The metal pole was surprisingly cold underneath my arms as I leant on it. The calmness of the crystallised blue and yet metallic ocean overcame me and I questioned my desire to leave. For it was not the scenery that was forcing me to go, so why leave?
A family had set up camp on the sand below me, bringing enough supplies to last them a week and yet they would still be hungry. A family with five kids running and screaming and laughing and eating and repeating these activities every single day. I leant back off the pole and looked behind me at the town’s tall clock tower.
The bus was going to be here any minute now and I was still unsure as to whether or not I was ready to leave this paradise. But I knew that I had to, I knew that I had no choice in the matter. The bus pulled up and blew out an arid and overly putrid smell of cheap gas and a broken motor. Maybe this was a sign to stay. No, Callia, get on the bus – you know you have to leave now. I hate my inner voice, it was the reason I am caught up in this shit.
I strolled over to the bus and handed my bag to the man who was viciously trying to stuff bags into the base of the bus. He looked at my belly and smiled at me. Another person walked up behind me with their bag and the bus driver winked at me and adjusted his weathered cap before taking the other persons bag. I walked over to the bus doors and took a deep breath. Oh dear god.
I stepped onto the platform and found a seat in the middle of the bus. I sat down and pulled my elephant detailed hand bag onto my lap. The overly sized bump underneath my breasts causing many curious looks from other people on the bus as they walked past. I rested my clasped hands together lightly on top of the bump and closed my eyes slightly. Preparing for hours of daunting travelling and the obvious reminder of the past I believed I had escaped from. But, running was, is and always will be my forte.
THE TORN AND STAINED MAP OF GREECE fell to the floor and I leant over to pick it up off the sticky and dirt infused ground. The bus was travelling along a rough road and my elephant printed bag was shifting violently on my lap. The bump in my stomach vibrated and my body jolted as the bus passed over a pothole. I held onto my head and belly to keep up appearances. My hair had frizzed in its messy bun and I patted it down with my hands. The Armenian man in front of me stood and shifted his position on the clingy leather seats.
I pulled the foundation out of my bag and unscrewed the lid – dabbing a bit on my finger. I rubbed it over the forming bruise on my wrist where his finger marks were becoming clearer now. I looked around at the near to empty bus; there were only a couple of Greek locals. The bus jumped and I repositioned the baby bump hidden underneath my shirt. I fixed up my face, covering the seemingly permanent scars with the cheap and dry liquid foundation and a purple scratched hand mirror– five Euros from a dodgy stall that had a banner along the top, it loosely translated to ‘chemist’ in Greek. I stuffed the foundation and mirror back down the bottom of the bag and looked out of the window; Greece’s iconic sea side flicked past.
The Mediterranean was not as clear here, it looked simple; plain. Plain is good. He won’t think I’d go to somewhere plain. So I don’t. I keep going. Trick him twice. Smart bitch knows what she’s
doing – she’s done it enough. The bus driver yelled over the buffeting wind screaming through the windows. His accent was hard to understand, and he was switching back and forth between dialects. I
leant over the aisle to a Greek woman nursing a baby.
“Excuse me, what did he say?” I asked in Greek. She looked up at me.
“He said twenty minutes until we reach Thessaloniki,” her accent was heavy, but audible.
“Thank you,” I replied and leant back in my seat. I twisted at the gold ring on my finger; I’d been sleeping for two-and-a-half hours.
The trees began to clear and the outline of the city came into view. I peered ahead of the bus to try and see how long the road was but there was an orange swirl of dust clouds blocking my view. I fixed up the pillow again to try and make it rounder and put on my jacket and straitened my skirt – I was wearing an old navy blue pencil skirt – the type librarians wear – and a plain white blouse and starchy black work jacket. I looked like a mother-to-be on a boring business trip. I repositioned the pillow again and settled my hands on my lap; it had to look real.
My fingers started to twist at the ring again; I slipped it off my left hand and fixed it onto my right hand – single mum it is. The light at the front of the bus flicked on; we were at the outskirts of the city and approaching a lone bus stop with a small, brick cubicle – probably a bathroom. The bus jolted as we stopped and I clasped onto the seat in front and clutched at the pillow. The Greek woman on the other side of the aisle held out a comforting hand. I smiled at her and stood up, softly flicking my bag over my shoulder as I moved into the aisle.
The woman placed her hand on my arm and mouthed ‘good luck’. I mouthed back ‘thank you’ and smiled. I started shuffling towards the front of the bus, one hand on the pillow, one hand leaning on the metal brace on the seats. The plain black shoes I chose for this outfit had no grip on the bottom of them and I slid to a stop as I reached the front of the bus. I took a second to lean on the metal bar before moving down the steps to the door. The bus driver saw my belly and got up and swiftly slid in front of me, jumping off the bus. He put out his hand, offering to help me down. I took it and pretended to struggle down from the small step. I smiled at him and he repositioned his cap on his head.
He was an old Greek man and looked as though he had worked as a hard labourer most of his life based on the distinct creases across his face and bronzed skin that could only be the result of time
in the sun. His smile was the type to make others smile back at him and he seemed like the friendly type who would just start up a conversation with you.
“Could I please have my bag?” I asked politely in Greek. He nodded vigorously.
“Yes, Yes, I get it for you,” he said hurriedly and moved to the side of the bus and kicked at the latch – the dodgy metal doors swung open. A bag fell out and the bus driver used his shoulder to stuff it back in. He looked back at me and I pointed at my suitcase, he climbed onto the shelf and dragged out my bag and handed it to me.
I pulled out the handle and smiled to him, saying a quick thank you in Greek. He blushed and repositioned his cap again – it seemed like a habit. I pulled my suitcase over to a rundown bench and perched on the edge. The bus driver swung the doors back in, they hit the metal with a clang. I peered around him and saw him trying to force the doors back into their latches.
He slid back suddenly and stood still – holding his hands up in apprehension that the doors might suddenly swing out again. When they didn’t swing out after a minute, the bus driver walked back towards the bus doors, turning quickly to wave and adjust his cap once more. The doors snapped shut violently behind him.
The engine kicked and spluttered, sending black smoke out of the exhaust pipe. The bus began to jolt into life and slowly began to slide down the road, until, with one final jolt, the bus sped off down the road.
My watch said 5:00PM – half-an-hour until the next bus comes. I waited until the bus was out of sight and stood, walking over to the bathroom cubicle. The bathroom was a small and tight room and yet I still struggled to find the light switch. I spun around and a metal chain clinked into my face. I pulled it down softly and the room was illuminated by a dull, flickering, yellow glow.
I sighed and locked the door – laying the suitcase on the ground on the other side of the ‘room’. I was able to unzip the clean black suitcase with ease and I pulled out a dark brown, curly wig; an old jumper; a pair of converse and some shorts. I changed quickly and dumped the excess clothes on top of the open suitcase.
The bathroom had a small toilet with murky green water in it and a small cracked mirror stuck onto the bricks above a standing basin. I looked around the cracks in the mirror and pulled out the thousands of bobby pins in my hair – the red wig fell to the floor and I picked it up and lay it next to the brown one.
The light began to flicker so I shoved my feet into the shoes and picked up the brown wig. I fastened it to my head with the bobby pins and put the rest away. The light gave up and flicked off; I closed the suitcase and fumbled for the lock on the door. I opened the door and was greeted with the sound of squawking birds and then silence. I wheeled my bag over to the bench and sat down, pulling on my hoodie as I sat.
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