The next bus to Santa Fe, New Mexico, departed only at 5:45PM, meaning I needed to wait around six hours. I purchased a ticket and, fifty dollars poorer, finally turned my attention to the USA. The terminal building was comfortable for a short break; it had a sizeable snack bar, a big lobby with basic seats and lockers. The lockers cost one dollar per hour with a minimum of two hours’ use. I left my luggage in one of them and went to explore the town. El Paso has a small commercial center and picturesque dark green trams connect the different sectors. The Big Bun Hamburger, at Stanton corner of Franklin was a lovely place for a light meal; they offered mainly Mexican food. A dark green tram belonging to the end of the 19th century patiently travelled along the streets connecting the large blocks of this town. People didn’t seem to be working here; Spanish was the main language heard.
The bus to Santa Fe left with a delay of over a quarter of an hour. It was much older than the Mexican one; it had four little TV screens that didn’t work. Just before leaving, a woman boarded it and sold burritos. Shortly after, the bus was stopped. An American immigration officer checked the passengers’ documents. That was odd; I had been told no such checks were performed within the USA. "Welcome to the USA," the officer greeted me while handing me back my passport after having taken only a superficial look at it. To recover from the shock, we stopped shortly after the sunset for bad coffee at Alamo Gordo.
After 10PM, we made a short stop at San Antonio, a town that seemed void of people, for what the driver described as a smoking break. Then, he mercilessly attacked the road crossing the desert northwards. Thirty minutes before midnight, we were at cold Albuquerque. A tired food court was especially opened for us. Then, the bus was cleaned, and the driver was exchanged. After a long delay, we continued our way at 00:50AM. Two hours to the minute later, we reached Santa Fe’s Greyhound terminal. The building was closed, and there weren’t any taxis traveling along the wide avenue in front of it. I couldn’t bring myself to call Lewis at such an hour; I knew he had small children. I began walking in the most promising direction along Cerrillos Street, which later I learned was one of Santa Fe’s main venues. During the day, it allowed magnificent views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
I was searching for a room; but it seemed a lost cause. Well after 3AM, Ted Itagaki from the Lamplighter Inn of Santa Fe told me that he couldn’t let me check-in, because I arrived at the time he sets up the hotel’s computer for the new day. He wouldn’t write down the order and feed it later into the computer. However, he called the Best Western Hotel. After finding that they had available rooms, he took me there in his car. He made sure I’d get the room the next day and not only until eleven. This experience with Ted was my first substantial interaction with an American in America. I couldn’t decide if it had been positive or not. Why couldn’t he write down my name? And then, why did he bother to take me to the other hotel? I couldn’t solve that; I was too tired from the trip. Instead, I took a look around. The excellent room included an outstanding bathroom, free coffee in the room and the lobby, breakfast, cables TV, an indoor swimming pool and a comfortable bed to accommodate my, by now, bus-seat shaped body.
I left a message for Lewis, telling him to meet me the following day. Then, I went to sleep the only American Dream I would ever have.
(Excerpt from The Cross of Bethlehem II – Back in Bethlehem; the book reads independently of Part I, The Cross of Bethlehem - The Memoirs of a Refugee.)
The Cross of Bethlehem II – Back in Bethlehem is available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.