It was Thanksgiving weekend. I was dating a girl at the time who went to school in Washington, D.C., and whose family lived up in Buffalo, New York. She'd gone home to spend the holiday with them, and I was lonely down south without her. I decided to go see her, and bought myself a bus ticket.
The trip up was uneventful. I dozed a little bit, read a trashy novel and stared at the gray, boring landscape heading north. I arrived in Buffalo to 36 degree weather, wearing only a T-shirt under my denim jacket. I had a toothbrush, a change of socks and underwear and one clean shirt in a Pan Am flight bag-- which was my only luggage in those days. So much for my ability to combine practicality with whimsical, spur-of-the-moment travel.
I hitchhiked, teeth chattering, from Buffalo to the small town where she lived, about 15 miles away, making it all the way to the foot of her street in only two rides. It was cold and breezy, and the leaves crackled beneath my boots as I walked. As I climbed the hill and rounded the corner, her house came into view, and I saw several cars in the driveway and along the street. Her brothers were throwing a football around in the yard with some pals. I'd been here a couple of times before, and recognized most of the faces. They waved at me and yelled greetings.
I went to the side of the house, and the kitchen door, where I knocked and peered in. My girlfriend's younger sister saw me and squealed with surprise as she opened the door. She took my arm and led me into the kitchen, where her mother was bustling about, gathering plates and bowls, setting out platters, and making preparations for their Thanksgiving dinner. I could smell the turkey roasting, and I saw pies cooling on the sideboard. I was starving, and I'd timed it beautifully! Things were starting to come out of her two ovens, and the countertops were awash in all manner of edible goodies.
Her mom, a sweet woman who actually liked me very well, greeted me and gave me a big hug and a kiss. She said: "Oh, your ears are so cold! My goodness! Don't you own a hat, or a coat, or gloves? Come in here and warm up! Did (my girlfriend) know you were coming? She didn't say anything to me..."
"No. I missed her, so I took a chance and I just hopped on a bus. I hope you don't mind", I said.
"Don't be silly! Another place is hardly a bother!
How lovely! It's so nice to see you! She's upstairs. Why don't you go up and surprise her? I know she'll be thrilled..."
I dropped my bag on a kitchen chair and headed into the living room, through the library and down the hallway to the staircase. Her dad was napping in his recliner, and I tiptoed past him. I climbed the stairs to the landing outside her room, a huge grin spreading across my face. I grasped her doorknob, turned it gently and pushed the door open, stepping in with a dramatic and courtly bow.
"HAPPY THANKSGIVING, MADAME, TO.... you... and... whoever this guy is..!" I said, as they leapt apart and flailed about in her bed, grabbing for the sheets. They were naked, sweaty, tousled and out of breath. The guy grinned sheepishly at me and gave me a small, half-hearted wave. I'd met him before-- he lived nearby, I think-- but I couldn't remember his name. It wasn't like we were about to make formal introductions, so in my mind I arbitrarily named him "The Shithead".
She said "Ohhhh... " and she made the strangest face-- as though she'd been terribly disappointed, somehow. Like I'd just handed her a bad report card, or told her the dog had pooped on the rug, or that I didn't get that promotion we'd counted on. We all stared at each other for a few moments.The uncomfortable silence d-r-a-g-g-e-d on into its 5th second or so... Wasn't I supposed to kill someone, or wasn't one of us supposed to make some impassioned declamation right about now? I felt like a schmuck, standing there in the doorway.
"Uh... well, I see you're... getting your turkey stuffed, too, so... I guess....ah... I'd best be on my way. Well, SURPRISE, then!" I did an about-face and descended the stairs three at a time. I sprinted through the hallway, the living room (past her still snoozing dad) and into the kitchen (past her gaping mom and sister), grabbed my bag off the chair without slowing down or making eye contact with anyone and slammed the kitchen door behind me as I ran from the house and down the hill to the road.
I made it back to Buffalo in three rides, and roamed the streets for a few hours, chain-smoking, weeping and muttering to myself like a lunatic. I spent the night in a motel room near the bus station. I found an open convenience store and made a few purchases. I ate my Thanksgiving dinner sitting on a wobbly chair in the motel room, heating a Swanson Turkey TV DInner over a can of Sterno. I held it gingerly by the edges and tried to get enough heat into it to make it semi-palatable. The bulk of it was slightly soupy, almost warm, and featured a few ice crystals here and there, but I managed to choke at least half of it down, sobbing as I did so.
Friday morning I awoke to the realization that I was, indeed, in a crappy motel room in a city I'd fled to after finding my new love in bed with... The Shithead. A few minute's reflection convinced me that-- A.) It wasn't all a bad dream, and-- B.) There was absolutely nothing to be gained by hanging around or confronting them. I bought myself a bus ticket home, and a bottle of Boone's Farm Apple Wine that I drank in record-breaking time, for my breakfast.
An hour later I was rolling southward, and the roiling mixture of the cheap wine and last night's semi-thawed holiday feast combined to rouse me from my stupor. I made a beeline for the bus's toilet, only to find that the door didn't even latch properly-- never mind being able to lock it. It was cold and grimy in there and it reeked. I half-sat, half-hovered over the bowl, hunched forward as we bounced and rumbled our way along the highway and I kept a death grip on the broken door handle.
I have no idea exactly what happened then; perhaps another vehicle cut us off. All I knew was that the driver hit his brakes-- hard! I was violently catapulted off the toilet seat and out the door onto my hands and knees into the aisle, with my pants around my ankles. People screamed, shouted, hooted, yelped, pointed, gasped and swore. I did a grotesque impression of a large, pissed-off hermit crab and scrambled on all fours back into the bathroom. I remained in there for some time, trying desperately to figure out a way to escape the bus through the toilet, or hoping to hide in there until we came into D.C. again...
Neither possibility was realistic, and I eventually-- and very quietly-- pushed the door open and tiptoed out... to the thunderous cheers and applause of my fellow passengers!
So, the trip wasn't a complete loss, after all. They do say that tragedy builds character, and show biz is my life, after all...! I'd like to think that there are several people from that Buffalo to D.C. run who, even today, may be telling a portion of this same bizarre story to their friends, all of them wondering what ever happened to that poor son of a bitch who was flung out of that toilet like he was shot from a cannon.