You may or may not be aware that one of my favorite pastimes is to expound on my ever-growing hatred of the human race. What I call “hatred” does not take the form of the typical, everyday, someone-just-cut-me-off, “Man, fuck people,” animosity. I truly, deeply despise what was once a species full of potential, a species that once upon a time actually stood a realistic chance of evolving into 2001’s semi-divine Star Child, but pissed it all away, allowing the corrupt and venal to rule because the responsibility of power was too great a burden when there were so many toys to play with. So why do I insist on acting the Good Samaritan when the opportunity arises? Like tonight? I’m writing this at 2 AM on October 22, 2011. This just happened.
I had been writing at my usual haunt and was on the way home just past midnight. I was driving down a road I had been down countless times previously. Suddenly the penumbra of my right headlight caught a hot pink shirt along the side of the road. Inside it was a young woman erratically waving her arms over her head trying to flag down someone, anyone for help. I drove past her, but the look on her face stuck with me. It wasn’t just a look of desperation or panic. It was genuine fear. In the light from my headlamps for just one second, it was nonetheless apparent. I stopped, turned the car around, and drove back a few yards as the young woman hurried to the car.
I lowered the window as she approached. “Are you okay?” I asked.
Her voice cracking, she said, “No,” before she exploded into a fit of crying. “My boyfriend, he hit me and knocked me to the ground! He threw a rock at me! I’ve already been to the hospital today! He stabbed me in the arm!” She showed me the fresh dressings on her forearm and the hospital bracelet still wrapped around her wrist as tears carved their way down her face.
I opened the door. “Get in.”
That makes me sound way more pimp than I actually was.
I turned the car around and started back down the street as I heard the guy start shouting from down the street.
The young woman kept crying in the car, looking through the back window to make sure her boyfriend wasn’t following us, and repeatedly apologizing. I told her, “It’s okay. You don’t have to apologize.” She carried on through the wailing, “He has everything! My wallet, my phone, my money!” Her hands shook like wall hangings in an earthquake.
“Is there anyone you can call?” I asked.
“I don’t know the numbers! They’re in my phone!”
“How about your parents?”
“They’re in Delaware!”
It was a brief moment, but this was when I first had the thought, Why did I do this?
She repeated the story of her abuse in slightly more detail, periodically calming herself enough for me to discern how her voice naturally sounded, only to fall back into hysterics as she recounted the next physical blow. “Oh God, what am I gonna do?” she cried.
“Okay,” I said. “Let’s just get you away from here and we’ll figure out what you’re going to do.”
After a few miles I pulled into a well-lit Wawa parking lot. After allowing the young woman – her name was Savannah; I saw it on the hospital bracelet – time to compose herself, I said, “Why don’t you call your parents? You can use my phone. I’m sure they’ll come get you.”
“But they only have one car and my dad works nights.”
I suggested, “Well, why don’t you call and maybe we can figure out something.”
She nodded her head and, sniffling through the tears, said, “Okay, yeah.”
I dialed the number for her and gave her the phone. Her mother answered. Based on Savannah’s end of the conversation her mother was aware of everything up to where I came in. I couldn’t understand everything the mother said through the phone, but I did make out, “So?” and “What do you want me to do?” As a result of this exemplary display of motherly concern, I wasn’t surprised when Savannah said, “Okay. I’ll call Jessica and see if I can go there.”
She hung up and said, “I’m going to call my friend. She lives here in Jersey.”
“Okay. Do you need me to dial for you?”
“No, it’s okay,” she said.
As she started dialing, I thought, Didn’t she not remember any of her friends’ numbers because they were all in her phone? Well she’s composed herself a little now, I argued. Maybe she’s thinking more clearly.
I was turning this discrepancy over in my head when Savannah said, “Hello?” into the phone with an air of confusion. “Who is this?” she asked once, then again. An indiscernible male voice on the other end of the line mumbled something, and the girl said, “It’s Savannah. Who’s this?” There was a little more mumbling across the connection, then silence. Savannah hung up. “I don’t know who that was,” she said.
I took my phone back and started talking to her. Apparently Savannah, all of twenty-four, moved out of her parents’ house in Delaware in favor of an apartment in Jersey because she wanted to be closer to her boyfriend, a forty-eight year-old proprietor of a strip club. She then gave up her apartment to move in with him, even though Savannah’s friend Jessica is this guy’s daughter and hates him because he’s an abusive piece of shit.
I was surprised these two had never played William Tell.
I ran into Wawa to buy her something to drink, taking my phone with me. On the way back to the car my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number, so it was likely for the damsel in distress. I answered it to hear a male voice decked from head to toe in Ed Hardy say, “Listen, bro, she stole my wallet and I got your license number, so expect the cops pretty soon. Put her on.”
