The time was 6:45 pm. The date was November, 8, 2012. I was waiting in a sleazy, sketchy, old Greyhound station waiting to take the Richmond to New York City bus. The trip took eight hours. In these eight hours to New York and in the eight hours back, I decided to write my thoughts. The following pages contain some of the things I wrote sitting on this bus. I fin them to be all mutually related. I hope you do too.
Fredericksburg, Springfield, D.C, Baltimore
I just got on the bus. On my way to New York City.
I want to, first of all, say what I want these writings to be and the way in which I want them to be written. I don’t want it to be a stream of consciousness type thing. Bada bing, bada boom! I don’t want to just write anything that comes to mind. That has been done. That would not be fair to my readers, perhaps? This book is not about my trip. This book is not about a place. Sitting on a bus for 8 hours is perhaps one of the most boring and monotonous experiences a human being can experience. While I love trying to find out where I am (that’s one of the reasons I decided to include a map as the cover for my chapters) and while I like seeing the cities and spaces I pass, the goal, the point, the intention of this seat in this bus is the attempt to look inwards. It isn’t a travel to a geographical location but rather an elimination of space as an excuse to look inwards.
I like looking inwards. You might say I like talking to myself quite a bit. Does this make me sound as if I was mentally unstable? Who can tell the difference anyway. I find that whenever I am able to eliminate space, to close myself down, to lock myself in, I learn something new about myself. What better joy in life than learning something new about yourself. At the expense of sounding cliché, “The life not examined is not worth living.”
What I have recently found out is that I don’t really ‘talk to myself’ as the expression usually goes. Rather, I have a conversation with myself, a conversation in the second person. There is Jorge, the talker. As the name suggests, he’s the one doing the talking. At the same time, there’s Jorge, the listener. He’s mute. The first Jorge, on the other hand, is completely deaf. As you can imagine, they get along quite well. Actually, deaf Jorge is the one writing this paper. Deaf Jorge is quite the talker and, because he loves hearing the sound of his own voice, he often overdoes it. At that point, mute Jorge gives him a stern, cold look. Deaf Jorge knows what this means and proceeds to re-think whatever absurdity just left his mouth.
My life consists on the conversation between these two individuals. I am both and I am neither. Silence does not exists for me, since silence is the moment when I get to hear what they have to say. What would life be like without them?
“Next stop is Fredericksburg, VA”
The Annihilation of Space
Monotony is a way in which space is eliminated. When you repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat the iterations of that repetition become meaningless. The 1,000th tree I’ll see on this trip won’t be different enough from the 1377th tree. At that time I’ll be thinking about something else.
The nature of this trip, in its very nature, goes against any pragmatic purpose. Sixteen hours on a bus for the pure joy of it is entirely anti-pragmatic. My favorite kind of trips are precisely the anti-pragmatic ones. I love moving for movement’s sake. I love moving so I can have time to myself. Sometimes, on a Thursday or Friday night, I bike through the streets of Richmond. I bike through the Fan or downtown without trying to go anywhere in particular, trying to drift through the city while perhaps learning a few new street names. Lombardy, Rowland, Meadow, Vine, Allen, and Strawberry. I always remember N. Meadow because it’s the only street with a traffic light. I would always do the same, late at night, in the street of San Juan. I would drive around the more urban neighborhoods: Hato Rey, Santurce, Río Piedras, Condado. I would try to find absolutely nothing in particular. Sometimes, I might, perhaps, try to find new ways to get around. Others I would try to find new ways to try to understand my city. Yet, at the end, there was no real point to it, besides forgetting where I was. Being able to do nothing for an hour, only to bike around and think about nothing in particular is a great blessing. Being able to do nothing for a couple of hours, only to drive and think about nothing in particular is a great blessing. Being able to do nothing for 8 hours, only to sit and think about nothing in particular is an immense blessing.
My favorite trip is perhaps the most unpragmatic. I was in Wrocław, Poland and wanted to go Belgrade, Serbia. I was broke and couldn’t go through the European Union because my Schengen visa had expired, which meant I couldn’t go through Czech Republic, Slovakia or Hungary and almost every train passed through Hungary. These two conditions created an opportunity for a feat that, while necessary, seemed almost ridiculous. My good friend from Ukraine, Yenia found instructions on how to go through Ukraine and Romania to Belgrade, rather than through other EU countries. Needless to say, he found it on Yandex (the Russian equivalent to google) and the instructions were in Russian, so he had to carefully explain each step of the trip to me. I understood about half of it. This trip would take more than 48 hours at a distance that, in a plane, might take less than two hours. I would have to cross 3 borders in 4 countries with 4 different languages (none of which I spoke). It involved taking 3 trains, 3 bus rides, a 3 kilometer walk and an unexpected hitch-hike. I was afraid, but happy at the same time. This trip would be a challenge.
My first time travelling was the time I went to a summer camp in Canada. I was probably about 10 years old and my dad wanted me to go to his camp in Barry’s Bay, Ontario. I wanted to go because of the excitement of travelling, for having a new experience. He wanted me to go because it was organized by the local church group. It was, very creatively, called Leadership Summer Camp and it was intended as a way to build ‘character’ among young teenage boys.
There are many things I remember from this summer camp, but perhaps one of the most memorable were the long bus rides. At the summer camp, we would make a trip to the Niagara Falls. That was almost 6 hours away. We would wake up at 3:00 am, go to mass, have breakfast and hop on a big, yellow school bus.
