She was clad in a heavy-appearing black robe and flowing head-covering which trailed behind her as she ran, RAN, along Capital Highway. The thermometer in the car indicated it was 93 outside, and she was running in a full-length black dress. "Are you stopping for me?" her American-English-accented voice asked. I reached across the car, opened the passenger door in the Mini and turned on the air conditioning. (Yes, the top was down, but I fancied she'd at least appreciate the cold air on her face.) "Why are you stopping for me" she asked. "People don't pick up hitchhikers anymore, do they?" she continued. I explained to her I'd not picked up a hitchhiker since 1976 but, and why I couldn't explain, the car had forced itself to the side of the road. She fell into the passenger seat and explained she had missed her bus and had to be home before...in time for...Her hesitation weighed on me. I've been there; that relationship in which I had to explain each and every move I made during the day and account for my time - and pay the price when I couldn't account for those lost minutes.
I'd been in the ER Monday night. As I lay on a gurney waiting for the tech to conduct the EKG, the Triage nurse asked me if I'd come to the hospital of my own accord, if I felt safe at home, if anyone was hurting me or keeping me from eating or sleeping. I quickly responded I was in a very safe place.
Settled in the front of the Mini, I asked her where she was going, why she was running, if she was ok. She was going, she said, to the library on Capital Hill, just up from the grade school. Initially I said I would drop her at 99W and Capital. "Oh, thank you" she gushed. But what did I have to do? I was going to order a new pair of prescription sunglasses - and I was peeved that owing to the vagaries of our economy, I had to opt for the lowest-cost-provider I could find, instead of the most convenient. I noticed then that the temples on her glasses were taped together. (seriously, I can't imagine they could fold for all the tape on them.) "You know what?" I asked, "I'm not going anywhere time-critical. I'll take you to the library." "Really?" She couldn't impose on me, she said. No problem, I assured her, it's my pleasure. I went on to tell her of the time I was stuck with a crappy car which broke down on the side of the road on a hot summer afternoon. My daughters were with me and, because we were without cell phones in 1984, I put a baby girl on each hip and began walking down Walker Road (yes, in my heels and nylons for it was 1984.) A car, a navy 1967 Mustang, pulled to the side of the road and asked if we needed a ride. I found myself thinking I didn't care if he was the grandson of Jack the Ripper, I'd be off the road at least. As he buckled Erin and Kristen into the back seat (with after-market seat belts, to be sure) and fired up his after-market air conditioning, I asked why he'd picked us up. He explained he had a wife and kids about the same ages as my kids. He hoped someone would help them if they needed it. That stuck with me - obviously. I can tell you the name of the Beaverton-based dentist today if you want to know. (Thank you, Gordon Hoversland.)
As we neared my mystery passenger's destination, ("oh, that's it. No, don't pull into the driveway. You can let me out here") I asked her the same questions I received in the hospital. "Are you ok?" I asked. "Is anyone hurting you? Is anyone keeping you from sleeping or eating." "No, no, I'm fine," she assured me. As she alighted from the car, I wondered. Was she, is she, safe?
I don't know why I turned left on Capital this afternoon for, had I turned right, I would have missed her completely, nor do I know why I stopped. The car pulled itself to the shoulder, I know. I know I was led. As I sit here tonight, less than a mile from her destination, I find myself prayful. Prayful for her, her safety, those of any children she might have. And it's not just HER. I'm praying for all those mothers who are afraid and scared. How can I reach out to them?
I'm troubled by my lack of resources.