“Let’s go inside.” Millie head-motioned for Molly to exit the bus first. Following her daughter, a streak of fear rushed upwards and across Millie’s spinal column. ‘It only takes one mistake, even a small one, and we’re sunk.’
The station was a nice old building dating from the 1940’s according to the bronze plaque outside the double-door entrance. Molly had researched Newark’s Penn Station before sending her first text to Alisha. It was a hub for not only Greyhound Bus, but also for Amtrak, and the subway.
Inside, Millie and Molly were amazed at the vastness of the lobby. “This is like entering a time warp.” Millie said, pumping a handful of Purell from a nearby stand.
“I agree. Modern and ancient. The granite floor and multiple stores along the far wall remind me of The Shops at Northbridge back home. But, the tribe of bedraggled and unkempt people wandering around make me think of the beginning of humanity, poor, desperate, fearful.” Molly often described a setting as though she was writing a piece for Ms. Thorton, her all-time favorite teacher.
“I don’t see how they survive.” Millie said directing Molly to a metal bench bolted to the floor to their left. “Much cause to be thankful.”
“I assume you took your Depokote.” Molly could already tell her mother was rebounding, at least a little, from her depressive state. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be referencing her gratitude.
“I did.” Millie removed the brochure she’d been given in Toledo and found the list of stations they’d encounter along their route. She typed Newark Penn Station’s web address into her phone and started reading. “Dunkin, Starbucks, and McDonald’s are all inside.” Millie pointed to the three lined side-by-side along the far wall.
“We have a three and a half hour layover. Let’s walk to the Doubletree Hilton on Raymond Blvd. That’s only two blocks and they have a highly rated bistro we could enjoy something other than fast-food. Then, we could rest in the comfortable chairs inside their lobby.”
“Well, I guess you’ve been doing more than texting Alisha.” Millie stared at Molly who looked down and clutched her book bag. Expecting a long-winded lecture, she was surprised by her mom’s hug. “No need to worry now, it’s done.”
“I’m sorry.” Molly said and stood as a toothless woman in a ragged coat, disheveled hair, and holey gloves approached holding a small tin bucket with the words, “help me please” scrawled in magic marker along the side.
It took less than five minutes to walk to the Doubletree Hotel and find Bistro Six Five Zero located just off the lobby. The tall, thin, clean-shaven waiter with gold Christian-cross earrings led them to the requested corner booth but Millie, upon inspection and noticing the torn seating with exposed foam padding, insisted on a table.
The menu was fairly broad, including anything from chicken wings to grilled salmon to Ribeye steak as well as burgers, sandwiches, salads and deserts. Given the pricing, both ordered the cheapest entre, the Bistro Burger with fries for $18. Soft drinks were extra, $3.49, so they declined opting for water instead.
After the waiter left, Molly shared her regret. “We should have eaten at McDonald’s. With that homeless woman as our guest.” Millie smiled and nodded affirmatively.
“How much did you give her?” Unlike Molly, Millie had resisted the uninhibited woman. She was glad her daughter was tenderhearted and cared about those less fortunate, but wanted her to learn she couldn’t help every needy person who came across her path.
“Five dollars. And now, you’re spending twenty-plus dollars on me. That could have fed that dear old woman and me, plus enough left over to give her $5.00.” Millie listened as Molly continued to talk for five or six minutes about a world with abundant food but yet widespread starvation. She shared an article her social studies teacher had shared quoting United Nations statistics: every year, more than 3 million children die from hunger-related causes.
The waiter delivered their food. “I hear you baby. There is unimaginable suffering in the world and we all need to do our part to help where and when we can.” They ate slow and in silence with Millie making a mental note to call their new landlord, Youngblood Properties, to make sure everything was ready for their arrival. Last Tuesday, the painters were scheduled to begin Thursday and finish on Friday.