A woman in a blue sedan pulled up beside me toward the end of my run. She rolled down the window opposite her, on my side, and asked,
“Do you know where Walmart is?”
Considering it was about 15 minutes away, I didn’t understand how she got lost around here. And I was on a pretty small street.
I hunched down and looked in the window. “You have to get on that highway there, and get off at the second exit, then take a right at the next big street, and travel pretty far down…”
“Do you want to just show me?”
Like get in her car? I guess she judged a guy on a run as innocent. But I was already wary that she had not seemed to be really looking for the Walmart – and how does someone get lost in the days of ubiquitous GPS?
I got in and we drive off. She was blonde, probably 25, and spoke loudly for her small, cramped car. She apologized for taking me away from anything I was doing and thanked me for helping her.
She explained that her phone was broken and had been broken several times before. She implied that her phone was damaged this time in a fight with her boyfriend. I didn’t pry, but she wasn’t one to hold back. “He often gets mad.”
I tried to change the subject. I asked if she was from around here. She lived across the river and worked at a bar close to her home. I told her I had always wanted to work at a bar, because you could meet with so many people. For a few minutes, we shared space in the conversation as we spoke about the bartender life.
But she lamented that not all the people she met were the nicest. She seemed to be able to quickly drop her tone to brush by tough topics. My silent responses didn’t seem to faze her.
Her trip to Walmart was for her father’s birthday, which was the next day. She hadn’t forgotten when it was – she had only decided to get him a present that day. Her father and her often got into fights, she explained, and they had just come off of one.
We arrived at Walmart and parked. For some reason, she didn’t want me to go in Walmart with her.
“I can trust you right? I can leave my keys in the car and the AC on and you won’t steal my car?”
“Oh yeah, of course.”
I thought it weird but took a moment to reflect that I had just been driven 15 minutes by a stranger telling me about some tough moments in her life.
She must have been in Walmart just about as long as the drive there. when she returned, she put her bag in the back. Now she was driving me to where I needed to go.
We got talking about her boyfriend again, and it got a little more personal. She said she had bruises from a fight with him. They had broken up multiple times, but she kept returning because she felt sorry for him. Again, I didn’t pry. Directions back must have been the only words that I uttered on the drive back.
I told her she could drop me anywhere near where she picked me up. We pulled up on one curb and began to slow, but she kept talking. She was looking for a job besides bartending, but she was already kept so busy at home. We stopped on the side, but cars behind us couldn’t pass. We pulled up further, past another intersection.
My hand on the door, she kept talking.
“I was so relieved when I saw you coming off a run when I was stuck. I couldn’t find anybody else.”
We were right next to a city, where the sidewalks are usually always filled. Living across the river, she must have known that.
“I really believe that everything happens for a reason.”
She told me her name was Melanie, and I shared my name. I got the name of her bar and said I would look for her when I was around there.
I didn’t know if she was waiting for something. Maybe this had been all an elaborate ruse to get me to give her money. Yet this was nothing like the con stories I had heard.
I got out and walked away. She stayed parked about 10 seconds longer then drove past me, waving.