This evening has been difficult as any. I do not understand why this graciousness comes to me, as I do not feel I will be returning it.”
42 years old. Danish, from a 3rd generation family here in America. Just recently she lost her family.
After walking close to four miles she has become frustrated with what she now believes to be, possibly, irrationale. Her thinking is that she is without a way to be alive. At the gas station she watches out the front glass window, sipping a Styrofoam cup with coffee in it. The overcast day is more excitement – especially with the gray hue – than drear. There is a fair amount of traffic stopping in; many people glance at her ignorantly, politely, indifferently, walking through the glass door to pay the cashier. Why does it rain? Boots of rubber for construction employees, business people prefer umbrellas, and commonly students are comfortable with a rain jacket. The rain is not bad she feels, and presumably she has never been in line with this thought before.
She is done with her coffee. She steps out into the afternoon and walks before she is approached by a gentleman stranger who says, “ma’am, I think you have the wrong idea about hitchhiking from here. How did you get here?” Her glancing response tells him that she is not sure of the situation. It tells the gentleman that she is lost and invites him to speak more personally. “Yes ma’am, it’s usually a problem in the city to get someone to pull over because of the traffic. I guess you’re using the highway?”
“Yes I am.”
“Well I am going to go inside to pay for my gas.” He didn’t say much but it was clear that it was personal. At the register he figured he should do more to find out her story if she was willing to offer one. If not he’d offer to help her.
“Ma’am,” he yelled as a projection to her; she was further towards the road. “Yes ma’am, if I could offer you any assistance I will take the time to do what I can.”
“Well, I am looking for a ride.”
“I understand, which way?”
A way was not her plan. She was going to leave here and go somewhere, a person not running from her life, but recovering. “I am going to go east.”
“Along I-10 … … … that is the interstate here.”
“Yes sir, along I-10 is what I would like.”
“Then I will take you to a place outside of town 11 miles from here. I think it is a good place and if you are not able to catch a ride from there they have a motel and also public showers. My car is over here.”
He had a truck. A nice truck. It had a toolbox in its bed and good solid tires for heavy-duty purposes. Inside it was only dirty from the use this truck was for. They rode out of the parking lot cautiously. It is difficult taking a left turn here. He was kind to turn the radio on to a calm country song and he waited for a chance to speak more to her. There were pairs of rubber boots behind the seats. His rear-view mirror had some mud on it, drying now with his defrost running. A bag of hamburger and french fries was not a smell she appreciated. And she knew the coffee she drank was going to force her to use the bathroom later and wandered and realized that a hitchhiker needs a restroom too.
His family was small, a young baby. He was a superintendent for a construction company from the southern part of the state, contracted to build the new exit ramp not far from the gas station where the two of them met. “I don’t enjoy the travel. Most of us are able to go home the weekends.”
“There is no one in town to do the work?”
“There are, but as important as capability is availability. More than likely the city was ready for the work to go ahead and no one here was available yet.
“For the most part I don’t leave home, but this job required me to.”
“Yeah me too. My baby is fourteen months. She knows who I am but yet she changes every week. I wish I weren’t missing this part of her growing up.”
When will your work be completed?”
“It’s a four month project. My part lasts two months supposedly. So I guess in three to four weeks I will be done. Maybe a little over a month.”
He didn’t ask her questions.
She had never ridden with a stranger before. Although clients are not known they do not count as strangers. And the people she met in college at parties weren’t strangers either.
“Do you like my truck?”
“That question is odd but yes I guess I do.”
“It’s new. I drive my girl around in it. We put her car seat there in the back. It’s a family truck really, but I just asked you the question so we could talk about something. We will be at the exit I was telling you about in just a few miles, not the construction exit, I meant the motel exit I was telling you would be a good place to catch a ride. There will be a truck stop there. How far have you come?”
It made her think, this question. She was dealing with life, meaning, purpose, the point of it all, future, happiness, loneliness, friendship, family, death. All his question was was one referring to her travel distance. She had to answer the question with that respect.
“I have only come a very short distance. The gas station was a short distance from where I have spent my life. The gas station was my first stop – I have never hitchhiked before.”
“I hope that you are careful with everything.”
They were quiet again. The traffic had lessened since they left town. She agreed her hike would be better begun from here. She didn’t recognize the stop when they pulled in although many times she had come up this way to visit her friends and clients.
“Ma’am, if there is anything I can offer you I wouldn’t mind. For instance you may want some insurance money for the motel. You know you may have to stay here for a night or two.”
She said no sir, that she was in good position to take care of emergency expenses. They said goodbye to each other. She looked around the parking lot, decided to go pee, and that was that. She was moving herself without anyone in her world knowing that she had left. She was moving herself. It was complicated and there were uncertainties but peeing was easy. She looked at the truck stop and moved on.
Her thumb was clean, manicured on occasion in celebration of life. Her husband had kissed her hands before; her children had held them.
Sunshine was coming through breaks in the gray hue, more so to the east. A spaceship came down and picked her up, and carried her to a trailer park not far away. She got a look inside at her mental condition over the next four years, being a cat friendly woman living alone in unit 818. Her neighbors refrained from speaking to her much. The fact that she had parachuted into the neighborhood from a spaceship had been too much for most of them.
Seven hundred thirty eight trailers plus nearly 200 lots which were empty. The streets were not bad. Pot holes were fixed. A crew of three trucks, a couple of tractors, and several hired hands maintained the property.
Rusting bicycles squeaking in the streets, pedaling side by side with young friendly kids on better bicycles. Yards upon yards, by lot by lot by lot far stretching for acres all the way to the trailer lot she lived at. Her attractive little garden was worked. The spaceship would fly overhead occasionally without regards to the time being night or day.