“Really?” I said, as I stopped and scanned my license plate. “What is it?’
“Put Savannah on, bro.”
A quick aside: don’t call me, “bro.”
I opened the door and said to Savannah, “It’s him. How did he get my number?”
She looked shocked. “What?”
“It’s him. How does he know my number?”
The girl was silent. She stared at the phone in my hand, slack-jawed while the Douche Who Called Wolf shouted through the phone before finally hanging up.
“How could he get my number?” I asked again.
“I-I-I dunno,” she stammered.
I checked the call history. “He called from the number you called a few minutes ago – Jessica’s number.”
I showed her the call history. “This is my phone. I think I called my phone by mistake.”
My sympathy was melting away fast, and aggression was seeping in. How do you accidentally dial your own phone? Which is now in your abusive boyfriend’s hands? No wonder you’re in this predicament, you dullard. Yeah, that’s right – predicament. You don’t even deserve that many syllables.
She couldn’t remember Jessica’s number. I even typed her name into Facebook in the hope of finding her account and contact information by her photo. Savannah shook her head in defeat after looking at the pictures for a total of nine seconds.
“What does she look like?” I asked.
“I dunno. She’s always half-naked in her pictures.”
Well, maybe give it a cursory glance, kid? Who knows? Maybe it’ll be her Women’s Christian Temperance Union yearbook photo instead? What the hell was wrong with this broad?
I suggested that I just drive her Jessica’s. “Under the circumstances I think she’d understand you just showing up.”
She thought for a moment, then said, “Yeah, okay.”
“Where does she live?”
“Well, she lives right down the street from my boyfriend.”
Okay. Denmark now officially reeked of Philadelphia and beer farts.
“Are you sure you want to go there? I asked.
Translation: Are you fucking kidding me!?!
She was sure, so I pulled out of Wawa and started back to where I had found her. “There’s a street you turn down just before his house,” she said, “so we don’t pass him.”
“Thank you again so much for… I don’t even know your name. I’m Savannah.”
Hi. I’m Tundra. Nice to meet you.
The lights in her friend’s house were already on as I pulled up to the curb. I offered to go to the door with her.
“No, that’s okay.”
“I don’t like letting you go up by yourself.”
“No. Just I-I-I don’t wanna, I don’t want her to think, like, she’s, it’s bad enough between her and her dad and, like, I don’t – she doesn’t – it’s not gonna help her knowing and – and, like – like, I don’t wanna drag you into the drama. You know?”
Yeah. I know.
“But I’m just gonna run to the door, and when she answers, I’ll come back and let you know it’s okay.”
“Alright. If that’s what you want to do.”
She hugged me and thanked me again. Then she got out of the car and ran to the back door where I couldn’t see her.
I waited about three minutes before I drove away.
Now I’m sitting at my computer, trying to parcel through the disparate pieces of this puzzle. On the surface everything seemed on the up-and-up, but as the hour unfolded, pieces here and there began to bend and fray at the joints. Sitting in my car at the curb I convinced myself that Savannah and this guy were running a scam on me, that he was a Mamet-character come to life and she was his girl Friday. Savannah’s “mother” could have been anyone. Seconds after she had decided to call her friend, she misdialed and called the guy she was running from. And when all else had failed, she had me bring her right back to the beginning.
But sitting here, turning over the equation in my head, I can’t see the grift. What was the bait I was supposed to have taken? What was I supposed to have done, and what were they planning on taking from me? I can’t help but think, What if I’m wrong? I’ve never been in her position. I have no idea how I would comport myself. I can’t guarantee that I would make my subsequent decisions in the most rational manner possible. What if her boyfriend was waiting in that house for her and is kicking the shit out of her as I write this? What if I wrongly suspected Savannah because I had grown impatient with her lack of rationality, that the growing inconvenience I had brought upon myself was polluting any urge I had toward kindness and empathy? And why am I worrying about this anyway? I thought I hated people. If Savannah’s stupid enough to get mixed up with an asshole like that, she deserves whatever she gets. Except… what if I don’t believe that? Has all my fatalism been little more than cheap plastic armor? Am I really as hackneyed and typical as that? Have I just been seeing myself reflected in the imperfections of others? Is that what I really hate?
I’ll be watching the local news for the next week to see if Savannah turns up dead. But I actually hold out hope that it all worked out in the end. Not because of a deep-seated belief in my noble intentions or a shift in the polarity of my overall outlook on life, but because ten minutes after I pulled away from Jessica’s house, I received the following text from the boyfriend:
“By the way she has herpes and now ur Im with for stealing my wallet…”