[This is the first installment in a series I’m calling Ten Hours, about my trip with students to a college in upstate NY. These are a few moments of ten hours we spent on the bus that’ll hopefully give you a sense of the whole 36 hours we spent on the trip and about all the things rattling around in my brain. Enjoy!]
Ten minutes after pulling away from the school, CB shouts out, “Wait for it and you can see my house!” As the bus eased up to the stop light he called out again, “There it is, the one with the stickers on the door!” full of pride and no shame as he pointed to a small unit on the edge of one of the many housing projects near the school.
The bus kept rolling as the sun kept rising, making another stop to pick up the last of our 45 students and then rolling onto the highway. About forty-five minutes into our trip CB’s voice reached over the seats again.
“Ms. A-P my head feel light.”
I stood up and asked if he was ok. He assured me that he was fine but that he felt weird and his head felt funny. I told him to keep looking forward and then brought him the only thing we had — a paper bag.
Not fifteen minutes later CB’s seat-mate, M looked over his shoulder at me and said, “Ms! CB threw up!”
I gave him a skeptical look — was he just saying stuff? His tone seemed almost joking.
“Ms. I’m serious. He threw up!” At which point the guy across from M and CB started freaking out and, miraculously, the bus started slowing down and rolling into a rest stop.
“Ok calm down,” I said as I got up out of my seat again. I patted CB’s shoulder as I assessed the situation — for future reference, paper bags break — and then quickly walked towards the front to see if we had any way of cleaning up this mess. We didn’t really.
The kid across the aisle was still freaking and so I, in a moment of frustration, curtly informed him that he needed to calm down, “I don’t have time for your ridiculousness, sit down.” Not my finest hour, but not CB’s either.
The bus lurched to a stop and I hustled CB off the bus and to the compartment below to get a change of pants. As he changed I purchased some motion-sickness meds and picked up plastic bags. By the time I got back to the bus disinfectant spray and paper-towels were already being employed by my colleague against the mess. Hallelujah.
CB seemed to handle the whole situation remarkably well — he accepted the pills and my concern with the graciousness of a little kid and didn’t express much concern about embarking on the rest of the trip. Not long after everyone got back on the bus I walked by his seat again to find him eating gummy bears. Nice recovery, kiddo. I admonished him with a look that I hope said, “be careful! you’re playing with fire” but he assured me he was fine.
And indeed he was. We made it the rest of the way without incident and, thanks to the two pills he took as we pulled away from the college to head back home, he made it the whole way back too. He even refused my suggestion of taking another pill after four hours to see him all the way through.
But as we pulled up to the penultimate stop light on our journey, a girl from a different school threw up. So close and yet so far…