“I’m here for you Davis, like anything I can do to help… just say it, and I’ll make it happen.” I nodded and said, “Promise me you will be here for me when I get back? I need to go see someone; I know deep down they can help… But I have to run away, I know Aunt Lisa won’t understand what I’m going through and I don’t expect her to, she has done enough for me.” Alicia tried everything in her power to convince me that I had other options. But I wouldn’t accept another solution. I promised I’d be back. This wouldn’t be permanent. When she looked up at my inane jabbering her big blue eyes were full of concern. I told her, “I’m just going for a while. I’ll be back. I promise.” “I promise too, Davis. That I’ll be here waiting for you… But I don’t want you to go, just know that, okay?” she said. I looked deep into her soulful eyes. “Where are you going?” Alicia said. “Well…uh, I get along great with my grandparents. So, I’m heading to their ranch in Arizona. I’ll leave Aunt Lisa a detailed note explaining it all so she won’t worry about me. Of course, I won’t tell her I’m practically broke, and my travel mode is going to have to be kind of creative.” “Davis, promise me you will be careful, Ok?” She reached into her pocket and pulled out some wadded up cash. “It’s not much, but I want you to have it!” I tried to refuse because I hate feeling pitied, but she would not take no for an answer. “It will make me feel better if you take it,” she said. I tucked the money into my pocket, finding the words to say good-bye was unbearable, but I managed to force the phrase out. Our hands and gazes lingered for what felt an eternity. And then there was silence. She was gone. Before leaving, I wrote a note to Aunt Lisa. I couldn’t act like we were more to each other than we were; yet I wanted her to know that I would miss her (she felt more like a big sister than a mother figure). I even implied that I wished she would visit me. I gave no timetable as to when I would arrive at my grandparent’s or return. This got me checking the rail and bus schedules and fares. When I compared it to my available funds, there was just enough money for me to travel from here to Cleveland, Ohio, and be able to eat. After that, it was my thumb and the open road. My backpack over my shoulder, I walked to the bus depot and bought a ticket for Cleveland. If I was careful, I’d be able to eat till then and a little more. As the big Greyhound’s diesel engine revved up and rumbled my spirits did a quick soar. I knew it was a temporary adrenaline rush. I made myself comfortable and settled down for the long ride ahead. I thought I would sleep a lot, but my mind whirred out of control like a supercomputer processing millions of thoughts per second. At the Cleveland bus stop, I was confronted with the reality of what I was doing. I was broken and hungry. There was a Burger King at the bus stop, so that was my first stop. I needed time to think. As I sat munching my burger and fries, I noticed a Help Wanted sign posted. When I was through I asked for the manager. A tall, skinny, bald headed guy who looked strained and frustrated approached me with an application in hand. “Did you just get off a bus? I see you have a backpack.” Thinking quick I said, “No, I just go visit my grandparents overnight on Mondays.” His eyes narrowed like he was making up his mind if he believed me or not. “Kids,” he sighed. “They’re my problem. Never show up when they are supposed to. Guess who has to cover?” he asked rhetorically. “Okay, I’m stuck. I’ll take a chance on you. Can you start now?”
“Sure,” I said. Soon I was wearing a headset, taking orders and any job that needed doing from dropping French fries into the fryolator to pouring soda and coffee. I also enjoyed eating dinner and snacks on the house. By my shift’s end, I knew I had no place to stay, so I made myself at home in the bus station waiting room in a chair with a small TV hanging on the wall, in front of me. The later it got the more unsavory the place became. After midnight it hosted an assortment of shady types, ranging from homeless beggars to other runaways like me, to pimps and worse. In the middle of the night, I was dozing off when a cop tapped my foot. “You okay, Sonny?” “Oh yeah,” I said. “Waiting for a bus.” He eyed me and moved on. I went back to sleep thinking about how comfortable I was getting at telling lies. I worked at the Burger King for two more nights. I got an advance on my pay and rented a tendollar room at the YMCA on the next block. By week’s end and payday, I knew I had to move on. I felt bad about quitting my job at the drop of a dime since the manager had put his trust in me. So I did the only decent thing that came to my mind, I left him a nice note telling him I had a family emergency and would not be able to work for him any longer and thanked him for the job. I figured I had enough money to get me to Oklahoma City. And a little more. So far things were going well. Evidently, Aunt Lisa didn’t put the cops on my trail, and I’m sure she notified my grandparents that I was on my way. I could only wonder or more to the point hope that Alicia would actually wait for me. I’m pretty confident, what I felt for her was love. But as the bus rolled over the flat endless wheat fields of Kansas and the plains of waving grass of Oklahoma I began to get concerned about my future luck. Once in Oklahoma City, it quickly became apparent that no convenient jobs were waiting for me. I needed to be creative if I was going to earn money, or I had to find another means of travel. I wandered the city for an hour finally finding a shady bench in a public park to rest. And think. I gazed up at an equestrian statue of some hero on a prancing horse and began thinking about Arizona and the West. I was anxious to get there now, but I seemed to be at the end of the road as well as my wit’s end.