I could never sleep on these bus trips, or at least not much. So, while everyone else was sleeping, I would look at the majestic pines trees of Ontario I had never seen before, look out for deer and read the bilingual road signs to try to figure out where I was. I still remember names like Peterborough, Hamilton, Combermere and Pembroke. I can’t remember if these trips bothered me and I can’t recall complaining about them. I don’t know if this was because of the excitement of going somewhere or because of the long time on the bus. The other thing I would do is just think about whatever came to mind. What I wanted to do when I ‘grew up’, who I was going to be in the future, things like music and movies, and, of course, the all-important love interests of a 6th grader. Not much has changed since then.
Yet, I think it was since this very young age that I knew I liked travelling and that what I wanted to keep on doing it. There was nothing like the excitement of going to these new places. For some reason, since this very tender age I somehow knew that all this wandering around would really define who I was and who I wanted to be. I also think that it was through these early travels that I eventually figured out something very important. Who you were, as a person, was not predefined but rather, it was something that had to be realized. You had to act as the person who you wanted to be. Life was something that could be acted upon. I have yet to find a better way to define yourself than through travelling, moving, and wandering around. Well, to be honest, I probably didn’t think this when I was ten, but this was a start.
I owed her 4 thousand dollars in child support so she took me to court. I didn’t have the money. When we were in court, she said she wanted the money that same day. My lawyer argued with her “How is he going to get the money if he’s in jail? Give him some time to come up with the money”. After some time, she finally agreed. The judge gave me a week to come up with the money. I was in deep shit. I was going to go to jail. The next day, with the last couple of dollars I had, I went to Dunkin Donuts and I bought myself a cup of coffee. Then I crossed the street to the gas station and bought a lottery ticket. I won 20 thousand dollars and I cashed that check the same day! I paid her the 4 thousand dollars. “Here, bitch, here’s your money!” It was a goddamn miracle.
A lot of people I know and a lot of I see on the street seem to tend to be as connected as possible. I normally see people spending their spare moments trying to call someone up, hearing some music or playing a game on their phones. I try to avoid these things… and the machines that facilitate them. I have an old phone, fortunately, that can’t do any of these things. The reason I avoid these all-in-one technological marvels because I find the to be them enemy of silence. They are the way in which we avoid silence at absolutely any moment during the day.
We live in a society that now escapes silence at all costs. Maybe this is a good thing. Progress might be nothing more than the ability to continually avoid confronting ourselves. The fact that we don’t experience silence is only an indication of how much we have accomplished. Why would we ever be in silence if we have Angry Birds and Spotiffy? One of these is obviously less engaging.
Weirdly enough, I see a very strong relationship between religion, silence, and the contemporary lack of it (Am I just imagining things?). It seems to me that it is not coincidence the continual technological development of our societies goes along with the disappearance of religion (at least in more recent generations). We certainly don’t deify the iPhone, but it’s too entertaining! We choose not to have time to stop and think about the questions that religion tries to respond to in the first place. Who would ever do a thing like that?
Holy shit, it’s snowing! There’s snow in the grand. It has to be so cold. I might freeze to death! Soon, I’ll be there.
Nov 10, 3:10 PM
I just got stuck in the bathroom of the bus. 10 minutes stuck in a 4 square foot bathroom seems like a lot more that ten minutes. I hesitated pushing the “In case of emergency” button, but the claustrophobia of the whole thing was getting to me. I know that 10 more minutes in the make-believe bathroom would make me feel desperate, dizzy and horrible. It’s funny seeing how a simple situation can seem so bad.
Normally, in a sticky situation like this one, I try to think of what is the worst possible thing that could happen. I could get so dizzy and disoriented, I might have nausea and have to vomit somewhere. I apologize for the mental picture that has just appeared into your head. Really, I apologize. They might have to stop the bus in order for the driver to come and rescue me. Everyone would get pissed off at the 23 year old kid who delayed the bus. Maybe, the employees on the bus won’t be able to open the door for me, and I might be obliged to spend 8 hours on a 4 square feet, no windows, smelly bathroom on my way to Richmond, VA. At some point, I might start seeing my life in a flash and the light at the end of the tunnel. Jorge Silva Jetter. 1989-2012. Died in the Greyhound bathroom. The headlines on the newspaper would tell the tragic story of a young (good looking, I might add) 23 year old who died in the bathroom of a greyhound bus. Lawsuits would be made. Careers would be ruined. Greyhound, the 98 year old company would go bankrupt due to the damage of its public image. All because I couldn’t get out of the bathroom.
After some time, the employee came to my rescue from the torture of the make-believe bathroom. He started trying to open the door, but he was only trying to open the bottom lock “It’s the one on the top!”, I shouted. “I know what’s wrong” he answered back to me, as if he was the one stuck in the bathroom and had been trying to open the damn door. A few moments later, I made my triumphant exit out of the tiny bathroom. The three people sitting close by started laughing when they saw me, laughing at my little near-death experience. I also laughed a bit at myself, knowing that everything was okay, even do a few moments earlier I wasn’t sure I was ever going to get out of there. At the end, things are never as bad as my creative worst case scenarios, which makes the experience seem a lot lighter.
The night is now falling. the nature of my trip has changed. The view of nature, of my surroundings are now impossible. I shall have to look inwards.
I am already disappointed in this trip. I’m starting to find that my expectations were, perhaps, a bit too high. It is strange to say, but I do have to admit that I thought I would fine a lot more on this bus ride. How naive of me to think that a simple bus ride might provide the answers to the universe. How naive am I to think that a bus ride may provide with any answers at all. That, in a way, is the nature of reflection. You always find as many questions as you find answers. You find that there are no correct answers to life, there are only hypothesis. You find that, no matter how you live your life, there will always be regrets, there will always be unanswered questions, there will always remain doubt.
You can also see this document in PDF form: A Bus Ride – Jorge Silva-Jetter