The bus was crowded but she managed to get a window seat. After stowing her cane in the overhead rack, she wrapped her lap blanket around her knees and put her drink in the holder. It had been years since she’d gone to Lincoln City and was looking forward to a day of gambling at Chinook Winds, then seeing a show. When her husband was alive, they regularly drove to different parts of Oregon to enjoy the magnificent scenery. Since his passing she spent most of her time with the quilting group at the retirement home she moved to after selling a home that became unmanageable alone. This excursion was a blessing because she could see how much the area had changed and people watch while she played the slot machines.
As the bus rolled through Portland, she was dismayed by all the campers sleeping in the cold but felt no pity for drug addicted vandals defacing buildings and spray painting walls and overpasses. It was a relief to get beyond the urban area and view open fields and stands of evergreens. As they entered the corridor and began to climb she recaptured the awe and wonder that used to fill her in bygone days. The rhythm of the bus tires and the sway as the big machine roared along was hypnotic and almost put her to sleep but she shook it off because this might be the last time she traveled.
After stepping down from the bus at the casino, she leaned on her cane for a moment and looked out to sea. The wind was chilly but the view of surging waves and seagulls hovering midflight reminded her of campfires on the beach and days filled with laughter and joy while searching for nature’s treasures. She still had a sand dollar that her husband found at Beverly Beach decades earlier. Thinking of those innocent times could make her cry so she hobbled into the clamor of the brightly lit casino to have fun instead.
The trip package included eating at the buffet, so after a few hours of winning and losing in fairly equal measures she asked for help going through the line and carrying her food to a table. A nice young man did so and found her a seat next to two men and a woman about her age who hadn’t been on the bus. As introductions were made she noted that one of the men bore a remarkable resemblance to her dearly departed. During the meal they exchanged frequent glances and she caught herself feeling bashful and awkward about the intensity of those moments. After a bit she quit looking and focused on her plate so her heart could still. As she stood and excused herself when finished eating the man asked if she would like to have a glass of wine in the ocean-view bar. She was ashamed of how readily she said yes but the prospect of spending time with a handsome stranger was tantalizing even if it were brief.
Sunset was stunning as cloudbanks became a kaleidoscope of color, shifting from hue to hue as darkness approached and they sipped their third glass of wine. She admonished herself for such indulgence and staying so long but their conversation was so delightful that she didn’t want it to stop. A few minutes after nightfall the tour director began gathering her charges and urging them to make their way to the auditorium for the show. Reluctantly, she complied, but was loath to break away from such a beautiful encounter.
The show was boring after such a grand day. The songs were unfamiliar and too modern for her tastes. Halfway through she hobbled out, hoping her new friend was still in the bar. He wasn’t and she was surprised at how bitterly defeated she felt at his absence. Had she fallen in love with a stranger over a glass of wine? The biggest disappoint of all came when she asked the bartender if they knew the man and if he was staying at the hotel. The bartender informed her that she’d sat drinking wine alone for hours while seemingly talking to herself. Thinking she was crazy, they’d left her alone while she chatted and smiled. Now she realized why the man seemed so familiar. She’d been wandering the corridors of memory like a lonely old fool.