On Fridays, the only day she left the house, Sweetie rode the city buses. There was only one whose route came close to her – the 14 – but that dropped her off downtown and from there she could go nearly anywhere. Once downtown, she waited at the stop in front of Macy's for the next bus. Sweetie didn't even bother looking at the route number. She just got on, waved her paper transfer at the driver, and found a seat.
Before – when she had still been able to drive – she had always hated the buses. You couldn't see around them, and they went so slowly, and always made more stops than seemed necessary. But now she didn't really care at all. She didn't have anywhere to be. This was simply her brief getaway for the week, and all she was really looking for was a feeling of having traveled, even if it wasn't so far away from home.
Sometimes another person sat next to her. When the bus became crowded enough it was unavoidable; other times it just happened anyway. Once, the woman sitting beside Sweetie asked where she had purchased her watch. This took her by surprise, and she said, "It was an heirloom," despite that not being true at all. But that was always what happened when strangers talked to her. It made her anxious, and she would inexplicably say things that weren't true.
And then there was Jonathan. He was young, maybe seventeen at most. She didn't know why he had bothered talking to someone like her, but he had, and then somehow it happened again the following week. He reminded her of her brother, when they were around that age. Maybe it was the smile – she wasn't sure. But he didn't bring out the nervousness in her, and that was enough to make her enjoy the company.
Sweetie was finding, to her surprise, that she needed less sleep the older she got. Or, rather, she couldn't sleep longer than five or six hours at a time. So in the pre-dawn hours of those days, she sat at the small kitchen table watching the steam rise from a dark mug of tea. She spent those hours thinking about the bus rides. With her mind very still, she could recall exactly how the feel of the cracked seats felt against her skin. It was not hard for her to recall the electronic bell that rang when a passenger pulled the cord for the next stop, or the sound of coins spilling into the farebox. The crescendo of the engine, the water spots on the windows: it had all been stored, two hours at a time. She had soaked in every speck of it, and now it was hers, inside her, available any time she liked.