Miriam hurried along the narrow sidewalk, struggling to keep her umbrella aloft and her grocery bags secure. Her aging moccasins were getting soaked and she still had a good block to go before the bus stop came into view. She stopped to straighten up her many layers and pushed forward, through the rain. The algid winds blew right through her and threatened to topple her over – either by upsetting the umbrella or offsetting her grocery bags. She sighed and stared into the street. The rain waters were rushing down the gutters, making all kinds of bubbling sounds. It could only be heard whenever there was an unlikely break in the traffic. The cars didn’t seem to notice the malevolent weather and continued hustling occupants from this end of the street to the other. Miriam would steal glances at the cars every now and again. The faces either seemed bleak about the prospects of their destination or contorted in anger or frustration at the passenger or other drivers. There weren’t any happy drivers anymore.
Miriam was getting closer to the bus stop. She stopped again to set all her layers aright. She didn’t own a proper winter coat. Rather, she would put on her circulation socks, polyester pants, thermal top, sweater, etc. She giggled at the thought of flopping in the wet street due to a heart attack. The poor paramedics would need gardening sheers to cut through all her layers. It was alright to giggle at such things at Miriam’s age – it was considered having a good outlook on the inevitable.
Finally, she reached the bus stop. It was a proper bus stop, with a bench that was surrounded by plexiglass, framed in rusting metal bars. She sat on the cold, metal bench and sighed relief. Miriam used to own a car. Hell, she used to own a winter coat and a decent pair of shoes. It is difficult, these days, with her husband and children gone. There isn’t as much to go around and it’s getting harder and harder to stretch what little there is. But Miriam never liked to dwell on such things. She found that whenever she got to thinking about the past, about the memories, she became happy and then deeply sad. Her heart was a lagan, a reminder of the past emotions that were vast and deep, lying beneath the surface. Whenever Miriam tugged at it through her memories, it dredged everything up from the deep sea, from the past. Miriam sighed and patted her bags of groceries that were next to her on the cold bench. She looked over them briefly. Potatoes and raw vegetables for vegetable stock and other soups. Some powdered milk and canned meats. Miriam had splurged and bought some baking chocolate. She had just enough sugar and flour at home to make some brownies. The thought tickled her tongue and she giggled again. It had been quite some time since she had anything so extravagant.
There they were again, the mental and emotional memories trying to break through. The reminder that things were not always this difficult. She used to get chocolates all the time from her husband, before he died. Afterwards, her children would buy them for her on special occasions. It seemed like everything slowly began to trickle away after.. They were relentless this rainy day, the memories. Thunder struck and Miriam jumped. She looked around at the metal posts of the bus stop and prayed the bus showed up a little early today. She knew it wouldn’t, though. Albert the bus driver was always lackadaisical about his work. He took his sweet old time, as if everyone else was on his personal time zone. Miriam became frustrated and began rummaging through her bag. She found her yarn and needles and nestled as comfortably into the bench as she could. Maybe some knitting would take her mind off things. She ran her fingers down the rough yarn, trying to get the right tension to begin. She began to click-clack her needles and slowly, a scarf began to emerge. It never took her long to finish a knitting project, she’d been knitting for years.
Her mind wandered back to when the kids were little and she used to knit them socks for Christmas as a special present. When her husband passed, she knitted the socks out of necessity and with a much cheaper yarn. The children didn’t seem to look forward to wearing those socks as much as the others. She let her mind wander back to all the things she had knitted for her children in the past: scarfs, mittens, caps.. blankets, wash cloths.. Eventually, it seemed like everything in the house was home made. Miriam never minded this, but her children often complained about how they didn’t have some new-fangled thing like the neighbors or other school children did. Miriam sighed and put the yarn away. Apparently, it wasn’t working too well. Nothing seemed to be taking her mind off the past, today.
She looked about the street through the old, warped, and fogged up plexiglass. It all seemed blurry with the rain alone, or the plexiglass alone, but both together.. She could barely make out much of anything. It’s a good thing the city hardly replaced the brakes on the buses, their squealing could be heard blocks away. It was often how Miriam knew she had missed a bus, by the sound of it’s brakes protesting to come to a stop. She stopped to listen for several minutes, but could not hear the squeaking brakes. Another sigh escaped her and she closed her eyes. Thoughts of all the rough times she went through, especially recently, began to take hold and Miriam was overcome with great sadness. A rolling thunder could be heard in the distance, growing closer.
