Kitty Leaves Home.
Early one bright October morning, Kitty Walker stood outside the front door of her house for the last time.
In one hand she held a purse and two sets of keys: house keys chained to a small, white whistle she had found outside the grocery store where she always shopped, and the keys to her gray Honda, which was parked in the driveway. The last time she had pulled in, its left tires had overshot the gravel, crushing the edge of the grass.
Before sliding the front door key into the deadbolt lock, Kitty looked down the street that had been her world for nearly 17 years, past handsome oaks and neat yards, toward the intersection beyond. Hers was a split-level brick, ordinary in every way.
The familiar clunk of bolt against wood reminded her of all the trips in and out this door, the grocery bags filled with food and laundry detergent, the dry cleaning hung on wire hangers draped in wispy plastic, the neatly ironed men’s shirts boxed by the Korean woman who always asked, “stahchee on shihhrt?” Her daily habits had formed like furrows in a field yet no seeds had been planted and the field was barren.
When she first arrived at this house, Kitty’s red hair had been pulled up in a ponytail and she was wearing a cotton skirt and blouse, her one nice outfit. She had carried the rest of her personal items in two brown grocery bags stamped with the Safeway logo. In the intervening years, her red hair had turned to auburn but she was still wispy and fragile looking with bone white skin and a wary, cautious expression as if, at any time, she was expecting a ghost to appear.
She pulled out the key and wrapped her fingers around the handle of a small suitcase containing personal items — a change of clothes, tooth brush and paste, small plastic bottle of shampoo — and a softcover book of poetry by Lucille Clifton. She walked over to the Honda, which was registered in her husband’s name, opened the passenger door and tossed both sets of keys onto the floor mat. She shut the door, leaving the car unlocked. In this small act, between the house and the car, she had made the shift in her life. Now there was nothing to protect, nothing she owned, nothing that held her here.
She walked downhill to the end of the block, wheeling the suitcase behind her on the asphalt — there were no sidewalks in her subdivision — and turned left. From there she headed toward the main road and a bus stop. Local bus service was new and she was taking advantage of it for the first time. The small bus, only slightly larger than a commuter van, pulled up. She climbed aboard. As far as anyone in the neighborhood knew, she simply evaporated. Like steam.