My Mobile Home by Maggie Butler
 The tour bus was always a place, a home, that I could seek comfort in. It was not the type of place I could run away to when I was upset, or the type of place I could bring my friends to, but it was the inconsistency in its availability that made it so special. At age four I began touring with my father, the singer in a British punk band. For many, sharing what was approximately 400 square feet with ten other individuals was undesirable, claustrophobic, and inconvenient. For me, riding around the world with these people was exciting. Inevitably there were some difficulties that arose from housing eleven individuals in a moving vehicle. Eight of those eleven were middle-aged men. Two of those eight men stood at under 5 foot 5. That left three. Two middle- aged females who stood at over 5 foot 5, and me. Ideally, I suppose, a tour bus does not include a young girl, so it was my mission to accommodate those who did want me there and those who did not want me there. My dad was the only member of the band who had a child. Many of them had wanted children at one point, and many of them had dreaded the thought. Either way, at some point along the road, each of them assumed different responsibilities as a parent figure, perhaps because they delighted in the opportunity to influence such an impressionable, young human being, or perhaps because they felt they needed to inflict their authority on someone who could take it, or who had to take it. My spot on the bus was never guaranteed. If someone thought I was rude, messy, loud or invasive, I would be sent home, so I gave my best shot at being tolerable. In my elementary years on the tour bus, I typically rolled out of my bunk at 6 AM and crept into the front lounge where I would sit in solitude for the next few hours. “Roll” was not an exaggeration of the motion it took to get out of my bunk as I was relegated to the bottom bunk. The lowest bunk was probably the worst though it always seemed the most appealing. It was level with the feet that shuffled by in the early mornings and late nights and required a full somersault to get in and out. Each bunk’s positioning had pros and cons. The top bunk was the quietest but was also the most dangerous in the event of a crash. We were not harnessed into our bunks but rather shielded by a thick, accordion-style curtain. The middle bunk was the easiest to climb in and out of but moved from the knocking of knees against the ceiling in the bunk and echoed the creaking and shifting of the bunk above. Getting hungry in the mornings as an adolescent presented a challenge as it meant I would have to make the skillful jump to the kitchen counter, unlock the cabinet and retrieve a Solo Cup and a box of whatever cereal the venue had given us the night before. During all of this, I had to remain balanced and pray we would not go over any serious bumps or come to any abrupt stops, both of which would inevitably send me flying across the front lounge. Some mornings I would tug at the curtain separating the front lounge from the driver’s pit. It was those mornings that I would claim the oversized pleather seat beside the driver and begin questioning the route. When I felt I had waited long enough, or alternatively, had heard enough about the house in Nebraska or the teenage wife, I would throw open the door to the bunks and make my way to the highest point on the bus, the top bunk. It was here that I could anticipate the groans of my Uncle Tim. Some of the irony in my experience on the bus lay in the fact that I was most detached from my own relative. In a way, we were all distant from Tim. To me, family was an arbitrary term on the bus that could not necessarily characterize your connection with another person. While Tim was technically my kin, I felt closer to the ten other members. First, there was Amanda, our keyboard player who had the same straight bangs dividing her face for as long as I had known her. Sometimes conversations with Amanda were strained because she wedged neon orange earplugs in either ear “to block out the noise of traffic,” she said. Then, there was Mars, the master of the Devil’s Whistle, what we liked to call the saxophone. If Mars wasn’t playing the Devil’s Whistle, he was talking about it. Rich was by far the youngest member in the band. It was on days off that Mars, Rich and I went off to do the sightseeing, zip lining, or bike-riding that my dad didn’t care to do. Trish, our monitor technician, introduced us all to her boyfriend Dennis, who became the side-stage technician and secretly was a ranked poker player. Paul, the drummer, was by far my closest ally on the bus and had the driest sense of humor. We joked about where three pounds of “band coffee” had suddenly disappeared to and the antics of our tour manager, Tom. Tom tended to all business, making sure we got into our hotel rooms, making sure we had an ample selection of restaurants to order from for dinner and making sure we got our “per-diem,” our daily “allowance” that was budgeted in for extra food and activities. Tom resembled a