I arrived in Wichita only to wait in the scorching heat for the shuttle bus to my hotel.
I had about 15 minutes to ponder if the milder Seattle weather had weakened me to the heat and humidity of the Midwest. I was leaning toward yes, while wiping the sweat off of my forehead when the shuttle finally arrived.
The man driving told me all about how he spent seven years of his life working on a cruise ship as a masseuse and got to see the world because of it. I wondered if he could smell that I liked to travel, or if my sweatiness was freaking him out and he felt like he needed to keep talking in case he just picked up a drifter.
Then he told me I could do the same thing, it was easy. Plus they always need waitresses and dancers so he was sure I could find a job on one of the ships.
“A dancer?” I thought. I wasn’t sure if he meant stripper or flamenco or something else, but whatever sort of dancer it was, I was confident I wouldn’t qualify based on my horrific dancing ability.
I laughed to myself, as he started to turn a corner and I saw something move on his shoulder.
I gasped and watched in horror as a spider crawled across his back.
I can’t stand spiders. Like I absolutely hate them.
I wanted to be a decent human and let the guy know there was a spider crawling across his back. That seemed like the right thing to do. Because I certainly wasn’t reaching out to kill it myself.
But I also didn’t want him to freak out and then we both die in a fiery car crash in Wichita.
I didn’t see a good solution. So while he ran his mouth about his time working on ships, I did the non-decent human thing and kept my mouth shut, watching the spider slowly meander its way to his other shoulder before it was out of my sight.
It wasn’t huge, and I didn’t know of any poisonous spiders in Wichita.
But I felt shitty when I got out of the van and couldn’t make eye contact with him when I walked into the hotel. I was glad I made it alive though.
I wondered if this decision would bring me some kind of bad karma like finding a spider in my bed at night. Or getting bitten by some poisonous one and then having to have a toe or finger removed.
After training people for work the next day, I decided it was time to venture out and get a meal someplace decent.
I walked to a restaurant down streets that were completely abandoned to a place that was described as a small French café.
I was in downtown Wichita, dripping with sweat in 93 degree heat, and got completely turned around when half of the roads I needed to take were closed. Plus there was no one else outside. It was like a ghost town, and it was creeping me out.
After taking the long way to the restaurant, worrying that sweat was soaking through my dress, I finally arrived and walked inside, expecting some sort of small sandwich and coffee place where I could grab a bite in some air conditioning.
A man dressed very sharp in all black came to greet me at the door.
I looked around, as I was inside a relatively nice restaurant with no people around but the waiters. This was much nicer than I had anticipated.
I wiped the sweat from my top lip, and tried to compose myself when he asked me if I needed a table for one.
“Are you open?” I asked, looking at two full rooms that were completely empty.
“Of course,” he laughed, as he grabbed a menu in his dapper attire.
“Am I allowed in being this sweaty and looking this gross?” I asked earnestly. I didn’t want to be someplace where I felt I wasn’t welcome.
“We all started that way,” he said, and laughed, and told me my waiter would be over in a moment with some water so I could hydrate.
Brad, my 50-something waiter came over, dressed as nicely as the other man, but seemed very awkward and uncomfortable. Probably because I looked frightening, all slathered in sweat and red faced.
He asked the other man what the specials were before reciting them to me, and then turned around and walked into a chair when going to get my drink. This made him more endearing to me, and I felt more welcome in a weird way.
Though I do realize it is likely he took one look at my body breaking down from the heat or the smell of sweat drenching through my dress which caught him off guard causing him to run into the chair trying to get away as fast as he could.
I was the only one in the restaurant. I listened to “These Boots Are Made for Walking” in French wafting through the air while I sipped on a cocktail waiting for my classy meal to arrive.
Still no one else showed up.
Was I dead?
Did I die of heat stroke because it was so hot and now I was in some sort of Kansas purgatory where me and Brad are the only two who can see each other?
Was Brad the angel of death, dressed in all black?
I mean the drink was good and the place had a cool vibe, so if this was where I was going to spend eternity, it could be worse, I’d just have liked a little more people-watching.
I ate, I drank, I enjoyed a delicious meal with the entire restaurant to myself, and then decided to head back to the hotel, on a deserted street in heat nearing 100 degrees.
A crazy man was singing across the street from me and then crossed over to have a chat with me.
“Fuck,” I thought to myself, realizing he was the only form of life I’d seen since Brad.
“Don’t worry, miss, I’m not asking for any money. This is just what I do. I’m so happy I just sing. I’ve got a $500,000 house and two cars. I don’t need nothing from you at all.” he said, smiling and revealing bare gums with very few teeth.
“Good for you. You’re better off than me. Have a great evening.” I said, quickly trying to get out of the conversation when he took off singing in the other direction.
I was ready to get out of this ghost town. While I could deal with the purgatory of an empty French restaurant, I didn’t love the idea of dealing with drug addicts on the streets of Wichita alone.
The way I saw it, this ghost town vibe must have some sort of weird karmic punishment for letting that spider crawl all over that driver and keeping my mouth shut. I figured I had paid my dues, and was ready to get on the next flight back to civilization.