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Crazy women

May 8, 2012

Drove out to Tucson, Arizona, to see a friend, Ted Wright, my old English professor and long-suffering tennis partner, and en route, in AZ and NM, met two crazy ladies.

Itinerant homeless women, you might call them.

Women given up to the road and to the kindness of strangers, it could be.

The first, whom I met at the first rest stop into AZ on I-40, described herself as “trapped and alone.” She was a robust 35 year old I’d say, with red hair, clean new jeans and work shirt, and a definitely schizzy air about her. I stopped and set up my camp stove on a picnic table, under a shelter, and noticed this woman at the next shelter, with a bed roll and backpack. As I fired up the stove and began frying some chicken tenders, I called out and asked if she wanted to join me for lunch. Yes, sure, and she did.

Pretty soon, along with the chicken, I got a diet of sorrows, her story about how she had been separated for 10 years from her Israeli Army unit and her family too. She had no idea where they were,  Army and family, and they were ignorant of her whereabouts too.

We ate a nice meal, with fruit and veggies and drinks, too, and she told me bits and pieces — all there were — of her story. But at one point she protested that I did not understand her. She was “trapped and alone,” and nothing could save her — neither strangers like me, nor government, nor family. She was on her own, with no way out, no way to go. She knew she had to avoid certain kinds, like the man who’d given her a ride from Texas and made lewd or pointed suggestions. She knew she couldn’t simply ask the way, the way you’d ask directions. There appeared to be no way you could get there, where she was going, from here, where she was.

Her name? She allowed it was Israel Michaela. The wandering Jew.

At first she said, sure, she’d take a ride from me up to the next rest stop, Texas Canyon, but then changed her mind. (I’d gone to the bathroom, locking the car as I did so. Did she think, perhaps, I didn’t trust her? Right!) I gave her 20 bucks, wished her well, and sped off on my merry way. I knew, I thought, where I was going — Ted’s place — and got there three hours later.

Native women

I found a native woman, trapped and alone in the mountains, without water, without love.

On my way back from Ted’s, I took a northern Arizona and New Mexico route, camping two nights in the mountains a dozen miles east of Santa Fe. There, in a free primitive (no running water, no electricity) National Forest Service campground, I was accosted my 2nd night, by a fat filthy Indian woman who asked for a Coke. I’d just shopped so was able to give her a couple of Diet Peppers I had bought, and when I asked if she wanted to join me for dinner (it was fish tonight) she replied, shyly, she’d already eaten today — some potatoes. But I couldn’t eat the two tilapia fillets, so I made her a sandwich of the second, and brought a cup of white wine too, giving it to her through a crack in the door of her banged up old car (all her earthly goods were packed, like a rat’s pack, on the roof of the car). “Here’s a nice fish sandwich,” I said, putting a hand on her shoulder. “And some wine. Bless you.”

Surprised the hell out of me, as I’m not religious at all. Was I blessing her? Certainly I was taking pity. Mercy, pity, peace, and love, as the poet says. Maybe these qualities, away from prying eyes, flow in the cold mountains.

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From → civility, fate, pathos

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