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I know that I probably look ridiculous, but I can't help but plaster my face to the window.  There's so much of the world that I haven't seen.  The older lady in the seat next to me chuckles and I tear my gaze away from the countryside and turn to look at her.  Alice got on the bus when we stopped in Dallas.  Yes, she's Alice from Dallas.  She's a grandmother of six, and has been trying to teach me how to knit for the last hour or so, but I keep getting distracted by the passing scenery.

"Hon, I think we're gonna have to give up on you learning how to knit right now.  You've gotta concentrate at the beginning."  She digs around in her bag and pulls out something that looks like a citrus peeler and hands it to me.  "Try this instead.  It's a crochet hook, and it's a little easier to do while you're watchin' the world go by.  You only need to pay attention to one hand instead of two." 

She shows me how to hook the yarn and pull it through, and soon enough, I've got about a five foot chain.  She helps me turn it around and after no time at all, I'm working my way through a scarf and laughing at the stories of her twin boys making booby-traps in her living room with her yarn when they were young.  As the day wears on, she pulls out various homemade snacks and shares them with me.  I've never had such delicious cookies before.  She insists on giving me her recipe and before long, I have six pages worth of 'Granny-Alice's' favorite home style meals.

I stare in awe as we enter the Rocky Mountains.  I've never seen something so majestic.  In Illinois, the things we called mountains would be nothing more than anthills here, and although I know that the Blue Ridge range was in South Carolina, I never had the chance to see much more than my step-mother's little bubble.

As we disembark at the Denver station, I turn to Alice. 

"Thank you," I smile at her.  She's given me so much.  Friendship, food, recipes, conversation, and something to do with my hands through the long hours of the night.  She reaches out and wraps me in a tight hug, and I try not to wince from the pain from my still-tender ribs.

"You take care, hon."  She wraps up the last few cookies and gives them to me with a wink.  She pushes the scarf and crochet supplies back into my hands and plops the hat on which she had been working onto my head."You're not in the south anymore, you'll need these to keep warm."  We part ways when two little redheaded munchkins come running across the terminal and attach themselves to her legs.  I recognize them as a couple of the grandchildren she's here to visit and feel a twinge of envy for the loving greeting.  I wave and walk away, taking in my surroundings and trying to figure out where to go next.

***

It's a little after seven in the evening, and after buying a local map at the gas station across the street, I start making my way toward the steeple that I see off in the distance.  I'm so focused on my destination that I don't immediately notice that the neighborhood is growing more and more industrial.

I soon find myself in the middle of what seems to be a tent city, and I'm surrounded by people like me.  No homes and wary eyes.  I hitch my bag tighter and take stock of the area.  It's unnaturally quiet for this many people.  No one makes eye contact, and even those gathered around communal fires are sitting as far away from one another as possible.  It's much cooler here than in Charleston, and I'm grateful for my new hat and scarf.  There's a clean-cut young man handing brown paper bags to people lined up outside of his van door.  I wander over  that way for a closer look when someone grabs me by the arm and jerks me around.

A ragged looking old woman with wild hair and maybe only half of her teeth is glaring over at the van and I'm terrified, but she doesn't let go and starts dragging me in the opposite direction.

"You don't wanna do that, girlie.  They ain't no good samaritans.  The good lookin' ones disappear 'round that lot, sure as shit."  She looks me over with a critical eye and hisses, "They'd take one that looks like you like that!"  She snaps her fingers at the last word and loosens her grip when I stop trying to struggle away.  "I mean you no harm, but you're lookin' too green to know what's on the up 'round here."  She ducks into a make-shift shelter comprised mostly of what looks like construction debris.  She motions for me to follow her, and though I'm frightened, I'm more afraid of being alone out here after dark.

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