I had walked across the bridge to El Paso on Tuesday morning just to call home and see how Roland’s appointment went on Monday. I had to cross the border at 7am because Perla was crossing at that time and I caught a ride with her to the border. But I got out prior to the bridge and walked over on my own so as not to slow her down. (She had a special crossing pass).
It wasn’t that hard to pass the guards. There was a line, but once I got to the guard, all I needed was my driver’s license. No birth certificate. Well… a birth certificate might have helped me a little. He asked where I was born, and, my mind on a million other things, first I said Minnesota. Then I changed it to Rhode Island. Then I finally remembered and settled on Long Island. Yes, that was it. Long Island.
Hmmm. Any security conscience person should have pulled me aside right there. But no. As long as I was sure it was Long Island, it was okay and I could go through.
I walked a few blocks into El Paso until I found a nice park to sit and wait at. I didn’t want to call Roland too early and wake him up. But it was a very nice morning and I bought a paper and caught up on US news. But when I began calling, I couldn’t get ahold of Roland. My card wouldn’t connect with the our home area as long as I was on a pay phone. (Don’t ask me why, that’s just what I was told by the company)
I eventually walked to a bank and used one of their phones.
He told me that he was going to have a catheter put in to a main artery. His arms weren’t good enough anymore for receiving the chemotherapy. From my past medical experience, I remembered that this type of catheter had to be kept sterile at all times because of its direct connection to the heart. In nursing homes, we used to clean these things every shift. So I was concerned. Who would be home to take care of it for him?
He said it was going in on Thursday at noon. We debated whether I should come home. It took a little while to talk about it. I couldn’t decide, although I really wanted to go. I didn’t like the idea of Roland going home with the catheter and not having anyone there to care for it.
But the time, we had finished talking, it was all ready 11:30 am. We decided I should call greyhound and find out details. Greyhound said that the bus that would get me home on time if I left El Paso at 1:30 pm that day. Only two hours away.
To catch that bus seemed impossible. I would have to walk back to the bridge, (which is about two blocks long?) cross it, get back to the children’s home I was helping at and gather my belongings, get back to the bridge and walk across it again, stopping in a line for US customs and how ever long that would take, and then find the El Paso bus station. There’s no way I could do that in just two hours. Less then two hours now, the more we debated.
After I got off the phone, I wondered what to do next. I tried to find a way to call the children’s home, but the bank clerk told me she didn’t know how to call Mexico. I called my Bible college and spoke to the Dean, then I tried calling my pastor to get money for my ticket, but his line was busy. I don’t know how much time I was wasting.
So I called Roland back. He told me to try for the 1:30 bus, and if I didn’t make it, catch the 9pm. He would call Pastor about the ticket. Okay. Nothing to do then but try.
So without even looking at the clock, I left. I didn’t want to know the time. I walked quickly, but was surprised to see just how far I had come into El Paso that morning. When you are meandering with no goal in mind, you can actually travel pretty far. I finally came to the bridge and crossed it. No Mexican border guard spoke to me. I didn’t even see any. But I did see a taxi on the other side. I only had about $17 dollars on me, but decided I had better take the taxi if I was going to make it on time.
Standing on the sidewalk, I asked the driver how much it would be to get to Juventud con Vision, and back, roound trip. He spoke in Spanish to a woman sitting in the front seat next to him. She puffed on her cigarette and then answered him in Spanish. Turning to me, he told me in broken English $15 for the round trip.
Okay. I have that. I got in.
He pulled out and went the opposite way.
“No, No!” I said ‘Municipalo Libre’ street. Or something like that.”
“Si, Si.” He said. Look, I may not know the names of these roads, but I know which direction they are in! Oh, what should I do? Get out? But I’ve never seen this neighborhood. I don’t know where I was!
I sat tight hoping I would recognize something soon. Soon I did, and I told him to take a left. I was able to give him directions from there. Safely at the children’s home, the cab waited while I ran in to get my things. The staff was very kind. They didn’t ask many questions and were very helpful to getting me back on the road quickly. They even gave me some more money for the trip. That was a very helpful relief. Mrs. Stalwick also advised me to take only what I really needed. She would see to the rest. Okay. My computer and the souvenirs for the kids. Oh yes, and a hair brush.
So back into the taxi, he again turned a direction opposite to what I expected. Wait! Where are you going! The bridge is that way!
“Si, Si.” He turned onto a road I’d never seen before and continued on his way. To my relief, I eventually saw the bridge. He stopped at a curb and I handed him my $15. “No,” he says. “ $20.” His girlfriend indicated it was a long ride.
No, I think to myself. I could have given him more from the money the Stalwicks had given me, but it was a single large bill and I didn’t want him to know how much I had. Besides, a deal is a deal and he made it a long route on his own. I gave him the $17 and told him that was it. He grumbled and I got out of the car.
I hurried across the long bridge. The line at US customs seemed slow and long. But I never looked at the clock. I didn’t want to know the time. It would only give me heartache to know.
Once past the guards, (no birth questions this time) I asked for directions to the bus station. Pastor Stalwick had thought it would be about three blocks. He was right about the direction it was in, but it was maybe 6 or 7 blocks away. My feet were really hurting by the time I made into the station, at 1:15 pm. I don’t think I had walked this far in one day in years.
1:15 pm! Can you believe it?
But now I have to find out if I even have a ticket, and there was a line there, as well. A disheveled man standing in front of me kept swearing to himself. Sometimes he turned and stared straight at me. Long stares. I kept my eyes in the other direction and just prayed.
I couldn’t keep my eyes from darting at the clock now. Twenty after. Then twenty-five after. Twenty-six after. I kept trying to tell myself that if I make the bus, I make the bus. Either way it goes, it’s in the Lord’s hands. I shouldn’t worry about it because whatever happens, it’s up to God. (I had to keep telling myself these things)
Finally, at twenty-seven after, a clerk nods at me to come up.
“Is there a ticket here for me?”
The man clicks the keyboard a couple times and looks it at the monitor. He asks the man next to him some questions. It appears that my clerk is new on the job. He needs help looking for the ticket.
“How do you spell your last name?” he asks me. I don’t even want to look at the clock again. I pull out my driver’s license to make things easier for him.
The next thing I know, he’s printing the ticket out. I grab it from him and run…to which direction. I don’t know. The direction that looked good. But my tired feet, not used to walking, balked at running and the next thing I knew they were tangled on each other and I was flat on my face with my computer sliding away in one direction and the souvenirs in another.
“Are you okay, Honey?”
“Si, Si. Which way is the bus to Montana?”
Well, there is no bus to Montana. I need another minute to figure out I’m going to Phoenix, and THEN up to Montana. But all that said…I made it just in time.
First publishd January 28, 2009