A few weeks ago, I took a solo trip out West.
I travel alone quite a bit and don't mind the solitude that comes with getting from point A to point B. Planes, however, aren't my favorite mode of transportation so going from my friend's house in Portland to another friend's house in California, I bought, for the first time, a Greyhound bus ticket.
There's too much fluorescent lighting in airports. Too much CNN, too many people pining for an outlet to charge their smartphones. Though to be fair, a Greyhound is not any more romantic of an option. On my fifteen hour bus ride, there were a lot of neck tattoos, men who bent over to get their luggage without sufficient beltage, a woman across from me in grey sweatpants and a matching grey sweatshirt with all of her belongings in a cardboard box. I had an idea of where she came from and when she got off at Mt. Shasta, I wished her luck with where she was going.
Despite the unpleasantness that is America's bus system, I'm reasonably content given a book and a good view. Riding through small Northwestern towns, past creeks and through foothills, I had time to read old editions of Ploughshares and take notes for a short story I've been working on for years, though only seriously for the past three months. I tore out stories in the literary journal that had a rhythm I wish my writing had. I looked out the window a lot and wondered — though there's no use ― when my writing would resemble the writing that I kept saving. Writing that accumulates in binders back at home.
After a week of seeing friends that live across the country in much nicer climates and hiking through what felt to me like summer heat (also rain and hail at one point), I arrived back to Chicago at 5 am on a Sunday morning. Once the post-vacation malaise wore off, I began working on my short story again, finishing the piece and then editing, tweaking, copy-editing, worrying about the underdevelopment of characters, the tone, the mediocrity of it all. But finally, I decided that it's finished. I read it over the other day and thought to myself very briefly, not bad.
Though what I like most about it is that it's done.