I always hated that poem. Most likely because I was born on Wednesday. I can remember so well when we read it in elementary school. I rushed home to find out what day I was born – Wednesday. Somehow I think I never shook that moment – it helped craft the life that followed. ‘Wednesday’s child is full of woe.’ Talk about your self-fulfilling prophecy.
Things hadn’t gone well for me from the beginning. I was the sickly child. I spent weeks in the hospital the summer everyone went to camp. While Sharon was learning to swim, I was learning to be afraid. While Sharon was making smores at the campfire, I was eating sickly green jello in a sickly green hospital gown. Every night I cried when Maria’s parents came to visit. Every morning I woke up hoping this would be the day someone would bring me flowers and balloons. I just imagined how it would feel to have the nurses come in and ‘shoo’ off all the visitors that packed the room.
The blessing of high school was even worse. I got hand-me down dresses – faded like Grandma’s wallpaper. I got hand-me down shoes that were already formed to fit Sharon’s feet. I also got all the wounding remarks about being a ‘Hand Me Down Rose’. I never knew what it meant; I just knew by the accompanying voice inflections it was not good. My hair was thin and stringy. Even when I washed it every day, it just looked horrible. My life, my grades and the promise of my future could all be described in the same way. Hopeless.
I finally graduated. Two years later than I should have, but I had my diploma and that was all I needed. Sharon left before she graduated. She was somewhere in New York I heard, but it didn’t matter because she was only a sister in name. Mom and Dad left me with Aunt Meredith the year Dad got offered the big job in Texas. I was just as glad they left, too. Little by little I was becoming independent even if by no work of my own. I knew Aunt M would not care when I told her I was leaving. She would not ask me all kinds of questions about where I was going and how I planned to make a living. I didn’t know and she didn’t care. I just knew I was leaving.
The first bus out of town was scheduled for 7:00 AM Saturday. Friday night, I packed what few clothes I had into Grandma’s old canvas bag and left Aunt M’s house at 5:00 AM. I had saved the obligatory money that Mom and Dad sent me for my birthday. It wasn’t much, but I knew it would get me out of this place and fed until I found a job. A job? Sigh. Dare I dream someone would look at me and offer me a job? Too much to think about right now….that would come later.
“One way ticket on the 7 o’clock bus please.”
“Where you headed, little lady?” I was startled by the kindly old voice. I had never known anyone to refer to me as a lady.
“Out. On the 7 o’clock bus.” I liked the kind face that looked back at me.
“Don’t you think you ought to have a plan about where you’re gonna lay your head tonight?” His eyebrows raised as he waited for my answer.
“I’ll lay it the same place I lay it every night. On a pillow.” I dug around in my purse not wanting to look in his eyes. “Ticket please.”
“Okay, one ticket to Paris. That’ll be $859.50.” He smiled. “Unless you’re not goin’ that far. Maybe just a ticket to Atlanta? That will only run you $32.”
I didn’t know if I should be angry or chuckle. I just handed him two twenty-dollar bills and asked for the ticket to Atlanta. Paris would have to wait.
I climbed aboard the bus. The smell of fuel assaulted me to the point of nausea. I headed toward the back of the bus when suddenly a leg covered with faded denim raised in front of me.
“I wouldn’t sit back there if I was you. That toilet will sure enuf stink long before this here bus rolls into Atlanta.”
I looked up to see the most amazing blue eyes I’d ever seen looking back at me. He was young. Maybe 16 or 17 at most. The old button up shirt struggled to cover his chest. When he smiled I felt my face flush and decided to be bold and take a step over his leg and just walk right to the back of the bus where I was intent on sitting.
About half an hour into the ride I felt myself drift off to sleep. In the background I could hear the faint strum of a guitar rise above the mix of traffic and air brakes. I did not open my eyes but I knew it had to be coming from him. The song matched his look – simple and reassuring. I felt all my sorrow fall away. I could not help but smile.
At last I was free. Who knew I would find Paris right here on a bus bound for Atlanta?