Lyle – Dallas, Texas – November 2, 1963
The ten wheels of the greyhound grinded to a halt and sidled next to the yellow painted curb in front of the bus station. One by one passengers grabbed their belongings and followed the white lines down the center aisle of the bus. Lyle had been closer to the rear, he dawdled with his duffle, procrastinating. He picked up his duffle bag walking down the aisle feelings of apprehension and expectation flooded over his body, confusing him more than he wanted to be. Cautiously he stepped down the steps of the bus, disembarking into the unknown. He scanned widely over the side walk and building looking for some type of sign that someone was expecting him, wanted him. Standing on the concrete sidewalk, dropping his bag and coat, he lifted his face toward the sun. It was a little after eleven and the warmth of the morning sun comforted him. He had removed his winter jacket and flannel shirt in stages between Ohio and Arkansas, now down to a t-shirt, as if in summer again. Lyle twisted side to side from the hips up trying to relieve the stress on his back. As he picked up his gear, he saw a woman, as tall as she was wide standing with an inconspicuously plain stalwart young man at her side at the front window holding a sign “LYLE”. He walked through the doors and approached the women.
“Hi Lyle, I’m Barb, your mother,” The women stepped into him and gave him a loose hug.
“This is your brother Calvin.” Lyle reached out to shake his hand, but Calvin did not return in kind, Lyle lowered his hand awkwardly.
Calvin kept his hands in his pants pockets, in a simple raise of his eyebrows he spoke in a deep stern voice.
“It’s nice to meet you both.” Lyle said insincerely, Calvin left him feeling uneasy and intimidated.
“I would like to hear all about your life, let’s go back to our house and catch up.”
“We better hurry then, the bus back to the house picks up in five minutes,” Calvin explained.
Lyle grabbed his gear and followed behind the two strangers. The warmth of this beautiful November day couldn’t buster his feelings of regret for being an impatient bullheaded child. The streets were busy with people and business. Some people were walking fast and others sitting against buildings as if with no care of their surroundings. As an observer of the city he noticed that he was the only one in a short sleeve shirt and not donning an outer jacket. Now realizing that even his mother wore a long wool coat and his brother a long sleeve jacket.
Three blocks later they came to a stop in front of a bench near a sign that read #15. Barbara and Calvin sat on the bench, hands still in pockets.
“Are you cold?” “It has to be near 55 degrees”.
“Yeah that is cold to us, we are used to 70’s and 80’s”
“That explains the hustle and bustle as well as everyone in long sleeves”.
“This is nothing, wait until we get downtown”.
The city bus weaved in and out of stops through the busy streets of Dallas. Lyle sat silently observing the people of Dallas and the city itself. The banners above businesses and streets depicting President Kennedy’s leadership and loyalty to Americans. The John Birch Society naming Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower as part of the communist party. There were protesters walking back and forth chanting, screaming out their disagreeing trepidations. He became uneasy listening to the venomous chatter of the other passengers. Lyle felt as if he were in another dimension, observing the interworking’s of just the city bus itself. He noticed the black patrons enter and exit in the rear of the bus. His discomfort increased when he offered his seat to an old black woman that he noticed standing behind him.
“Mam, here please sit.”
The old women just shook her head no and pointed to the sign above her head.
“COLORED ONLY” segregation enforced.
“I’m sorry,” lowered his head and retreated into his seat.
He had taken the last available seat designated for white passengers. As a native New Yorker this segregation policy was imprudent, superfluous and mostly a misguided prejudice by the older generations of the south. Separation of human beings left him perplexed, as if a white person would get black spots or cancer just by touching a seat a black person had sat in. He didn’t agree with it but followed the rules so not to cause trouble for himself. He was just a visitor in these strange unsettling volatile attitudes toward another human being.
He felt if everyone were angry and upset over political events that he did not understand. Fear was in the air. Fear of nuclear war, communist and of the Soviet Union. This atmosphere and attitude were not comprehensible, it was like night and day between Texas and New York. Lyle was fooled by his age, his own importance within his world and his small home town whom only spoke of admiration and respect for President Kennedy. Where there was wide range support for Kennedy’s mission plan to spark our lagging economy, lowering taxes, educational standards, equal pay for women, affordable housing and social security upgrades. In this he realized that the world was bigger than him and his minuet problems.
The bus pulled to the curb and stopped.
“This is our stop”
Lyle grabbed his bag again and followed down the steps and into the afternoon sun.
The bus drove away leaving in their wake a puff of black exhaust smoke.
“We are four blocks down and two across on Cranberry”
The landscape had changed. They were outside the city limits where the streets were lined with small white houses with small brown lawns. The neighborhood seemed to be a working lower class of blue-collar families. The area was solace, apart from a barking dog protecting his leashed perimeter. The only other person Lyle saw was a young man sitting on a bucket working on a car front passenger wheel. Lyle assumed brake work, he wanted to give the man a hand brakes could be a pain and he missed getting his hands dirty like he did at “Red’s”.
“Where is everyone? I would have thought more kids would be outside playing”.
“This is a good neighborhood, a little run down, but the kids will be out of school soon and you will hear the hootin’ and hollarin’ soon enough.”
Calvin was at least two houses ahead, walking at a much faster pace. Lyle lagged in conjoining step with Barbara, chatting casually about school, jobs and family.
“Were they good to you?”
“Mom and dad are great. What little I know of other parents, I was blessed.”
“You’ve had a good life then?”
“The best, I imagine, sure it would have been nice if my parents had been millionaires.”
“Yeah, money does the talking.”
“I would probably be a different man than I am now, no sense of responsibility, with little respect for the value of a dollar or keeping my word with a simple hand shake.”
“Those are important attributes. You’ll go a long way keeping them at your cuff.”
“Here we are.” Barbara walked the short cracked concrete pavement to the front enclosed porch.
Stepping inside behind Barbara, Lyle’s eyes started to water. A strong putrid ammonia infused with bleach instantly took over his sense of smell. Actually, he had no sense of sell left. The porch was small, half the width of the house and dark except one window next to the door. Cardboard boxes covered the floor and wall square footage. Black magic marker labeled the boxes with the contents, kitchen, bathroom, Cindy’s room, Patrick’s room. Two old metal kitchen chairs sat adjacent from one another each next to a door.
Barbara slipped off her loafers at the threshold before the main house door. Lyle wondered if they had just moved in as he followed suit with his sneakers leaving them to rest under the metal chair.
“Leave your pack here until we figure out sleeping arrangements.”
Lyle left his duffle bag and jacket on top of the same metal chair. Entering behind Barbara into the house apprehension and caution prickled at the base of his neck running the length of his spin.