By Foot and By Thumb: Day 2

October 21, 2017

Joggers and pedestrians and dogs made their way along the paved walkway that met the grassy slope from which I rose. I tried to remain inconspicuous, unnoticed. I wriggled behind a tree before slipping out of my bag and packing up my things. I made my way to Highway 2, just past the parking lot of Minute Man National Historic Park.

Highway 2 was not the busiest highway to be on. I would try to make it back to 90. I stuck out my thumb, but not my sign. I wanted to catch any sort of ride to higher traffic — regardless if it was directly west or not.

“Where ya headed?” A man asked from his passenger window as he pulled up beside me.

“California, ultimately.”

He offered to get me to a nice plaza where there would be plenty of opportunities to catch a ride. First, we were to drive to his home in Concord to get his son. It was his son’s first day of work at his first place of employment — and we would be taking him.

While in their home, I was offered coffee. I enthusiastically accepted. I savored sips of dark roast as my eyes passed their forward gaze from room to room. Off-white, warm, unoriginal; welcoming, familiar. I smiled inside, as I watch his son move in hurried preparation.

We dropped the son in a grocery store parking lot at a nearby retail courtyard. Then , I was dropped at the Lexington Service Plaza — large and populated.I thanked the man and bid him farewell.

***

I walked inside the plaza, picked up some snacks from a mini-mart, and settled against a beige, textured partition that shielded the plastic dining booth in which I sat. I scribbled in a note book and snacked before deciding that it was due time I caught a ride.

I decided to try my luck with the truck-drivers this time.

I wandered over, still awkward in my newly forming confidence, and asked a friendly-enough-looking truck driver if he was heading west. No. This particular driver was heading home to see his family for the weekend. A tad discouraged, I stepped on to the grassy median that separated the two filling stations: one for the semi-trucks, and one for the other folks.

As I stood there, uncertain of my next move, sign visible at my side, a man with a large reddish beard and kind eyes walked over.

“Where ya headed?” He asked.

“California.” I replied.

He told me that he was headed to New York City for a coupe of nights, and then Chicago. From Chicago I could hop on I-90. I-90 runs all the way west to Seattle. I was welcome to join him.

I glanced over at his vehicle — a large white van. Metal bars partitioned the front seats from the windowless back.

Despite his concerning means of transportation, I felt comfortable around him. Everything felt genuine. I was especially made at ease when I climbed in to the passenger seat to receive greetings by a sweet yellow dog.

As it were, my new friend was part of the circus community. He was friends with some folks who are erecting the tents for Big Apple Circus in New York City. They could use a hand. So off we were.

The Big Apple Circus was stationed in Manhattan. We arrived at a large, gated lot. To the left, there was a large circus tent already erected. To the right of that tent was a large vacant space where the next tent would be.

As my new friend made his arrival known, there was a chorus of pleasant greetings and introductions…followed by bemusement.

“Wait…you what? You picked her up at a truck-stop?!”

I was invited in to their trailers and offered beer and weed, both of which I graciously accepted. The circus community seemed a close knit one. These people worked hard, lived on-site, travelled, and many were involved in the circus arts. I was impressed.

A handful of us left the trailer to sip whiskey and step inside the empty tent. It was fully erected and furnished. Never before had I stepped in to a circus tent devoid of any crowds, of their buzzing. The energy seemed palpable. I could envision the glittery bodies swinging from the idle trapeze. I stood in the center, where the ringleader might stand, and ever so slowly turned 360 degrees. The stage was set and eager for a spark. I had a newfound appreciation for circus tents. For the first time I recognized them as the magical containers they were.

Then was the decision of where to sleep. I was told that I was welcome to sleep in one of their trailers, but I was more comfortable with the idea of sleeping in the back of the van. I told this to my friend.

“Ok. There is just one thing. If I lock the door there will be no way to get out.”

If sleeping in the back, metal bars made it impossible to exit from the front seats. The back of the van opened via two swinging doors. Those doors can only be unlocked from the outside.

“I don’t want that!” I replied.

“Yeah. That is why I am telling you. You can sleep with my dog, and we can leave it unlocked. I don’t think anyone would bother you with her in there.”

That worked for me.

He gave me the keys to the van, and with a hint of jest, told me not to run off with it. He then rejoined his friends. He would sleep in one of their trailers tonight.

It was Saturday, about 5:30 pm. This was my first time in New York. I was off to explore Manhattan. I made a visit to Time Square. I was stunned by the crowds. I did not wander long.

I returned to the van, snuggled up with the pup, and feeling secure and happy and free, fell fast asleep.

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