“We were getting worried about you,” Tamika said as John clambered back onto the Memphis bound greyhound. “Aziz wanted to go looking for you but I just had him hold your seat instead,” she added, nodding to the seat where one of her twin sons sat. “Aziz, come back over and sit by your brother and let Mr. John have some room.”
“I was worried about me too,” John admitted. “Thanks, Aziz. I appreciate you popping a flag on my homestead.”
“What’s that mean?” the boy asked sleepily.
John smiled. “Saving my seat.”
The bus rolled out of the station promptly at 2:55 and John was able to finish his burrito before it got cold. The cold and frightened child that had lived inside him for too long was finally beginning to realize that he needed to grow up, to move past the hurt and despair. He still wasn’t sure how but he was going to stay with Joni but he was determined to do whatever necessary to ensure that their marriage was one of reality rather than just legality. Loki had been right; fifteen years was too long to be prostrate in repentance.
“So, did Loki catch her bus?” Tamika inquired from one row back in the aisle seat on the opposite side of the bus.
“Not yet. I think she said she had another half hour or so before her transfer left. Good thing it’s been warm lately. Traveling north in January doesn’t always work out so well.”
“You can say that again. Herman -that’s my husband?- he drives for a living and he hates it when the roads get icy. Says everybody drives like a fool.”
“Yeah, that’s true. Even up north people don’t do very well with the first snowfall; and down here it’s always the first snowfall because you don’t get much.”
“True dat. I don’t like the snow but I hate the ice.”
“Yeah. Treacherous stuff. Looks like you finally got some peace: Vashi sleeping?”
“Vashti,” Tamika corrected with a smile, “and yes, she fell asleep. I filled these children with a late lunch, maybe they’ll all sleep for a while. Do you have any children, John?”
“Well, no. Not yet anyway. Maybe someday.”
“I didn’t think so. Listen, I don’t want you to think that I was eves dropping but I heard some of that conversation you and Loki had. I don’t know what kind of trouble you and your wife have but you need to fix it: You need to be with her.”
John turned his head toward the window so Tamika couldn’t see his smile. Hadn’t been eves dropping? What else would you call listening in on other people’s conversations? Not that he could blame her, she had been less than three feet away from them while Loki and he plumbed the depths of each other’s pasts. “No, I understand,” he answered, turning his head back in Tamika’s direction. “You couldn’t hardly help hearing what we said you being so close and all. She’s a real firecracker; isn’t she?”
“That is one way to describe her. I could comment that Loki sounds a lot like loco, but that wouldn’t be charitable, so I won’t. It sure sounded like she was making a whole lot of sense though when she told you to sit yourself down and figure out how to be with your wife up there in Chicago. Marriage is hard, I know. I’m coming up on eleven years and I wouldn’t give my crazy Herman up for anything. Sometimes you’ve got to fight for the important things; you know?”
“I do, Tamika. I do. Hey, I think I’m going to follow Vashti’s lead and take a power nap. We can talk more when I wake up. You need a book or anything?’
“Oh, I got one. What have you got?”
“I’m reading Some Luck, it’s a story about Iowa from World War One and on. I’ve got my O. Henry and With Malice Toward None, it’s a Lincoln biography. You want one of those?”
“No, I think I’m good. I have a Danielle Steel book. Maybe I’ll try that Lincoln if I finish it. Is it any good?”
“Don’t know. The librarian said it is; I haven’t started it yet.”
“Well, enjoy your nap. I’ll wake you up in Memphis if you’re still sleeping.”
“As if,” John replied.
“As if,” Tamika said with a twinkling little laugh.