College Girl

 

 

College Girl


Rain was predicted that day, and it came down in glistening drops that smashed against the sidewalk and bounced back over the ankles of anyone walking on the street. It was supposed to stop around noon, but it didn’t. The weatherman, as usual, was wrong, but today, the prediction would prove more than inconvenient.

I was unprepared for anything but a ride to my destination and back, so I slipped into a leather coat, no hat, no umbrella, and went to get the car. Unprepared isn’t an adequate explanation; I

had no money with me. Little did I know what the evening would bring and that I’d have to deal with more than a cranky old car that stalled regularly.

A young relative stayed for the weekend longer than planned this Sunday night. Earlier in the day, he could have easily taken the train and gotten home safely without a problem. We enjoyed his company, and the night wore on until it was 10 o'clock—too late for a boy to go to the railroad station alone. So, the decision was made. I had to drive him home in the pouring rain.

After tossing his bag into the backseat, we settled down for the ride. The rain refused to relent and continued to assault the windshield and the wipers, which tried valiantly to keep up and clear the flood of water. But it was hopeless. The rain had its way.

I dropped him off but, on the highway, going home, the car was disagreeable again. It began to sputter and cough and buck and then came to a thud of a stop. Rolling over to the apron on the side of the road, I tried all the tricks that had worked before, dismissing the grease on my hands and the smudges on my face. Not wearing a hat, the rain quickly found another target and trickled down my shoulders, leaving me looking like a bedraggled homeless urchin.

A car pulled up, the window rolled down and I heard, "What's the matter? Car trouble?"

“Yeah, I usually can get it to start, but not tonight. I only need to get to the next town.”

“Leave it here at the railroad parking lot. I’ll drive you to the next town over.” I’d need to get the local bus at the next town over, but that was a problem, too—no money.

But this ride was the only option, and as he pulled his car over, the two of us pushed my car into the lot, locked it, and left. I felt fortunate that this good Samaritan showed up in the nick of time. It was pouring now, and the darkness added to my discomfort, and it was getting very late.

As the stranger's car proceeded down the brightly lit highway, he said quite casually, “I just have to drop off at a friend’s house to see if he needs a lift to work tonight. Is that OK?” As he said this, he turned slightly to look at me, and although I wasn’t feeling OK, what could I do? He was giving me a ride after my car broke down, and the least I could do was agree for him to see if his friend needed a lift to work.

“OK,” I said and sat silently as water slid down my coat onto his car’s mat.

As we drove down streets that became progressively darker with no traffic and empty, dark sidewalks glistening with water from the constant rain, it was getting a bit unnerving. He was so silent.

“So, “he finally asked, “what do you do?”

“Well, I worked during the day and go to college to take courses at night.” At my remark about going to college, there was a noticeable stiffening of his body. Something was peculiar as we pulled up to a dark house with no lights on.

“Well, “he said, “looks like my friend isn’t home and has probably gotten a ride to work already.” Now, he pulled away from the curb and began to almost morph into somebody new.

“So, you’re a college girl, huh? One of those girls who think they know it all and the rest of us are stupid?” The word college girl was almost spit out of his mouth as though it were garbage. He gripped the wheel tighter and pushed the accelerator to go faster, and I knew something was wrong. Something was very wrong, and I was getting scared.

“Where is the highway to the next town?” I asked in as calm a voice as I could muster. It didn’t look like we were headed in the right direction, and I knew the only place ahead was the beach bushes and the ocean. This was not the way to head to the next town.

“Stop the car and let me out,” I said in a firm, steely tone I didn’t know I could use. I gripped the door handle, realizing we were going too fast to open it and get out. I was in danger.

For a few minutes, he was almost taken back, but slammed on the brakes, pulled the car quickly over to the curb, which bumped before it stopped, and said, “Get out!” And off he sped.

Now, I found myself on an empty, dark road with no house lights showing. The streetlights weren’t offering much light because of the trees covering them. The road was awash with water as the rain continued to come down.

Just then, a car began to approach, and I stepped out into the middle of the road to stop it. Fortunately, it was a police car, and he pulled up next to me; sliding the window open, he said, “Is something wrong?”

I explained what had happened with my car and the stranger and where I needed to go and that I had no money with me. He said, “The train station is just a few blocks ahead, but since I’m alone in the car, you can’t get in, so you’ll have to walk in the road in front of my car as I follow you.”

I truly felt like a broken person, walking dripping wet in the middle of a rainy street with a police car right behind me. It was surreal, like something out of one of those cheap novels.

As we approach the railroad station, I saw that four more police cars were parked there with the policemen, all standing in a circle, seemingly waiting for this policeman. As I approached, one of the men walked toward me, and I, again, explained what had happened.

“Well, “the policeman said, “the train doesn’t usually stop here, but we’ve arranged to have it make this stop so that you can get on and get to where you need to go.” With that, he reached into his pocket, pulled out a single dollar bill, and gave it to me. “Here’s money in case you need a bus ride to take after you get off the train. I know the place where you need to go.”

As the train jerked into the station with brakes screeching, the policeman led me to the open door. I slowly ascended the steps and found a seat in the back of the almost empty train. Approached by the conductor, I again was in for an unexpected comment.

“What happened? Are they running you out of town?” No, he wasn’t joking, and there was no smile on his face. “It’s $1.75 to the next town. I’ll collect it from you now.”

I told him I had no money. He screwed up his face, cocked his head as he looked down at me, pulled out a pad, made out a ticket, and gave it to me. “OK, you can send the money along with this ticket to pay for your ride.” Then he walked away into the next car. I was alone in the car, and the dampness of the rain was making me shiver.

It was half an hour before we got to the main train station, where I would be able to get off and catch the local bus home.

After leaving the train station, I found myself at a familiar bus stop, where I and two other people stood in the still pouring rain. I’m sure I looked like a bedraggled, homeless woman, with my face streaked with black car grease and my hair dangling down around my shoulders in wet ringlets.

An older man, who had had too much to drink that night, offered to take me back to his room so I could spend the night. After everything that had happened, I still managed a pleasant

refusal. The bus was quickly within sight, and I was now on it and safe on my way home; the money the police officer had given me was enough for the far

P.A. Farrell

P. A. Farrell is a Ph.D. licensed psychologist, former associate editor at PW and King Features Syndicate, and published author with McGraw-Hill, Springer Publishing, Jimsom Weed, Birmingham Arts Journal, Woodcrest Magazine, Lit, Ravens Perch, Humans of the World, Active Muse, Free Spirit Publishing, Scarlet Leaf Review, 100 Word Project, Confetti, and LitBreak. She's a top health writer for Medium.com and has published self-help books. She lives on the East Coast of the US.

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