One of my rideshare vehicles is a Cadillac six door limousine. I drive UberSelect and UberBlack. Many times when I am out and about, I see people walking. Sometimes way out in the middle of yonder. I hate to see anyone walk and many times I will pull over and ask if they want a ride somewhere within ten miles. Six out of ten are either “just hiking somewhere” or “out for exercise”. The other 4 are either going to a store or are on their way to or from a heartbreak. Then there is the one that is running away from home and is willing to go anywhere you take them.
One day I was truly out in the country. I saw a guy walking with a brisk pace along the road facing traffic. As I passed he looked straight ahead and made no indication he had seen me. I drove on. About half a mile down the road a woman came trundling down the apron of the road with two bags strapped around each side of her neck and a small duffel bag perched on top. In one hand she held a suitcase and in the other two Walmart bags with some food. I slowed to a stop and called out to her. She slowed but kept walking, barely glancing back. “What? What?” She shouted, “what do you want?” I shouted, “do you want a ride?” “Are you crazy, my husband will kill me.” "Just for talking to you.” I had turned the limo around and since her husband was well out of sight I rolled beside the girl (I noticed she was younger than I thought; but, the years had been hard) and got a close look. She was barefoot and you could see the welts of red ant bites between her toes and along the arch of her feet. The straps of the bags had dug deeply into her skin and chafed a burning red line around her neck. Her fingers were purple from loss of circulation to the hand holding the two large Walmart bags. Her hair was stringy, face strained, shoulder straps biting, feet swollen and when she turned her head towards me I saw a black eye. On top of all that it looked like she had a severe case of poison ivy/poison oak on her arms and and chest. She just looked defeated. My heart went out to her and I knew immediately we had a domestic abuse situation going on here. The woman was adamant about not needing help. She was more afraid of this man, than all the pain and suffering you could pour on her head.
I gunned the limo and drove for a couple minutes till I came abreast of the man. He was a somber, unappealing person. Striding purposefully like he didn’t have a care in the world. He had nothing but a thin walking stick in his hand. I slowed and said, “hey man do you want a ride.” He looked at me and slowed his pace. “I’m cool,” he replied. The swelling of his nose, the thread veins on his face and slurred speech suggested alcoholism. But he came to a stop. “Where are you going,” I queried. I was more interested in helping out the poor woman than this specimen; but, I could see he controlled the pair so I needed his acquiescence. I offered him an ice cold water to try and bridge the gap. As he greedily guzzled the water, he finally admitted they were going to the Sparta Passenger Center (the bus station) in Spartanburg. I punched up SPC on Waze and saw it was 38.5 miles. I thought to myself, that poor woman. By that time, I saw her up the road, struggling to catch up. Limping, bags swinging, straps biting, feet painful and those purple fingers. When she got within earshot the man began to yell at her to hurry up. As she got closer she began to cry. It was as though she knew what was coming next. The man quickly wheeled around and grabbed her by the hair and hit her across the back of her legs about ten swift blows with the thin walking stick. “I told you to keep up,” he kept repeating. I about jumped out of my skin. I wanted to jump out and bash this guy senseless. I was so mad I wanted to just pound him. Or better yet, hold him and let the lady beat on him for a change. His shirt was out and I couldn’t tell if he had a gun or, as some in these parts like to do, is carry a straight razor or a buck knife. “What time is your bus?” I quietly asked. “In about four hours,” he said. “Listen, the GPS says it is 38.5 miles, you will never make it in that time.” Y’all jump in and I’ll whiz you there in half an hour.” “I’ve got more water.” After some contemplation the man saw the wisdom of the offer and said okay.
I have a three seat, six door limo so I put the woman all the way in the back and the man in the middle row, hoping to keep them apart and give the woman some rest. But he kept reaching over the seat and poking her in the ribs and neck with the walking stick. Not just prods, but hard painful jabs. She continued to cry. By now I had to restrain myself from going in my trunk and getting my Louisville slugger. So the wheels started to turn.
I came to the on ramp to get on the interstate and saw an Exxon on the exit. I pulled in and told the guy “Hey, I can’t go in there as a limo driver and buy alcohol” “Would you go buy us each a couple of beers and I’ll drink one with you. Grab a pack of Marlboro Red!” The prospect of alcohol, a cigarette and someone to share it with must have hit too many buttons because the guy didn’t even think about it. He grabbed the $20 bill and was out the door in a flash. He wasn’t in the door good and I punched it and we were out of there. We grabbed the interstate and were three miles away before I looked back. The woman sat wide eyed. “I know what just happened” she smiled for the first time since I had met her. “but where am I going to go, what will I do?” She laid back in the plush leather seat and cool AC and relaxed. In five minutes she was fast asleep. I told Waze “Shepherds Gate.”
An hour later I was ringing the buzzer at the security entrance of Shepherds Gate. A secret, high security facility for battered women. A charity owned and run by former victims of domestic abuse. She would be safe here. I took her in and carried all her belongings to the security locker and handed her the key. "You're gonna be okay, these people will take care of you and help you start again on your own."
Six months later, I saw her working at the Red Lobster on South Pleasantburg. Hair cut in a cute boyish bob with messy fringes and in her little uniform, the picture of bravado, she was just talking up a storm, my heart went out again to her, this time for her happiness. She said she had seen her husband in one of those jailhouse magazines had gotten arrested for stealing a car. She was in the process of changing her name so she could disappear forever from the tyrant. She pulled my hand to introduce me to her friends at the eating establishment. She looked 20 years younger. I was just happy that she was happy. That made my day. Yours too I hope. Thanks for the upvote.