Chapter Six: Manic Monday
Has it really only been two days? Ginny sat down at the bus stop, waiting for everyone else to arrive and she found herself musing about how much had happened since the bus had gotten the flat tire. It seemed impossible that all that could have happened in just two days. What came before the tire fiasco seemed a lifetime ago. Another life, really.
But here she was, a bright Tuesday morning, the air was already getting warm and shop owners were beginning to set out their wares. The time she’d spent in this city seemed important, for reasons she wasn’t quite clear on, but she felt ready to leave Liege.
She saw Eric in the distance. He was walking toward the bus stop. He smiled and stopped to exchange greetings with the other passengers waiting for the bus. Ginny couldn’t help laughing. He made friends so easily. She supposed it was because he so casually asked others questions about themselves, that soon they’d be so busy talking about their own lives, they were sure he had been friends with them for years. Come to think of it, what did she really know about him? Not much. He had done the same with her and, she realized, he knew far more about her than she did of him.
He looked her way and gave her a smile so intimate it seemed they were the only two people on the whole busy street. A bolt of sheer lust hit her so hard she felt blindsided. But it was more than lust. Lust came first and then just a plain warm lovely feeling followed on lust’s heels. She was falling in love with him.
Instead of happiness, what Ginny felt was panic. She barely knew anything about this man. What was she doing, feeling such strong emotions for him? All these feelings, are they just a distraction from Michael, so that my heart doesn’t have to tumble so far?
At her wedding reception, she remembered there had been some drama with Jenny, a friend from college. She was the kind of person who always apologized for herself so much you just wanted to slap her for it. And she had been trying so hard to hook up with James, one of Michael’s groomsmen. She followed him everywhere, and in her desperation, tried to make friends with every other woman he knew to get close to him. It was sad, really, how she quietly became the butt of others’ jokes. Ginny should have said something to her, but in the midst of all the wedding details, she had gotten too distracted and, to soothe her conscience, figured Jenny would give up soon enough. But no, at the reception, Jenny hung on him like a barnacle, even following him into the men’s room at one point, so busy talking to him she hadn’t noticed where he had been trying to go. The real irony was that James was the type of man to bang anything female who had the misfortune to cross his path. But, Ginny supposed, the level of Jenny’s desperation managed to be a turn-off, even for him.
Word of the bathroom incident spread through the reception like wildfire, and Liz, one of Ginny’s bridesmaids, post seven shots of tequila and four glasses of wine, found her way to the microphone. She got up on stage, stumbled a bit, grabbed the microphone, and called out to Jenny, who was at that moment, trying to give James a massage while he shifted seats to get away from her.
“Jenny!” called Liz. The microphone squawked and the whole room turned silent. “Jenny, dude. I dunno how you’re doing it girl. But dude. I just gotta’ say. Just gotta’ say…you know? He…he…James’s has been with every girl in this room. Every girl. He’s slept with every girl in this room, but you. So, you know. Get over it, already. Dude.” And with that, Liz hurled into the wine bucket at the nearest table.
It wasn’t strictly true of course, and everyone might have almost laughed, except the look on Jenny’s face at that moment was so damn tragic, everyone felt like schmucks just for being present in her humiliation.
Jenny ran from the room and James, in a moment of true decency, ran after her, and the reception resumed itself.
But Ginny sat there, staring at Eric, and couldn’t help but wonder: Am I having a Jenny moment? The particulars were different, of course, but was she basically deluding herself, thinking this relationship was something real? Had any potential of being anything other than one massive distraction from the failure that was her marriage, from the failure that was her life? For, if she knew so little about this man, how could she possibly have such feelings for him?
The bus pulled up and opened its doors and everyone boarded, excited for the next stop. Ginny went up to her old seat on the second level and Eric sat next to her.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, seeing the worried look on her face.
She looked at him. His face was so easy, and so open. Here is what she loved about him, she realized. His ease and openness. Here was a man who was everything Michael was not. Of course she knew little about him. They’d only known each other for two days. But maybe there was something to be trusted about her instincts and intuition. The rest could come later, in its own time.
