I have an internet friend whom I’ve know for about five years now. We have written e-mails, exchanged photos and cried on one another’s shoulders when we needed someone to vent to. She was going to be passing through town on a bus trip (she is deathly afraid to fly), and would have a layover in Kansas City, about 25 miles from me. She hoped I would be able to come down and keep her company. I was thrilled at the prospect of finally meeting her in person!  Middle Son and I drove down to the scary part of town and met her. A few weeks ago, (as if my life didn’t have quite ENOUGH grief in it) he decided to “go goth” (Anyone seeing the influence of an eyebrow-pierced young woman here?) He went shopping and bought several black t-shirts adorned with graphics of skulls, these black pants covered with silver studs zippers and chains and a huge black trench coat a la Matrix. Then he dyed his hair blue/black. His complexion is so fair he looks like a vampire.

Naturally he chose to wear it all to the bus station. I figured WTF; he’ll frighten the hobos. We left here about  and he BEGGED to stop at his McDonald’s on the way to prance ~snort.Following the catwalk (”I’m too gothy for my shirt, too gothy for my shirt, so gothy it hurts”) we foraged on, navigating the maze of orange barrels and flashing detour signs while sharing the road with methamphetamined truckers, who were startled by the bright flashing lights on one side and the spectre of doom on the other. Exiting the freeway into downtown, I was astounded to learn that the bus station is no longer at the bus station. Since I was a little girl there has been a large building just across from the Federal Building, which housed the bus terminal. I thought it was our destination. It was dark. We drove slowly past it, staring at the giant “For Lease” sign plastered to its hulking, vacant side. I told Middle Son to pull the folded paper from my purse as I had (thank gawd) printed out all of the information regarding friend’s stop, and copied and pasted (but not read) the address and phone number of the bus station.

He did not immediately respond, as he was in the throes of fascination and fear, staring out the window at the prostitutes and homeless people. The lad has never been downtown near midnight. We checked the address and the station is now housed in a much smaller building, just down from City Union Mission, about three blocks from where we were. It has a very small parking lot, and parking on the street seemed less than wise, so we circled the block (actually several blocks due to one-way streets) a couple of times. Finally, someone pulled out and we took their spot. I told Middle Son to lock the door. We were still about twenty minutes ahead of the scheduled arrival time, so we took a seat on the wire mesh settee (shades of the diarrhea flat tire at Walmart).There were three other Caucasians in the building, which was pretty crowded, and filled with colorful languages in many tongues. Middle Son entertained himself reading one of the paperbacks I brought for my friend, and I wish I’d gotten a picture of Vampire Boy in his Matrix trench coat, surrounded by darker skinned folks as he read a Harlequin.

I peered out the glass as each new bus arrived, then surveyed the departing passengers. Pretty soon, there she was, also scanning the crowd. We spotted one another and she pointed at me. I shook my head “yes” and she approached, and said, “That blonde ponytail! I knew that had to be you!” We hugged and gabbed for about half an hour. She is very soft-spoken in person, and I had a hard time hearing her over the babble. I introduced her to Middle Son, and attempted to explain his outfit. She pshawed me, gave him a big hug, and said, “You’ve been to Hot Topic haven’t you?” Middle Son’s jaw dropped that this charming lady from Vermont was aware of the retailer from whom he had purchased his get-up. She smiled and said that her daughter likes to shop there. She said her trip hadn’t been too bad thus far. Said she was kind of tired and to make excuses for her hair when we took pictures. Before we knew it, the announcer was calling out her departure. We hugged one last time and she re-boarded. Middle Son and I drove back home, as he dozed lightly. I smiled to myself, pleased to have met my long-time cyber-friend, and looking at the boy/man who will always be my baby.