August 8, 1985 – Greyhound Bus Terminal – Hammond, Indiana
Before loading the Greyhound bus, my father pulled me into the bathroom stall. He didn’t say anything, he just stood there, staring at me. I didn’t know what to say, but even if I did, I wouldn’t have said it.
I saw what I thought was a mild quiver in his lip, but only for a half-second. Before anything else happened to confirm my suspicions, he grabbed me firmly by my shoulders and pulled me in for the longest and strongest hug I had ever felt from him in my life. He then told me how proud he was of me and how much he loved me. If you knew my father, you also knew that these were not the things he could be heard saying on an average day. Not that he didn’t mean it – it just wasn’t his style to say it. Something, from which, I’m sure he got from his father.
As he concluded, he told me to go start my new life and then stopped to stare at me again. His fixed gaze was something else I had never seen before, or ever again, for that matter. If I could find any reasonable description, I’d have to say that it looked like sadness and happiness, battling for space on the same face.
I thanked him for everything: all that he had taught me, shown me, done with me, shared with me, even the times when he disciplined me. I told him that I existed because of him and that I was nothing without him. I told him that I was his son. A “Davis”. I reassured him that I was ready and I wasn’t afraid.
He released the latch on the stall door, then rotated the two of us until I was the one at the entrance, facing outward. He placed his hands on my shoulders again and steered me out, through the restroom and back to the family and friends who had ridden out to see me off.
We all laughed and joked for the remainder of the time until the bus arrived and I loaded my footlocker and suitcase. My middle brother handed me my alto sax to load, but not before telling me that I was giving him the best birthday present, ever (leaving town on his birthday and relinquishing the bedroom to him).
I delayed as long as I could, then said one last goodbye to the group and walked slowly, but anxiously up the steps of the bus. I looked back and winked at everyone before working my way down the aisle, greeting the seated strangers until I found a desireable open space near the back, next to the window.
My family and friends waved and cheered as the bus pulled away from the station. I saw my friends run to their cars so they could follow behind the bus and honk their horns obnoxiously for a good mile or so.
Thankfully, as the bus left the station, it turned away from everyone, allowing me to put my face in my hands and sob silently without being seen.
I had lied to my father. I wasn’t afraid, I was terrified.
But I was excited.
…and yes, I was ready.
The journey begins…