Kitty buys a one-way ticket.
“One. For Albany, New York, please.” Kitty squinted a little in the dim light.
The shabby Greyhound station was little more than a pull up for buses between Richmond and Washington. Worn plastic seats were hinged together with rusty hardware. A few crumpled paper napkins lay in one corner. The dusty ticket window was embedded with grime at the corners. Decades of hands shoving money across the short counter had worn the original stone soft and dull.
Three black women sat inside the station waiting for the next bus. They were not doing anything in particular. Two cars with groups of people in them had pulled up next to where the bus would soon appear. It was impossible to tell who was going to board the bus and who was there to say goodbye. A small group of white teenagers, all boys, huddled together outside one of the filmy windows. They all wore headsets with wires hanging down. They were listening to a radio that one of them hugged to his chest like a pillow. One of them lip-synched a song.
“Round-trip?” the ticket man asked.
“No,” said Kitty. “One way only.”
“Eighty-five dollars, regular fare,” he drawled.
Kitty counted out the exact change in bills and placed them under the window. The ticket man reached forward and slid it the rest of the way. He counted it quickly, then pushed a ticket back through the narrow opening.
“Here you go, lady. Change buses in New York City.”
Kitty sat down on the end chair in a row of six. Before she could settle in, she heard the bus approaching. In a moment, it had pulled up under the loading canopy. A few people got off. She made her way out the door.
She took a seat near the front of the bus, placing as much distance between herself and the teens with the radio as possible. The bus was almost full. She’d forgotten about the long weekend. What was it? Columbus Day? She didn’t bother keeping track of most holidays. Christmas and Easter were still on her mind. She wondered what they would be like now. And New Years Day. That was when she had made her decision. It had snowed. Not too much. But enough so that everything looked soft and bright. She had taken it as a sign.
She moved to the window seat, keeping the book of poetry in her lap, stowing her bag under the seat in front of her.
One of the women from the station, heavyset and wearing a red jacket with a fake fur collar, boarded the bus. She moved up the aisle and settled herself beside Kitty. She placed her bag and coat in the overhead rack, but kept her large purse on her lap. She pulled out a small bag of corn chips and popped one after another into her mouth, crunching furiously. The driver shut the door. The bus roared away from the station leaving behind a small cloud of sooty smoke.
Kitty watched as familiar shopping centers drifted by. Soon the Interstate signs appeared and in a few moments the bus was rounding the entrance ramp, climbing the curve and merging with trucks and cars heading north. The woman beside her began humming a tune that was vaguely familiar to Kitty from a time long ago.