The bus moves slowly down a long road. Alongside the road are fields on either side that continue past the horizon. The sun is high in a light blue sky with just a hint of clouds over distant mountains. This is the beginning of the west. The place that will be my home for the next few years.
I boarded this bus, well not actually this bus but a bus similar to this bus, almost two days ago. Has it really been that long? It seems like I will reach my destination. I suppose that this is the best of my two options. I say options but when facing years of confinement the only alternative being a camp in the middle of nowhere it is less about options and more about choosing between two types of punishment.
It’s not as though I’m a hardened criminal. I was out making money for my family. My dad has not been in the picture for some years. My mom does what she can but it’s not enough and my brother is not old enough to help. The first time was by accident but after several times it became easy. All I had to do was sit in the park and wait. They customers would come to me. We’d go off to a secluded road.
Now, I am on a bus heading out into the sunset. At least it will be the sunset soon enough. I am not restrained but with the deputy sitting next to me there’s no chance of escape. He does not sleep or he only sleeps when I sleep. I do not look forward to my time away. This is better than the other option but I dream of a third option that includes not having to get into cars with strangers for money.
The bus goes forth towards an uncertain future for me. I wonder what my mom is doing at this moment. I’m certain that she will be fine without me, at least that is what I tell myself as the bus passes through a small town, and she will write me soon about how well she is doing despite not having the money I brought in.
I sleep. I dream of days before. I dream of car after car. I dream of being hauled away to face a judge. In my dreams the judge is a giant sitting high up above me. The floor trembles as he shouts the verdict at me. The bars grow up around me and I am swallowed up by them.
I wake to the deputy shaking me. It’s time to wait for another bus. We sit in the terminal. People stare at us. They must know that I am trouble. A boy walks by with his mother. As they are passing the mother pulls him away from me. I wonder what I look like for people to fear me. Is it the fact that a deputy is my escort on this long trip? He has a gun. He wears a tan uniform. This is real.
We board another bus. It’s dark. I am not tired yet I sleep off and on the rest of the way to our last stop. The deputy herds me off the bus and we stand in front of a small grocery store. There’s a sign outside for RC cola and a sign for Greyhound. I don’t know where I am except that it’s west. West of everything I’ve known my entire life.
A red Ford comes out of a cloud of dust. There’s a deputy driving and a boy about my age sitting beside him. The truck stops. The two men exchange words. The boy and the deputy driving the truck enter the store. They begin loading the truck with supplies. I am told to help.
The supplies are heavy but I manage to help. This is only the beginning of my ordeal. When I go back to get more supplies the boy trips me. I want to cry but I have to be strong. This place will either break me or make me stronger.
The truck is loaded. The two men sit in the front of the truck. We sit in the back with our ankles cuffed to one another. I am told that even if we, somehow, manage to jump from the truck without killing ourselves that there’s nothing for miles around. I hear the sounds of animals that would quickly devour us if given the chance. The truck speeds up leaving a trail of dust that conceals the small town.
I close my eyes as the cold air threatens to bring forth the tears that I’ve been holding back. My time here is just about to begin. What these years hold will soon be known. My life as it was is over. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it’s not. The only way to find out is to live each day as it happens.