modern Ben Franklin and had long, thin, curly, crunchy gray hair and circular glasses. Once, in an effort to be “funny,” something Tom had really only ever heard about, he printed fake hundred-dollar bills with his face in place of Benjamin Franklin’s. We worried that he would be arrested for his “joke,” or that we might accidentally use these hundreds because they were so believable. Almost annually, Tom would grow out his hair until it extended past his shoulders and would then cut it really short. When I informed Paul that this was for Locks of Love, the organization that provides cancer patients with wigs, he responded, “What could possibly be worse? First, you find out you have cancer. Second, you’re provided with a wig and it’s made out of Tom’s hair?!” There was, of course, my father aboard the bus as well. Having my dad on the bus brought me back to reality, telling me to call my mom back, order enough food for the twenty- hour drive the next day, or “stay backstage tonight.” There were times on tour when my dad was a dad, and times when he was less of a dad. As I grew older I got my own hotel room, so the time we usually spent together in the rooms decreased. On the bus I liked to hang out in the front lounge with Mars, Paul, Rich and Amanda. My dad liked to hang out in the back lounge, which, without his explicitly stating it, was his. I thought of it as his walk-in closet; Paul called it the “pantry” because it was generally where we found the missing hot sauce. The tour bus offered all necessary material components, but it was less about the glamor of the tour bus and more about the community it fostered. To someone who had never been on a tour bus, ascending the first four steps to the driver’s lush cove, surrounded by bottles of Five Hour Energy and empty McDonald’s bags, and pulling back the curtain to the front lounge was somewhat incredible. The front lounge (though the bus we got often changed) typically had black leather couches on either side of the walkway, a small dining area, a kitchen with a fridge, a sink and a microwave. There was always a small bathroom on the passenger side of the bus with a specific list of rules. Everyone on the bus knew these unspoken rules, but to outsiders, they were shocking. We could not use toilet paper, and if we did, it must be thrown in the garbage. One could only pee, and must request a truck stop if more serious measures had to be taken. Our water was filled at the truck stops and was purely for the purpose of washing hands or wiping counters. Water at truck stops usually had a high level of sulfur, which made it unsafe for drinking, brushing teeth, or even washing dishes. Not to mention, the horrible smell that came with running the tap. So we had to use bottled water for everything. Our lifestyle aboard the bus should and probably does alarm environmentalists as we consume upwards of fifty bottles of water a day and ride in a vehicle that gets six miles to the gallon. Being on tour required that I be more receptive than usual. I didn’t like being told what to do or what not to do but when I was on tour it was different. I was the guinea pig kid – the tipping point in the question: Should I have a kid? Would I be a good dad? My uncle would tell me that my skirt was too short, while the keyboard player, the saxophone player and the drummer would tell me not to do drugs. No heroine, no crack, no cocaine, no marijuana. I listened, putting me in a better place than any D.A.R.E program could. Their warnings were met with a groan and an attempt at convincing them that I was not going to “try it out for myself,” and that I recognized that drugs were “engineered for popularity and addiction.” I am quite certain that I turned people away from procreation on the bus, but I’m also quite certain that I made a few people regret never having kids. These were the ones that sent me birthday gifts and Christmas cards. The ones that texted me to make sure I was alive, the ones that jokingly signed things, “Your second dad,” or reminded my “first” Dad to call me on the road. Our drummer, Paul, represented this solicitude the most. He told me things he hadn’t told anyone else on the bus, his regrets, his failures, his misfortunes but most importantly his successes. Paul embodied the quintessential tour bus hoarder. He declared a whole shelf in the small fridge his own and stocked it with organic vanilla yogurt, soymilk, fresh strawberries and mint chocolate cookies. He shared his groceries with me when no one was looking and would merely shake his head, wag his finger, and laugh when I took the last cup of coffee, an offense that typically warranted a telling off from Paul. It was these seemingly mundane things that kept me going on tour. The band members and managers told me that he was on his best behavior when I was on tour, so naturally the stories of his tantrums and threats didn’t add up. I could hear arguments from the bunk area between Paul and Mars but once I opened the door to the front lounge the disagreeing halted, with Mars exhaling, “Oh thank god you’re here, Maggie.”