I had a dream last night.
The afternoon sun was just beginning to fade. There was a light breeze but it did little to cut the heat of the day. A lone bird hidden in a nearby Oak Tree nearby sang an unfamiliar tune. I was sitting on an old wooden bench, the paint all but worn away, on the edge of a bare gravel parking lot. To my right was a chipped and rusting enamel sign with “BUS STOP” printed in bold letters on the front. It sat atop a steel pole welded onto an old car wheel.
Across the lot behind me was a small service station. The nondescript white box had a large sign above the entrance that simply said “Chuck’s Service” and was bookended by a Mobiloil Pegasus and a large round Coca-Cola sign. Two service bays with glass paned doors sat off to the right. A pair of gas pumps sat abandoned out front. There appeared to be a few people milling about inside but they were indistinct through the shadows and small dusty windows.
I was sitting, watching the rutted two lane road in front of me, when a young man sat down on the opposite end of the bench. He propped up a guitar case, the neck leaning against the seat close to his side. I nodded and smiled politely. He returned the gesture in kind.
The young man was in a clean tan suit with a dark printed tie and pressed white shirt. His shoes showed the dust and toil of a long journey. Clean shaven, his dark skin glistened in the fading sunlight. His black hair, shaved close on the sides, was slicked back in glossy waves up top. He exuded confidence and charm. He had no luggage, only the guitar. Like everything else around me though he seemed to be from a time long gone.
The young man reached up with a silk handkerchief to wipe the perspiration from his brow and caught me staring at the case beside him.
“You play?” he asked, motioning towards the guitar.
“I try.” I said. “Just can’t find the time to keep it up.”
“Yeah, life gets busier every day. It’s all about choosing how you want to spend your time I guess.”
He spoke in a slow, comfortable drawl. I’m not sure why I chose to open up to him, but I did.
“Making that choice is the hardest thing.” I said. “I get scared sometimes. I feel lost, like I’m living someone else’s life. I don’t know how to get where I want to be.”
“Well,” he said, “We all struggle inside. The point is to do the best you can. Make a difference to as many people as you can. The sky’s the limit really.”
“I just feel like I’ve wasted so much time.”
“Then do whatever you have to do to be happy now. It’s never too late to change direction. Don’t waste your time with regrets.”
“Pretty wise words coming from someone so young.” I said smiling.
He smiled back and looked down at the ground. “Oh, I’ve been through enough. But I don’t feel bad.” He looked up into the cloudless sky. “I feel pretty good. I’m finally going home.”
I followed his gaze. We both sat in silence, watching nothing in particular until the clatter of a large internal combustion engine broke the trance. In a flurry of noise and billowing clouds of dust an old Continental Trailway bus veered off of the road and came to an abrupt stop directly in front of us. The door opened with an unpleasant groan.
The young man stood and picked up the guitar case in his left hand. “Well, I’ve got to go. It sure has been nice talkin’ with you.”
“It’s been nice talking to you too.” I said. I stood and put out my hand. “Sorry, I should have introduced myself. My name is Shane.”
His rough hand grasped mine with a firm grip. “Riley. Nice to make your acquaintance.”
He gave a broad smile, nodded once, and then made his way up the steep steps into the waiting bus.
I closed my eyes as the bus engine revved and it accelerated away, kicking up another massive dust cloud. When I opened them, the sun was fighting to make its way through mottled grey cloud cover. Outside my bedroom window rain was falling in a slow drizzle. A lone Robin sang in the distance. As I sat up in bed I knew something was different, that something important had been lost forever.