What you are about to read........happened to me. This, (edited), entry is from my 1988 USA travel diary. I was on a Greyhound Bus going from New York to Los Angeles. The bus stopped at Iowa.........
"Sandra Mitchell,(name changed), an 18yr old from Arkansas got on. I thought she was a bit crazy at first. How many girls do you know blow up rubbers, for a joke, on buses, right? The guys thought she was after me. Sandra 'bury-me-in-a-Y-shaped-coffin' Mitchell etc. But there was more to her open 'countryness'.....her naive attitude to everything.... I got talking to her. She asked me loads of questions about English people & England. She liked the way I talked. Her thick hick accent, "Oh that's real purdy" was fun to listen to. I tried sarcastic humour on her - blank. It had to be ground level, simple, easy to understand - child’s humour. She told me some about Arkansas - what they do for laughs. It's just like you'd imagine - a bit like the 'Dukes of Hazard'. Basically she was a simple country girl.
She was dressed in a pink flowered Hawaiian type shirt, tight pink jeans and small brown leather boots - no socks. The boots were wet, so were her feet. She had one small tunnel bag. In it was a photo album, a pink flowered bed sheet, toiletries, and some small burnt down red candles in tiny glass tumblers - the sort you'd find in a church. There were one or two odd necklaces. No coat. No change of clothes. She showed me her photo album. Usual piccies. One photo showed her with HER BABY from last year, (1997). The photo showed her as 'plump' with dark/black wavy hair in a nice dress. Looking at the girl in front of me, it could have been two different people. She was as thin as a rake, hollow faced & short, with split-ended brown hair. She was sprawled across the seats in front of mine. The bus kept going through the dusty yellow/brown highways of Wyoming, heading onto Salt Lake City, Utah.
The conversation was in fits and starts. I can't recall what we were talking about, but she made a remark, which, by the way she said it, obviously had some bearing on her current situation. A situation, it seemed to me, she was painfully trying to escape from:
"There's lots of Devil worshipping goes on in Arkansas....."
Now, I picked up on that as some source of amusement, but I could tell from the look on her face, and the abruptness by which the conversation stopped at that point, that she wasn't kidding. She hardly ever looked me in the eyes when she was talking. The bus rolled on some more. And I got interested in this girl some more. I could hear the comments from the guys to me, "She's a freak, man. Leave it."......and...."What's the matter with you, English - you desperate?". I was hooked. I had to know the rest of her story. She'd left Arkansas in "...a lot of trouble....", and she meant it. I didn't ask what happened, but I was well passed the guessing stage.
Sandra was very playful & attentive with the children of the woman sitting opposite me. Remember her baby? It began to play on my mind that a girl who obviously cares & likes children, would not leave her baby behind if she was planning to leave home. There was no sideways approach to this subject, so I just came right out and asked: " Sandra, where’s’ your baby now?"
Dead. Not "She's died". And no other explanation. Just simply - dead. This was one of the few occasions she looked me right in the eyes when she said something to me. Then she turned around and sat down. I fell back in my seat. It may have been scorching hot in the Wyoming desert, but I was chilled to the bone. "Struck out again, hey English?!" came a laugh from behind me. This was not funny. Everytime I talked to her, it confirmed the picture my fertile imagination had constructed several hours ago.
When we stopped for lunch at Rawlins, Wyoming Sandra never got off the bus. I realised she never got off the bus at any stop, except to use the bathroom. I played a hunch and offered her some biscuits I’d bought in Manhattan a couple of days earlier, which were in the bottom of my rucksack. She had no problem in finishing them, or the half a bottle of mineral water. She hadn’t eaten in over a day. She’d spent the last of her money on a bus ticket. One incident I haven’t mentioned yet convinced me that my warped mind had, indeed, conjured up the truth. When approaching Salt Lake City, Sandra & I were talking, again she brought up the fact that there was lots of Devil worshipping down in Arkansas. This time she showed me the scars on her wrists where they had been slashed…
What kind of ceremony were those candles used in, and why was she carrying them with her? What was the significance of the bed sheet, and why did she carry these strange necklaces about? Why did she get on the bus with soaking wet boots, no money, no clothes…..no baby? Perhaps the Devil was on her heels.”
That was 17yrs ago. It seems like yesterday when I read that. It still chills me thinking about it. After looking after Sandra Mitchell on our short trip togethter, we parted company at the Greyhound Bus Station in downtown Los Angeles. I’d bought her the connecting ticket to her sister’s place. I hope she got there…….
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