I never saw her againPublished 9:47pm Tuesday, February 19, 2013
By Rex Alphin
I’m sure it was the approaching cold, for women rarely stopped to pick me up. Or perhaps it was my backpack that softened her guard.
Nevertheless, I was relieved to see the Ford sedan slow to a stop outside of Missoula, Mont. The wind was just starting to pick up as I opened the passenger door and welcomed the warmth. Thrusting my fingers under the dash towards the heater, I turned and, with frigid face, mumbled through cold lips, “Thanks.” She nodded and asked “Where ya’ headed?” “South,” I replied. “Anywhere it’s warmer.”
For the first time, I examined my female chauffeur. She had plain features, little make-up with an open countenance, the kind that invites you into her space. No frills, loosely hanging clothes. Very thin hair. (Chemo treatments, perhaps?) A non-intimidating composure that suggested no preoccupation with image. She struck me as someone’s favorite aunt.
I immediately liked her and found her open, honest conversation appealing. Her looks were not striking, but neither were they coarse, that middle ground that neither intimidates nor repels. No rings on her short, slender fingers. Smiling eyes that half-closed when she laughed, a laugh that revealed well proportioned teeth and moon-shaped dimples on either side.
“Twenty-eight years we were married. Twenty-eight years.” She posed a reflective glance. “Married too young, really. But who knows at 17?”
“Kids?” I asked. “No,” she replied. I noticed a slight grimace.” Got a niece that means everything to me, though.” The conversation rambled on, like a winding trail that (I am guessing) always arrived at a very familiar, very definite destination.
“We just grew apart. He in his world and I in mine. We had things. Good things. But money can’t hold you together. Know what I mean?” (She continued, without waiting for a reply.) “He was gone all the time who-knows-where. I mean, I followed him halfway ’cross the country and what do I get? A big empty house and a part-time husband. I couldn’t take it anymore.”
Her eyes watered up as her grip tightened on the steering wheel, but I tried not to notice. “Mind if I make a quick stop?” she said.
We pulled up to an ABC store. “Be right back.” While waiting, I noticed a man with a poodle on a leash, wondering who was leading whom. She returned with a brown paper bag and resumed the conversation as if no interruption had occurred.
“He gave me one compliment the last month we were together. ‘I like your pecan pie,’ he said. That’s it! ‘I like your pecan pie.’ Sheesh! He never even glanced up.”
We parted ways when she turned off highway 90. Grabbing my pack, I prepared to exit.
“By the way, what’s your name?”
“Rex,” I replied.
“Be careful, Rex.”
I never saw her again.
Rex Alphin of Walters is a farmer, businessman, author, county supervisor and contributing columnist for the Suffolk News-Herald. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.