It seems like every bus in Ecuador has a cracked windshield. Sometimes they are small — a little fissure in the corner, a pebble kicked up from the gravel road. Sometimes the cracks snake across the whole windshield, making spiderweb patterns, like the bus got caught in a landslide. You can worry about it, and I often do, but the buses are usually okay. They wobble and shake and sometimes get stuck in the mud, but you don't really have a choice. You have to use the buses in South America.
It's Friday, and Kim and I are heading to the coast. It's a 12-hour bus ride. Seven at night till seven in the morning. I have actually grown fond of taking buses through the Andes, but I don't like the idea of this nighttime drive. Lower visibility, more dangerous, and two hours in, my mind is doing a number on me — off on all sorts of crazy tangents. Kim is asleep beside me, and I look out the window, nothing but stars to stare at. My ass hurts. Good God, my ass hurts. I drift off around midnight, waking up every 15 minutes to shift uncomfortably in my seat.
At 4am, the window beside us shatters. The only thing I can figure is that we've been hit by a bomb — brown air is rushing into the bus and something like sharp pebbles pelt us in the face. The bus continues for a bit and stops.
In the aisle, people are standing up and checking everyone around them. No one is hurt, but everyone is shaken. When Kim stands, little squares of glass clatter to the floor. Glass is everywhere. In my lap, on my backpack, buried in my hair. Across the aisle, a man is spitting glass onto the floor. He fell asleep with his mouth open.
“Are you okay?” Kim asks. I nod. I just want to know what just happened, but everyone is speaking so quickly in Spanish, and I don't understand a word of it.
“I think she's in shock,” Kim tells the woman behind us, who starts brushing glass off my face and cleaning my forehead with a Kleenex. When she does this, I think that maybe I am in shock. Maybe the side of my face is all nasty and cut-up, covered in blood. But when she pulls the Kleenex away, there is only a small brown dot. Nothing at all.
We've been hit by a truck. It has blown out half the windows on our side of the bus, including the driver's. The driver walks around the bus, dazed, assessing the damages, a blood-soaked cloth held up to the side of his face. The truck is long gone. It never stopped. We wait for thirty minutes, maybe less, but the police never show. Eventually we just keep going. There's nothing else to do.
The woman behind me is worried about me. She keeps checking to see that I'm okay. I nod and smile. “I'm fine, I'm fine,” I tell her.
“What luck,” she says to Kim.
“Good luck,” Kim says to her. “We're all okay.”
The woman nods and begins to pray.