the bus

When I finally got on the bus I went straight to sleep.

About half way to Budapest I returned to the bus after a toilet break to discover a very large man was sitting in my seat – not a fat man, but a huge man. Unwilling to give up my window seat, I risked asking him to move. He was surly and unsmiling but I didn’t care. I persisted and, finally, he reluctantly moved to the aisle seat letting me slip past to my spot and I went back to sleep against the window.

I bought some chocolate at the next stop in order to get rid of my Romanian money before crossing the border. I don’t like chocolate much but there wasn’t anything better to buy. When I got back on the bus I offered the big guy some chocolate. He didn’t speak any English and I didn’t speak any Romanian but we struck up a conversation of sorts with perhaps thirty-five hard sought words of shared language. He explained that he didn’t normally eat chocolate: he had to watch his diet because he was a rock climber. I told him that, as a rule, I didn’t eat chocolate either. I realised that I had met a disproportionate number of climbers on my trip.

The guy had a bottle of fermenting homemade wine in his bag that was in danger of exploding. Every now and then he would unscrew the top a little to release the pressure. The whole thing was leaking wildly. We made some jokes about being the terrorists at the back of the bus because the potentially explosive bottle and the fact that I was in possession of a pen-knife. His wine leaked all over all my stuff.

We spent three hours at the border between Romania and Hungary. I got off the bus and watched the full moon rise and paced back and forth for a while. When I got bored, I got back on the bus and talked a bit more to the climber. I told him about my bicycle trip. After some time he grabbed my hand with both of his and drew it towards his chest. Initially I was a bit taken aback at this sudden increase in the degree of our intimacy but he merely studied my palm intently. I’m not sure what his expertise in palmistry was but after some moments of close examination he said one word.

“Complicated,” he pronounced.