Thursday, October 9, 2008

Dead And Traveling

Knowing no one else in the small community I was working in, I filled my evenings helping residents play bingo at the senior citizens home.

One of my favorite bingo partners was Elba. The north of ninety Elba was fascinated with my weekend bus ride to and from my hometown. She wanted to know everything - when the bus left, what the bus driver was like, who stopped off where. I spent hours with her every Monday recapping my trip from start to finish.

At the end of my Monday visits, she’d sigh and tell me how she always wanted to take a bus ride across the country. She would stay in the tiny little towns along the way, meeting the different people, eating the different food. It would be the grandest thing. “Once,” she slapped her wheelchair armrest, “I get out of here, I’ll go.”

She said that every time, sounding quite determined, but I knew it wouldn’t happen. Elba was very sick. She had some complicated illness I had never heard of. I was told she hadn’t long to live.

One Friday, the boss kept me later than usual and I barely made the bus. As I hustled to the back, I stopped suddenly in the aisle. There was a woman who looked so much like Elba, she could have been her twin. She was wearing an old fashioned coat. Her hair was perfectly curled in that prissy Bette Davis style, a tiny hat balanced on the top of her head. The light above her was on, making her skin glow.

A lady, arriving even later than I had, bumped into my back. “Excuse me.” When I didn’t respond fast enough, she pushed me with her carryon.

I ignored her, as a teenager I was very good at ignoring people, and glanced at Elba’s twin. Should I ask her? No. If she wasn’t related, I’d die of embarrassment. I’d simply ask Elba next week. It’d give us something more to talk about.

The bag dug into my spine. The lady behind me huffed impatiently. I moved back to a free seat. When I got off the bus, Elba’s twin was gone.

Monday, I walked into the senior citizens residence, eager to talk to Elba. I wandered to her room and peeked in. There was a new lady in Elba's bed. I double checked the door number. Yes, that was right but then why were all Elba's things gone?

“Where’s Elba?” I asked the nurse.

That was when I found out.

She had died.

On Friday.

Just in time to make the bus.

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Kimber Chin is a cynical businesswoman who shouldn't believe in ghosts or true love. Somehow, she ended up believing in both. For more stories, visit http://www.businessromance.com

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