She opened her tear filled eyes and stammered out a firm, “NO. No I will not be like one of those old fools who sits around and mumbles to themselves. They’re always complaining about how hard life is and never see the good in anything.” She wiped her tears off and began a determined mind exercise to think of the good things in her life. She closed her eyes again and thought of the happy times her husband and she had spent. The vacation to Florida, the weekly “date nights”, the time spent alone talking and laughing in the kitchen after the children had gone to bed. A smile overcame Miriam and she opened her eyes again. The rain seemed to have stopped and she wondered how long she had her eyes closed. Had she fallen asleep? She wiggled her toes in her moccasins.. No wait, she was wearing nice leather shoes. That was odd. She was sure she didn’t have any shoes like that. Her feet fell warm and when she stood up, everything seemed to melt away. She didn’t feel the age-old pains that she had grown accustomed to. She felt.. alive. She looked around at everything. It all looked brand new again.
Miriam jumped as the bus pulled up and stopped. It’s brakes hadn’t squeaked and it caught her off guard. Maybe the city finally fixed them, Miriam thought to herself. She went to grab her bags to get on the bus and found none. That was odd, she was certain she had just come from the store. An older man with white hair poking out from under his hat and a long, white beard smiled at her and said, “Coming, Ma’am?” He wasn’t Albert. Maybe Albert had gotten a new route. Miriam shrugged and went up the bus stairs, finding that she did not have to struggle with them as she normally did.
She looked up at the driver as she felt in her pockets for her boarding pass. She didn’t seem to have anything on her at all. The bus driver laughed and said, “It’s free of charge today, Miriam.” She was startled that the bus driver knew her name but she smiled just the same and thanked him. She looked about the bus. There were a few others on there as well, they all seemed to be as perplexed as Miriam was. She walked back to a seat in the middle of the bus and overheard an older man saying, “I don’t remember seeing this street before. I wonder if he’s taking the wrong route?” Miriam sat down and looked out the window as the bus hissed and the door swung shut. It started forward and the outside seemed to just blur together.. just like looking through the plexiglass bus stop at the rainy day. Only, this blur was full of color. There were green streaks and purple and yellow blobs every now and again. Before Miriam knew it, they had come to a stop.
“This is your stop, Mr.Jameson.” The bus driver was smiling at the man Miriam had passed earlier. The man stood up and started walking towards the front of the bus. “I don’t think this is the right pla..,” he began. He stopped mid sentence as he reached the door of the bus and just stood there, staring. Miriam looked out the window. It looked like a lovely yellow house with a white picket fence and well tended rose bushes. A woman in an old-fashioned dress was standing by the gate, waving to the man. Miriam watched the man get off the bus. The old man with the cane on his arm slowly descended down the bus stairs, where the bus seats obstructed Miriam’s view of him. When he came out the bus and back into her view through the window, however, he looked 40 years younger! Miriam blinked and looked back at the front of the bus. The bus driver was shutting the door. The bus hissed and started up again. Miriam swung her head back around to look at the window, inaudible sounds escaping her lips, and she caught a glimpse of the young man with a cane in his arms hugging the pretty lady in the old-fashioned dress. She gasped and the streaks and blobs of colors came back into view.
She started and quickly looked around at the other passengers. There was an older lady with her eyes closed, humming to herself in a deep, throaty way. She had her arms crossed and a smile on her face. Behind Miriam, another older man sat cleaning his spectacles. By the looks of things, Miriam guessed he was as puzzled by the things he was seeing as well. She thought about asking the bus driver what was going on but when she looked up at him, she saw him looking back at her in the mirror above his head. He winked and said, “Don’t worry today, folks. You’ll all reach your destinations.”
The bus stopped again and the bus driver turned and looked at Miriam. She knew he said something, but she didn’t remember hearing it. She looked around and slowly got up. She shuffled to the front of the bus out of fear and wonderment. She went to go down the stairs and the driver opened the door. Miriam gasped and started to cry. There, right before her, was her husband.. her old house.. They were there. She looked back at the driver and he smiled and winked at her again. “Your stop, Ma’am,” he said. She took a step off the bus and her husband darted towards her and whisked her into the air. She couldn’t believe it, she had to be dreaming. She was back in their old home and she was young again. He was young again!
She looked back to the bus and it was gone. Her husband took her hand and stroked her hair. “You look beautiful as ever, Miriam,” he said before gently kissing her cheek. She looked down and was in her favorite dress and her skin.. it was glowing. She hugged her husband and he took her hand as he turned to go inside. Inside.. she slowly stepped into the house. It was their home. It wasn’t just some replica. It was the real thing. Everything was where it should be..
“The kids..,” Miriam trailed off as she slowly walked around. “They’re with their own families, now,” her husband said. “I’ve been waiting her for you for a long time, Miriam. Now we can finally enjoy some time together. No more long business trips, no more late night meetings.. just you, me, and eternity.” He smiled, held her in his arms and began dancing her around. Tears flowed down her cheek and she began to laugh. She couldn’t remember the last time she felt this wonderful. Slowly, Miriam stopped dancing and looked back at her husband. “It’s.. a dream..,” she said as she stepped away from him, looking perplexed again.
“No, my dearest,” he said, “this is Heaven.”
This story is © Chelsea Roush