Twice a month, my weekends began the same. Friday evening was hectic; I rushed back to the group home for a shower, a meeting with the counselor, and a ride to Greyhound. I had a small window of time, I got off work at 3 PM, and the early bus left at 5:15. You’re probably saying 2 hours and 15 minutes is, wow…lots of time. Not when you’re a teen who works 25-35 minutes away, a two-transfer required bus ride, and a 10-minute brisk walk to get to my front door. Of course, you must factor in Friday evening traffic in a college town. Each Friday after the marathon, I would thank God as I settled in a mid-bus outside seat for my good fortune.
One day, I purchased my ticket to turn around and see the bus backing up to leave. Running like O. J. through the terminal, I knocked on the side of the bus hard enough that the driver thought he had hit me, and he stopped and opened the door to exit the vehicle. I startled him and said thank you for waiting. He chuckled, smiled, and said, “I wondered if my weekends were mixed up. You almost missed us.”
Nothing about that Friday had been average or as usual…We arrived in Richmond ten minutes late for me to transfer and go. So, a two-hour layover in Virginia’s capital. At least the bus terminal was close to restaurants, a shopping center, and a movie theater. Scared of missing the last bus to Emporia, I didn’t stray too far. Hunger made me walk across the street down two blocks to McDonald’s. I ordered a quarter pounder, fries, apple pie, and a strawberry shake, my first meal since 6 AM. I took the to-go bag to a table facing the door and clock above the exit sign.
After satisfying my belly, I tried to read a chapter in my U.S. Government book to no avail; I found myself checking my eyelids for cracks. Thankfully McDonald’s closed at 7; the manager woke me at 6:55. I panicked, thinking I had missed the bus home.
I was sprinting through the terminal, looking at the departure board, and heading to gate 3. I was running the two blocks with everything I owned in a backpack flapping on my shoulder and beating me every step of the way. Praying, please, Lord, hold that bus.
Just by seconds…whew, one set of seats empty. Across from a stranger, we made eye contact and smiled at each other. As I sank into the chair, I asked if that was the bus to Emporia, and he said, “If not, he hoped the next bus station would be open.” He smiled and said, “I’m Robin, Robin D.” I hope so too, is all I could think.
I never met anyone that I wanted to talk to before on the Greyhound bus. He was a serviceman, an Army man—wearing greens, polished black dress shoes, gold accessories, and smelling good. I only had a second to observe. At least we’re headed in the right direction, I said. We talked the whole way to my stop. I figured it was a chance encounter with a gorgeous guy I would never see again.
"Nice meeting you, Robin, Robin D… I’m Kimberly, Kimberly W.", I said as I exited the bus in Emporia. I looked back to see if he was looking; he was, so I had to wave.
A weekend trip home was always too short. The countdown began when I stepped off the bus, usually at 7:55 PM, but it was 9:45 PM. Can two hours change your life? Y-E-S…Yes, two hours meant my son would be asleep when I got home, so two hours cost me a night.
Were those two hours worth it? Well, hmmm, I didn’t know it then. At that moment, I didn’t realize how Robin would or could have factored into my life. I wasn’t looking for Mr. Right because I was still in love with my son’s father. Robin and I kept crossing paths on the Greyhound trips home. We became friends and got to know each other between Richmond to Emporia on Fridays and from Emporia to Richmond on Sundays. We called each other and exchanged photos and letters for months.
I got sick when I went home for Easter weekend the following year and didn’t return on Sunday afternoon like usual. I was hospitalized for two weeks, and my mom drove me back to Charlottesville because we were afraid I would get bumped into and reinjure myself. Gallbladder surgery may have changed my future immensely.
Even though my son’s father visited me in the hospital and brought me a stuffed animal resembling the dog that had bitten him months before, Robin was responsible for the smile on my face as I drifted off to sleep each night. That ride home made me think of Robin differently—I missed him.
Reagan was President and had just sent troops to Iran. Between the hospitalization and the Iran Contra Affair, Robin and I lost touch. My roommate was jealous of our relationship, and I didn’t save any letters I missed. When I finally returned to the group home, other friends kept me busy while I was recuperating. So being a typical teenager, I assumed Robin had moved on. I never realized that he may have gotten deployed.
I missed two weeks of school and work, so everybody and everything took a backseat after my doctor cleared me and I played catch-up.
About six years ago, when writing my first book, I decided to look Robin up, reconnect, apologize, and get caught up. I was glad to find out he was still alive and living close. He has done okay for himself, is married, and has three sons like me.
Two hours gave me a lifelong friend, making a boring bus ride enjoyable. I gave a serviceman a pen pal when he needed one.
Do I wish I had known what I had back then?
I have always believed that God plans our lives from the moment we are conceived to the minute of our death. Had I caught the bus two hours earlier, I would have never met Robin D., who helped me get over the first man I fell in love with.