in New Orleans and Dallas. From there, she would catch another bus to go to Denton.

I reasoned, however, that the Dallas station had to have buses that went to places other than New York. In turn, those destinations would have round trip service between there and the Port Authority. Catching my drift, the clerk went back to the computer, and came up with a route that would take her directly from New York to St. Louis where she could catch another bus to Houston, which then had a bus to Denton. Still, I thought, just for argument’s sake, that if this “Jimmy” didn’t find her on the expected route, he might start looking for her on this one. I asked the clerk to find an alternate way to St. Louis. Amused, and somewhat puzzled, she found one where “Miss Texas” would have to take three separate buses: one in New York, the second in Montreal, the third in Detroit, with a long layover in Chicago.

Once the clerk found the route, she punched it up. It would add thirty-six hours to an already long trip. It would also cost extra. I had the required fifty-something dollars and change. For someone like me, though, that’s a lot of money to spend. That look of relief, joy and amazement on my companion’s face compelled me to take a crowbar to my wallet and fork it over.

Her bus left in twenty minutes. Once at the gate, she gave me a warm hug, and then boarded. I dragged the suitcase to the baggage handler. When it took off, she flashed her, by now, familiar perfect-tooth smile and waved goodbye.

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