How Can I Tell My Mom & Dad
I’ve been thinking about how it was when I left. I was 17 and I took the bus because there was no train. On the bus a woman sang softly for five hundred miles. A song about the stars and the moon and the hope of meeting someone there. On the bus things were happening all the time. Things I could hear but couldn’t see. Things almost but not completely hidden. I was the one no one noticed. I was, in the ways that most mattered, very young. The elderly man sitting next to me took my hand and asked if I had any chocolate. Hershey’s, he said, was his preference. When I said I had nothing he asked, going far?
New York, I said.
Mr. Big Shot. He said.
He went as far as Ohio.
The Greyhound was its own world. Everyone was going somewhere. When we crossed the state line into Arkansas I was finished forever with Texas. I had opinions that I thought mattered. There was a woman across the aisle reading a magazine and drinking from a thermos. Around her shoulders was a shawl on which was printed the Virgin de Guadalupe. She kept closing her eyes and saying, please lord keep me from temptation.
A week after arriving in New York, walking through Tompkins Square Park, I found this record. It was laid out on the grass, being sold by an elderly Italian man. He had a stack of records, both singles and LPs, most of them opera and easy listening, some shoes, a couple plates, a box of toys, a few shirts, a statue of the Eiffel tower and a painting of a dog. I paid 50 cents for the record and two dollars for the painting. I gave the painting to a friend. I kept the record. It’s been with me for thirty-eight years. I went back to the park – several times – to thank the man, but never saw him again.
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