Late, the empty two-lane highway a zipper pulling you through the soft skirt of farmland. The windows down, the sweet scent of almond blossoms, when the car silently quits like a carousel horse out of quarters, not a house or a human for miles. This is the scenario where bad things happen to the good girl, a polite co-ed with a library work-study job, like you. Or sometimes the bad girl, one having an affair with a married man, a girl who shoplifts when the campus job doesn’t pay quite enough for groceries, and you’re that girl, too; a painted, beribboned, coin-operated machine circling around and around, going nowhere fast. You wait together, your two selves, in the dark for hours, every snapped twig a threat, each regret a knife. Last week too much boxed wine, a close call driving the old Ford Bronco now stone cold beneath you. How many lives do you have? An answer to a prayer, out of the darkness twin headlights like a spaceship drawing nearer. You flag it down with your sweatshirt; no matter who’s inside, anything would be better than night’s interrogation. An old RV slows, pulls over. Whatever you’d imagined, it wasn’t the Mennonite women in long dresses and white bonnets who climb down the steps. They have a siphon and gas can as though they are used to foolish motorists running out of gas, but the youngest woman, your age only unmarked by tattoos and Life, says you’re the first stranger they’ve ever met on the road, and while the way she and her family stare at you confirms you’re an alien, they never do say where, or why, or how often they’re out so late. The oldest, your mother’s age, with the same worry lines across the forehead but with a real smile, not a mechanical one, hands you a cheddar and pickle sandwich on thick, homemade bread through the car window, asks if you’ve been stuck for long. Yes, I’ve been waiting, you say, the Bronco starting up, your hazard lights now on, for the longest time to be saved.
Dimitri Gregorio is an artist living in Orlando, FL. Find more of his work on Instagram @dimitrigregorio.