We said goodbye at a bus stop. I can’t even begin to tell you how many people I’ve said goodbye to at a bus stop. They are sad places for me. Robin and I sat on a ledge and waited for the bus and I felt like a nervous little kid, avoiding eye contact and suppressing sad feelings. The bus came, I gave him a hug, and we both said mundane things that just didn’t say enough, like “it’s been fun” and “See you later”. I got on the bus and as it sped away, I thought a lot about the good times we’d had together, working behind the bar in Raglan, then meeting back up in Australia, chasing tail in Byron and traveling up the East Coast together. I knew I’d miss my friend for a long time to come.
I got off the bus at a park in a residential area south of Brisbane Central and I walked to a highway onramp. It took me most of the day to hitch back to Byron, but it wasn’t a long distance. Maybe my head wasn’t in it. One guy dropped me off near a petrol station and a Hungry Jacks. I usually avoid fast food these days, but I was hungry, and not sure when I’d get my next ride or if it would take me somewhere with food, so I decided to grab a burger.
It was good. It was greasy and bad for me and I was supporting a big ugly company, but it was delicious none the less. Sitting somewhere behind me, a child was eating with him mom and I overheard their conversation.
“Mom,” he said, “I wonder what the world is going to be like when I grow up?” And she just shrugged her shoulders and continued to munch a fistful of fries.
There was a pause while the child, maybe 8 years old, contemplated his own question and then said out loud, but to himself, “I bet it’s gonna be scary, living on my own and all that…”
I wanted to jump up and give that kid a hug. I wanted to tell him that his life was going to be awesome because HE was awesome and specifically because he was already asking those kinds of questions. I wanted him to know that living on your own and exploring the world and growing up is only scary in all the best ways. I wanted to teach him about freedom and send him into the world with a backpack full of empty scrapbooks and loose change and I wanted him to know about adventure and love and heartbreak and the kebabs in Istanbul and the sand fly bites in Golden Bay and the sunburns in Florida and I wanted to trade brains with him for just one minute so he could understand that he was so wrong and at the same time so right about life being scary.
I finished my burger and stuffed the wrapper into the cardboard fry container, and then stuffed that into my empty cardboard cup. I stood and placed them in the rubbish bin and as I turned to leave, I saw that little kid who I had heard talking with him mom. And for a second, for one split second as I stepped towards the door, swinging my backpack over my shoulder, we caught eyes.
And he smiled.
And I smiled back.
I walked straight through that car park and out to the highway to catch my last ride home with that little boy’s words still echoing in my head.
I bet its gonna be scary when I grow up.