I'm just gonna warn you, folks. Make sure you fasten your seatbelts securely, because this trip is quite a ride. Mmm-kay.
My aunt contacted me at the beginning of 2007. She and my uncle were hoping to take a 2-week trip away for their anniversary...and wondered if I might babysit their 3 daughters? Of course, I said yes.
Now, these are the relatives that are missionaries in Mexico. They were missionaries in the state of Queretaro at that time, which is about 12 hours by bus from where Rey lived.
So began the formulations. Do you think there was a way I would be so close to my now-official man without seeing him? Yeah, right!
I decided to fly into Houston, TX and then take a 8-hour bus trip to McAllen. From there, Rey's godparents agreed to drive me across the border from the bus station to my darlin'. I thought I'd stay in Rey's town for a couple days with a friend of his, and then take the bus the remaining 12 hours to my aunt and uncle's place. The plan was to repeat these steps in reverse on the way back.
So, I took an afternoon bus from my town of Peoria to Chicago. With the bus arriving in Chicago early evening, we encountered heavy traffic and I arrived to the airport way later than the bus's promised arrival time. I was the last traveler to heave my panting, sweaty self onto the plane.
I flew out of Chicago and landed in Houston at night. Unfortunately, my bags didn't land with me. My aunt had some friends in Houston who had agreed to drive me from the airport to the Greyhound bus station, where I was going to take an overnight bus to McAllen.
Instead, these gracious friends suddenly found themselves with an unexpected overnight guest. Thank goodness they were there! They took me back to their house and put me up for the night. They kept me company the next day too, as we waited for my bags to arrive. They then returned me to the airport, retrieved my bags and drove me to the bus station.
Now the rest of what happened at the Greyhound station is a bit of a blur--but I'm gonna do my best. My aunt's friend (David) went with me to the ticket counter at the station. We wanted to get on the 6:00 bus. The lady dismissively said, "There ain't no 6 o'clock bus today." We pointed at the schedule behind here on the wall. "Yeah, well. Not today. Bus ain't here so there ain't nothin' I can do. You'll just have to go out on the 8 o'clock bus."
David appeared to be considering what he would do with me for the next 2 hours, and I told him not to worry. They had been an awesome help, and I had no problem waiting by myself here. I grinned convincingly and flashed a book at him.
Trying to cover his relief, he bid me a gracious farewell and fled--er, left. I called Rey to tell him about the change of plans, so he could tell his godparents. At about 5 to 8, I cautiously approached the bear of a woman behind the counted and asked which terminal the 8 o'clock was arriving at. She told me there weren't no 8 o'clock bus, that I'd have to wait for the 10 o'clock.
At 10 o'clock, she said I'd need to wait for the 12 o'clock. At 12, she announced to the milling and frustrated mass of people that we'd all need to just go plop ourselves in front of door 3. "Because of all the delays today, we are just going to do one bus for all the stops. The bus that arrives will fill on a first-come-first-served basis. If you don't fit onto that bus, you'll just have to wait for the next one that shows up."
Need I tell you it was a mad rush for door 3?
We became an odd community of sorts, we that had been in that station for upwards of 6 hours together. I was probably number 30 from the door. We were just a huge, snaking blob of humanity all sprawled out on the floor of that not-even-close-to-clean station. Backpacks, suitcases, pillows... all jumbled around bodies trying to prop themselves up. I found myself in the midst of a group of other young travelers and we killed time by sharing our stories, destinations.
Any guesses on what time that 6 o'clock bus showed up? 2 am. I kid you not. The bus driver instructed us to fill the bus from the back to the front. It was a free for all-- pushing, shoving. No one was respecting line order. I was at a disadvantage, having a big pull-behind suitcase with me. Then, I realized some of my new friends were calling my name, pushing people back, stretching out their hands to help me with my suitcase, onto the bus. I made it on that bus.
In this bus, the seats were in groups of three, and I got the middle seat, which is the worst. I became the pillow for those on either side of me. A guy in his early teens, and an older, plump woman whose snoring kept me awake most of the trip. That, and the stops happening about every 30 minutes.
I literally thought I would never arrive to McAllen. We spent so much time in the middle of nowhere, seeming to stop any time we got over 30 MPH... Endless! The trip turned into a 12 hour one. We pulled into a seemingly deserted bus station on the edge of a teeny, tiny town. I had no idea what Rey's godparents looked like. They had been told what I was wearing to help them identify me.
All the faces waiting at the bus station seemed to know who they were waiting for, and soon everyone had been reunited with their rides. Except for me. As I sat on my suitcase at the now-empty station, I decided to try Rey again. I guess Rey' s godparents lived around 15 minutes away and decided to wait until they heard for sure I was there before coming. Ah, ok.
So, they arrived in a huge, double-cab Texas-type pickup and zoomed me off, southward, toward the man of my dreams. They used the time of the drive to try to see just what Rey's girl was like and to tell me some fun tales of "little Rey". I was so exhausted, I am sure I just grinned dumbly as I stared at the flat, shrubby landscape zipping pass my window.
We finally got to the international bridge, and were back to creeping along, as we paid the crossing toll and got in line behind the other crossers. Finally, just over the bridge, I could see him. And, suddenly. I wasn't tired anymore.
But, I was ravenously hungry. Let's see, I belive the last time I'd eaten a meal was almost the day before--at David's house? And I am the type that feels as though the world is ending if I do not eat every other hour or so. So, we ate and then headed for Rey's friend Sarai's house. Both of our memories are foggy at this point. It seems we just kind of relaxed and were together, laughing and just enjoying each other's company until it was time to go to bed. I do remember Sarai's hot water heater was not on and I took a cold shower. Wah wah.
The next morning, we continued in our relaxation and enjoyment mode. When I'd first made my plans, I'd thought I'd spend 2 full days with Rey, but with the travel complications--we just had this one. So, why spend it rushing around? I remember leisurely strolling from Sarai's house to a nearby restaurant hand-in-hand with the love of my life--willing myself not to remember that I would be leaving again that night.
I also remember that meal as being one of the most revolutionary ones in my life. Throughout our relationship, people had commented on Rey's perseverance and vision. They'd all knowingly nod their heads and say they knew why Rey had studied so hard to be an Engineer. So he can come live in the States. Live the good life.
Which made me feel a little guilty, since I felt that I would be a missionary living in Mexico. What?! And ruin that poor boy's lifelong dreams? Girl! You need to wake up and align with what he wants to do, not just think about you.
I don't know why, but something about the interactions in that last 24 hours or so that I'd been with Rey somehow woke up this realization in me: Rey's life here is just as big, just as important as my life in the States. There are just as many people that he loves and that love him here as there are for me there. His dreams here are just as grandiose as mine in Illinois.
So, I posed a question I'd never voiced before:
What would you think if after we got married, we came here to live?
At that moment, I saw something in his eyes I'd never seen before. He said, "I'd love that, actually."