Em’s entire body is made of light sometimes. It’s this enormous, blinding light that hypnotizes you into doing strange and dangerous things that most people would frown upon, or at least that’s the excuse I’m going with. I’m not too sure how else I can explain why a year ago I decided to go splits with her on the cost of a short school bus that we were going to turn into a tiny home.
While I’ve made my fair share of unusual lifestyle choices, I think I always thought that at one point I’d start doing the normal things that normal people did. I thought that one day, I’d get a regular job and move into a nice little house with a backyard and two average-looking children with ambiguously-gendered names like Jewel and Francis.
And then I met Em. Em wanted the things I wanted, but first she wanted to live in a bus and drive around North America.
I make no exaggeration when I tell you that Em is Dazzling, yes, capital D Dazzling. We fight sometimes, but for the most part, I’ll go along with just about anything she does or says because when you’re around her, she makes you want to say yes, yes, yes!
And so I found myself in April 2018, driving to a town outside of Niagara Falls, Ontario, to look at a short school bus that Em had found for sale on Kijiji.
While I whole-heartedly agreed to go look at the bus, Em’s love for the world around her and her enthusiasm for almost every facet of human existence is such that she has more plans and more wild ideas that anyone I’ve ever known. With this in mind, I was excited to go on this adventure with her, but I was aware that there was a good chance the day trip would be nothing more. A few years later, we’d tell our genderless children how we drove for almost two hours to look at a rusty old school bus being sold for $5,000.
Of course, I was wrong.
The school bus was at a farm outside of a small town I’d never heard of before, and as Em and I got ready, we were pretty aware of the fact that as two small women in our 20’s, it would be pretty easy to kidnap, rape, and kill us. With this in mid, we tried to butch up outfits up a bit, but not so much that we looked obviously gay and could then be the target of small-town homo haters. How much can you say in one T-shirt and one pair of pants, though, and how nice would it be not to have to think about all this shit every time you leave your house?
We pulled up at the farm, and the bus was parked right out front. It was the bus, a woman with a cast on her foot, two capital M country Men, and a dog who was barking like crazy.
“You must be the two from Kijiji,” the woman said, limping over to us. She was in her 40’s and looked like the kind of woman who’d spend three hours in a McDonald’s, playing Candy Crush on her phone and telling anyone who sat beside her what level she was on.
The woman led us to the bus where the two Men were looking at the engine.
“This is one of the best engines out there,” the one guy said.
“And it runs beautifully,” said the other.
Em and I stood beside the two guys and looked into the engine, too. On the way over, I’d read the Wiki-How article on how to buy a used vehicle, but aside from a quick Google image search, I’d never even seen under the hood of a car.
Em looked at the gravel under the engine and then back under the hood.
“She leaks, though,” she said, and the two Men nodded, because I guess the easiest way to sound like you have any authority when talking about a vehicle is to refer to it as a woman.
Em continued staring at the engine like she knew what the hell she was looking for while I walked once around the bus.
I tried to walk with a confident swagger like how cowboys do on TV, but I’m pretty sure I mostly just looked like I had some sort of raging vaginal disease that was making it hard to walk.
“The leaf springs are rusted,” I said, coming back to the front. I wasn’t sure I had the term right, or if I was talking about the right thing, but there was a lot of rust on everything, and everyone there nodded, which made me feel like pretty hot shit in front of those real-life country Men and the woman with the cast.
“I was going to live in here,” the woman said after we’d checked out the outside of the bus. “But I broke my foot just after I got it, and I don’t think I’ll be able to do it anymore.”
She led me and Em and the yelping dog inside the bus while the Men stayed outside. Apparently, the Men were from up the road, and didn’t actually want to buy the bus. They were just curious and thought they’d stop by and intimidate the shit out of us.
There was more space inside the bus than I thought there’d be, and while the work the woman had done to make the bus look homey was super shoddy, you could get an idea of what it would actually be like to live inside. You could put a bed in the back, a little kitchen on one side, and a couch on the other.
On the one hand, it seemed completely nuts that someone would willingly live in a school bus instead of a house or an apartment. On the other, I figured it could actually be pretty cozy.
Standing there with that lady’s dog humping my calf and those two country Men staring in at us, I could actually picture what it would be like to live in a little house inside a school bus and drive around North America with Em. We’d look at monuments and go on hikes and come home to a beautiful little life, so small it could fit into the back of a short school bus.