She relaxed and smiled. “Nothing,” she said. “I’m looking forward to getting into Germany. Have you been there before?”
He smiled back and relaxed next to her. The bus tires squealed with the release of air, and slowly the bus pulled out from the station. Eric had to raise his voice a bit to be heard over the din. “Only to Munich once, and Berlin. Both great cities, but totally different. I’ve never been to Cologne before, but I hear it’s great.”
“How do you get to travel so much?”
“I don’t know. I just do it, I guess. It’s like anything important to you really. If it matters enough to you, you just make the time, find the money and do it. It’s all a matter of where you set your priorities. If you plan travel around your life, you’ll never get to it. If you plan your life around travel, then you get to see a lot of pretty amazing places.”
“What about family? Don’t you miss them?”
“Every single day. But traveling won’t change that.” There was such sadness in his voice, Ginny felt the punch of it in her own stomach.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
Eric grimaced. He took a swig from a water bottle, and swallowed slowly before answering. “My mother and father both passed away four years ago. In a car crash. They were my only family.”
“Oh Eric.” Ginny felt like a giant loser for all her misgivings just a few moments before. “I’m so sorry.”
Eric shrugged. “It’s all right. It is what it is and you learn to deal with it. I love my life and seeing the world was important to them too. Every trip feels like a little tribute to them. Every time I step on a train or board a plane, it feels like I’m remembering them, even though it’s a new destination.”
He laughed. “I don’t know why I’m telling you this. I’ve never told anyone that.”
Ginny put her hand up to his face. She loved the feel of his scratchy beard scraping against the delicate inside of her hand. He leaned towards her, and they kissed, and Ginny felt all her worries melt away. Sometimes the heart knows better than the mind, and sometimes you just have to leap after it.
They moved to easier subjects, and it was hard not to feel totally happy and at peace looking out at the European countryside unfolding before them. All the lush greens and golds of summer came out to play. The air turned warm quickly, and soon everyone was lowering their windows to let in the breeze. Ginny pulled out some cheese and crackers and shared them with Eric, savoring the warm Brie.
“Hey, look! Looks like we’re coming up on the German border!” Eric pointed to the signs along the road.
“God, I love traveling in Europe,” said Ginny. “It’s so easy to go from country to country. Just a few hours and suddenly you’re in a whole new place, with entirely different customs and language. And with the EU, you don’t even have to show your passport.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty great. Although, I do miss getting my passport filled with all the different stamps and visas.”
The bus pulled up behind a long line of cars waiting to go through the border. The passengers waited, it seemed a long time, before it became clear to everyone that no one was moving.
The bus driver suddenly turned off the bus.
“What’s going on?” asked Ginny. Eric merely shrugged and strained to see over the heads of the other passengers, who were all muttering in confusion.
“He’s got off the bus,” said Eric, uncertainty clear in his voice.
The bus driver walked from the bus to the border patrol. He stood talking with the guards for quite some time. Several passengers got up and shoved towards the front to get a better look. The driver seemed to be gesticulating in frustration. He made a rude gesture at the guards and stomped back towards the bus.
The driver got back on the bus, and turned on the loud speaker to address everyone. He was speaking in German again.
“What’s he saying?”
Eric held up a hand as he listened. Ginny tapped her hand on her knee impatiently. Finally, after the bus driver finished talking and the other passengers erupted in angry mutters, Eric turned to her. “Apparently, they’re on strike.”
“What?” cried Ginny.
“The German transportation officials are all on strike.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means we can’t go through. Not today anyway.”
(to be continued…)
Bus Ride to Bucharest, Part I here.
Bus Ride to Bucharest, Part II here.
Bus Ride to Bucharest, Part III here.
Bus Ride to Bucharest, Part IV here.
Bus Ride to Bucharest, Part V here.
Bus Ride to Bucharest, Part VII here.