4. "You made the right decision."
I have always had an innate fear of the night. Not so much the dark, but the night itself. As a child my imagination was overcome with stories of creatures that come alive at night and the safety offered by a house and light. I never had anything to base this fear on until a night when I decided to go with a buddy of mine to a baseball game and got stuck at a light at 2 a.m. after dropping him off at home.
Of course that night the game went into extra innings and so I didn't get a chance to drop my friend off back home until well after 1 a.m. Everything was fine on the way home until I hit a light right before the street that led to my house. It was a "T" junction and I was turning left. The light is one of those that you think is broken until it finally turns green right when you finally decide to just run it. Of course I pulled up right as the light turned red.
I would have just run the light, seeing as no one was there and it was closing in on 2 a.m. on a school night, but earlier that week I had heard the phrase "Character is what you do when no one is looking" and for whatever reason, that was the night I decided to prove to myself that I was a man of character, big mistake.
I pulled to a stop at the light feeling good about myself, bordering on self-righteous, when I happened to look out my window to my left and noticed a lady sitting all alone on a bus bench. We made brief eye contact and I quickly looked away. It was too late. I could see movement out of my peripheral vision and knew she was coming my way. I looked out the window and noticed she was carrying a bag. I quickly checked that my doors were locked and all my windows were up. I then moved my right foot above the accelerator just in case and braced myself for what was to come. I was hoping it would be just an awkward exchange and was praying for a quick light change before she reached me, so I could just get out of there, I knew there was a slim chance of that.
She walked right up to my window, put down her bag and began to tap on my window. I nervously looked up at her and she motioned for me to put my window down. I had automatic windows so I just imagined pushing too hard on the window button and that thing just coming all the way down, so I took a deep breath and lightly flicked it with my finger. The window moved microscopically down, but she did not seem to notice or care. She then leaned in and began to talk.
She said, "My boyfriend beat me up, I have a friend who lives down the street, can you give me a ride?" I should stop and give a brief physical description of the bag lady. She was small and skinny and of indeterminate age. She was either in her mid twenties and had lived a hard Protected content on the street, or she was a 60-something year old who had lived a moderately hard life on the street. All that to say, just by looking at her, there was no way to verify her story. She looked beat up by life, not just by a boyfriend. But there was something about her delivery, it was robotic and seemed practiced and like she was disconnected from the moment, that made my skin crawl, and after a brief (about a second) debate on whether I should do it, I told her that I had to get home and could not give her a ride.
After my first refusal she leaned in closer and said the same thing again, "My boyfriend beat me up, I have a friend who lives down the street, can you give me a ride?" This time I felt more confident when I declined to give her a ride and told her I had a curfew and had to get home. She leaned in a third time and began her statement again, "My boyfriend beat me..." At this point, the light changed. I slowly lifted my foot off the brake and started slowly rolling forward and began muttering an apology. She didn't move. She just looked at the light then looked down at me, leaned in closer and said five words that have haunted me ever since, "You made the right decision". Then she picked up her bag and walked back towards the bench.
I peeled out of the intersection and cried and screamed all the way home. I have no idea what she planned to do, or if there were people waiting to jump in my car from the bushes had I moved to let her in, but that encounter has haunted me ever since and has confirmed in my mind, that nothing good happens after dark.