With a crash that reverberated throughout the entire bus, the door slammed shut and I closed my eyes briefly to daydream about the wonderful familiarity of the home that I was returning to. Avery's big smile and genuine laugh, the smell of hot, cheesy pizza out of the oven, even the white blanket of snow that covered our front yard, begging to be played in...
These thoughts in my head were cut short, however, when I felt a bump and heard an entire bus full of people cry “Whoo!” in unison. Opening my eyes, I discovered the dirt road that we had travelled to get here lay before us.
“Everything okay?” I questioned to Kyle as he sat unusually upright next to me.
“Yeah.. it's, uh, fine. Maybe we shouldn't have chosen the front two seats for this excursion though.”
I scrambled in a feeble attempt at finding some sort of seatbelt.
“It's no use. I looked already,” he informed me.
“Oh. Okay. How long does this trip to the airport take again?”
He responded instantly, as if this were something that he, too, had been thinking about. “It's 35 miles. So with these tumultuous roads and at this rate of a few kilometers per hour, we should make it there by next week.”
I racked my brain for something else to discuss. “Do you think Avery will remember us?”
“I- oh crap...”
I looked forward through the dusty windshield. We approached another bus labeled Zip-Line Tours, which had no seats and everyone who stood inside the vehicle was holding on to leather loop-handles for dear life. We were so close to the tour bus in front of us that I was able to see the greenish skin tone of the majority of the passengers. For about a mile, we remained nearly attached to the back of it, and I was biting my lower lip so hard that I started to taste blood.
Releasing my eyes from the spectacle before me for a moment to glance over at the driver, I saw him holding not one cellphone, but two; one in each of his hands. He was driving the 40-passenger coach bus with his knee.
I smacked Kyle in the arm and motioned towered the man with my chin. “I should've known.” Just then the driver shifted gears and honked his horn. Our bus careened past the other and the transporters waved to each other. Ahh- it was nice that they were all such good buddies.
The entire trip to the airport involved choruses of screams from the folks who were also just trying to make it home alive in back of us, dodging the myriad burros that would suddenly cross our path, and suppressing the butterflies that had taken up residence in my stomach.
I rejoiced and everyone traveling with us clapped when we saw the sign for the aeropuerto. I felt as though we had all bonded through our common fear of a formidable death.
Breaking free of the confines of el autobus, Kyle and I ran over to the baggage compartment, but we were too late. One of the attendants from the airport had already grabbed our bags and was headed for the end of the long line where we would stand, a solid four feet away. Dropping the luggage, he stood leering at us with his hand out. Kyle reluctantly tipped him a few bucks and we took the handles up ourselves to take our place among the other cattle that were shoving their way toward the gate.
A mere 3 hours later (nursing a horrific stomach ache that was largely due to the scorchingly hot chicken sandwich that I had consumed while standing up at the food court), we stood in line outside our gate, ready to be escorted to the Jet Blue flight that would take us back home. After what seemed like countless hours of us standing there, we finally began to walk. We walked. And we walked. Then we walked a little more. Finally, in the distance, Kyle spotted our plane and pointed to the last aircraft on the tarmac. “Is that really it? Jeez...”
We finally made it, and as the entire plane full of people wiped the perspiration from their collective brow and climbed the staircase to sit in their airplane seats, which at this point all felt like first class to our sore tushies, I breathed a sigh of relief. We were almost home. Finally.
Landing, getting through JFK in one piece, and the drive back home all kind of blur together. What I remember most of all from our trip home was seeing Avery again after being away for a week. The joy was immeasurable, and I was so incredibly excited to get back into the “normal” routine with her. Perhaps it wasn't such a bad thing to be Mom again.
Just as long as Kyle promises to whip out the “It's my pleasure” line once in a while. I've grown very fond of it.