Saturday, December 28, 2019

Teddy Bear

I like to give people rides. If I see someone hoofing it and the stars are aligned I’ll pull over and offer them a lift. It’s a good way to meet some interesting people.

The last time was a couple of days ago, December 26, Boxing Day, to be exact. I really don’t know what Boxing Day is, exactly, I just know it’s a thing in some English speaking countries.

Anyway, because of the holidays I got off work earlier than expected. It was mid-afternoon and there was a heavy fog nestled on Kansas City. I took a meandering route home, stopping occasionally to take pictures.

Once I’d had enough and just wanted to get home I pointed my car north - couch-ward. I was in a part of town that I didn’t know well. I saw a women loaded down with backpacks, bags, and satchels. I noticed a long loaf of bread poking out of one of her bags. This is a woman who’s been shopping and, for whatever reason, is having to walk home on a chilly, damp day. This is a person to whom I should give a ride, I told myself.

Her story was different.

“Do you want a ride?”

“Oh, yes, sir!”

There was no hesitation. No, ‘Are you sure?’ Just ‘Hells yah!'

She danced around to the passenger side and, without adjusting any of her ponderous baggage, dropped herself into the seat. Face-forward, she didn’t say anything as if I knew where she needed to go. I drove in the general direction she had been walking until the first stop sign.

“Which way?”

Meanwhile my phone’s GPS was barking rerouting instructions. It was muffled and frantic under the pile of stuff I’d chucked in the back seat in order to give her room.


“Oh, my name is Bryce, by the way.”

We shook hands. Silence.

“And, what’s your name?”

“I don’t remember.”

It’s wasn’t bread in her bag. It was a teddy bear. I realized she wasn’t bringing shopping home. This was everything she owned. She didn’t shift her bags when she sat down because they are always on her. She wears them like clothing.

Her face was mottled and weathered. She was young, probably early thirties, but she’d been living hard for a long time.

“Do you want some water?”


“I have some food. I have a peanut butter and jelly if you’d like.”

“No. Do you have any drugs?”

“Sorry, no.”

“Any pot?”

Isn’t pot a drug?

“No, sorry, I don’t have anything like that.”

“Oh. Left.”

We took three lefts. I wondered if she was leading me into some kind of ambush. Just for a moment. Of course she wasn’t. What would be the plan there? Wander the streets with all your possessions on your back until some naive dude picks you up then steal, what, his driver’s license?

Finally, she said turn right. I said I can’t, it’s one way the other way.

“It’s just a sign.”

I looked around. This was an empty part of the city. The few houses were boarded up, crumbling. The right turn led us to a T intersection. Straight ahead was a path leading into a wooded area. The path was littered with moldy clothing, an abandoned shopping cart, trash’ve seen it.

“This is it.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. My partner is in there. Come with me. We’ll party. He wants to meet you. He talks better than me.”

“Oh, thanks. I can’t. I need to get home.”

I regretted saying the H-word immediately.

“Yeah, come on. He can tell you.”

“Isn’t there somewhere else I can take you? Do you know somewhere warm?”

“No, I’m safe here.”

She asked me where I lived. I gave her a vague description of the house that Sara and I are renting. She asked about Sara and, again, invited us to stop by to party.

Playing with the buttons on the radio she asked how much I paid for the car. I told her. She said it’s nice. It’s warm. I let her sit for a while. I held her hand for a little bit. She looked like someone who needed to be touched.

I hope it helped.

She broke my heart. She was clearly confused, probably drug addled. I told her to please stay warm. I only had three dollars on me, which I gave her along with a lighter. She was far more grateful for the lighter.

I watched her walk up the path to whatever it is that is her place. She disappeared into the trees.