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  • I missed the bus again. Some days, I felt that my life was nothing but an endless slide of missed buses and long walks. When I realized I'd have to wait a half hour for the next, I started walking home with a litany in my head.

    "Liver," I thought. "Find the order. Get tested. Pick up doxy. Pack power strip."

    The list of things I needed to accomplish by Friday seemed to grow with each step and really, more than anything, I needed to be home. To have stayed home.

    I meant to volunteer. Or pack. Or run the errands I needed to run in preparation for leaving the country. Instead, I saw Shakespeare. I sat on the ground in my vintage dress and waited for tickets. I ate fruit and frozen yogurt for dinner, and I attended the Shakespeare Theatre Company's "Free for All" performance of Much Ado about Nothing.

    I'd actually seen the production two years earlier with the same set and same actors, and I'd paid for that. The free version featured a new director but not much else changed. A bit of a kerfuffle over the seats meant I didn't even sit with the friend who invited me, but it was worth it. I was among the first to pop up for the (well-deserved) standing ovation.

    The kerfuffle and heat, the stress of the day and a two-week spinal headache, conspired to send my heart racing. They turned my left foot into a claw and set my world spinning (or at least the theater). Things had barely righted themselves and an echo of pain reverberated in my instep. The last thing I wanted to do was walk home in the rain. (Did I mention the rain?)

    Drops on my eyeglasses refracted and blurred my vision as I gingerly stepped over puddles. Sound barely penetrated as I crossed against the light.

    "Don't fall," I thought. "Don't fall. Don't fall. Don't fall."

    The words were peppered with notes to self to avoid the white stripes – they were slippery. Outside my head, the noise grew to a grumble and then a shout.

    "You speak when spoken to!" a man screamed at me and I turned in the walk, circle skirt flaring.

    "I didn't hear you, honey," I called with no idea from whence the honey flowed. "I'm sorry. Have a good night!"

    "You don't know how much I needed that, sweetie," the man replied, the tension eased. "Thank you."

    "I hope you have a good one," I said, sincerely, before swirling back to worry about each step. "Don't fall. Dontfalldontfalldontfall."

    The next corner reminded me why I'd wanted the bus. Most of my friends wouldn't pass it in daylight and the sun had long since set. The corner hosted one of the largest (possibly the biggest) shelters in the country, but it still wasn't big enough. People loitered outside year round and on summer nights, their numbers grew.

    Dozens of homeless people smoked, drank, and called out to strangers from the sidewalk I walked. And I thought of the thousands of dollars worth of camera gear in the ragged backpack that smelled of watermelon. Camera gear, dirty containers from lunch, medical orders, electronics, cash, passport and phone. A sugar cookie with Shakespeare's image. Packing list. Life.

    Under the cardigan sticky with sweat, rain and the hot summer night, under the cardigan I buttoned prophylactically, the cleavage that stayed with a few fewer pounds poured from the dress with padding stemmed in stress. The cardigan could only hide so much.

    "Oh, whoa," called a man as I walked past. He was removing his shirt. "Where you going, baby?"

    "Home," I said with a smile.

    "Do you want me to walk you?"

    "No, thank you," I replied.

    He mumbled something at me that might have included returning the next night and I flashed a thumbs up without turning.

    "I've got to stop missing the bus," I thought.

    It would never happen.
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