Cafe Hitch-hike


Spring and Summer Past

Seemingly random memories from way back when...

Spring. It was one of the first thaws of that early March, where the weather melted away most of the snow. The students at the University of the Rust Belt State were crazy from the cabin fever and were ready to party that Saturday night. After I finished my late afternoon shift in the caf (dorm cafeteria), I showered and headed to my car at dusk to visit my boyfriend College John.

I heard music floating in the air along with chanting and singing from nearby frat houses. I saw more traffic than usual along with people out and about. I then saw a plump, middle-aged woman wearing a hijab walk by who looked visibly bewildered. She approached me and asked me if the street she was on would take her the university's apartments for families. I said it would, and she turned to keep walking.

I would had been nervous to walk if I were her. If a regular co-ed was subject to cat-calls on a crazy weekend or a night like that, I didn't want to think about what she would get as a solo Muslim woman in a middle America college town.

"Wait, I'm heading that way," I fibbed. Before she could protest, I assured her it would not be a problem to give her a ride in my beat up Plymouth Reliant sedan.

The lady worked in a nearby restaurant and was able to leave work early, but her husband was attending service at the local mosque. She decided to walk home rather than wait for him. However, she didn't expect to step into an early evening with more revelry than a football game.

We got to her apartment in 5 minutes and she invited me in for some tea; the walk would had taken her almost 20 minutes. She served us tea and we sat. She effortlessly removed her hijab and revealed generous locks of blackish brown hair with very slight gray. She looked much younger, too, and I felt like I could see and feel her much better.

The lady (I forgot her name) and her husband were research assistants that worked in the STEM labs and she also took the side job. They were there because of dashed dreams and promises that fell short at URBS. However, they made the decision to stay put and not return to England. The locality had excellent public schools, their 2 sons could eventually attend URBS tuition-free, and the sons could possibly spring towards other opportunities. They were staying as a scalable investment in their sons' futures.

Her husband returned home with the sons when the lady and I finished tea. He thanked me for getting his wife home safely. As I left, the lady thanked me again and said I was her angel. She then added, "I knew I could ask you. It was your hair!" We both softly laughed. She said when she saw my hair (a similar color to hers and very thick and wavy), she figured she could trust me.

I never saw the lady and her family again. All I knew was when I saw her walking, it was within my means to help her feel safe and get her home. Something about her stayed with me, and I'm so glad she was able to reach out to me.

Summer. School had ended a week earlier. Angie Smalligan, Bob Plainwell, and I headed to 'the crick' (the pronunciation some people used for 'creek'). We often hung out at Indian Creek that formed one of the northern boundaries of the city limits. Our city had lots of trees, but more cemeteries and fewer houses as we got closer to that edge of the city. The Crick laid at the bottom of a steep ravine lined with some maple and elm trees. It was hard to see from the top because of the foliage, so it was the primo place to do and say things we weren't allowed to around the grownups.

It was my idea to go because it was the very first day of summer. Although I was only 11 years old, something about the equinox was already special to me and I wanted to be outdoors.

We went to an area where the creek bent 90 degrees to the left, and an inactive railroad bridge flanked over. Under the bridge was a very thick pipe; I never found out if it was for drinking water, sewage, or drainage. At the first bend and before the pipe and bridge, a little pool of water about 7 feet deep was there for the offering. A tall tree leaned over the pool, and Bob often climbed it to jump in. After the trussel and pipe, The Crick bent another 90 degrees to the right and to the river that was 2 miles away.

We either had bathing suits under clothes or swim in our clothes. We didn't care. It seemed almost customary for Bob to flash his wee-wee at us after peeing in the bushes. Whenever he did that, we groaned and told him to cover it up. Angie and I played with him at different points: she was his regular for a while and it was a single instance for me, so we had that kind of familiarity with him.

The Crick also had a slaughter house that stood about 100 feet north of it and was separated by a sparse gravel road. The slaughter house was operational during the weekdays and closed at 5 PM. We usually went afterward because the workers would yell at us to get lost if they saw us. That time and without workers present, we dared each other to sneak near the cinder-block slaughter house. Next to the building, a wide, concrete ramp rose about 1 story, leveling long enough for a big truck to parked, and then the ramp dropped off. We double dared each other to get closer to the edge.

I did that day. Bob and Angie heckled me while I hesitantly skipped sideways up the ramp. I waited for a worker to yell at us and thought I might have to make a quick run for it, but they must had been gone. As I got closer, the smell of the sun beating on warm flesh was much stronger, and I heard a heavy buzz from flies. I then went to the top of the ramp and looked over the edge that led to a large construction bin that was about 12 feet high...

...Angie and Bob were still laughing and shouting at me, which I heard through the flies. I peered over the edge but kept a distance so I wouldn't fall into the bin. I don't know how long I looked, but I saw skulls of cows along with intestines, bones, and what appeared to be fat cut up and strewn in the large construction bin. I saw blood everywhere. The flies buzzed frenetically around the carcasses, and I felt a warm gust of air tinged with the smell of rotting meat. Once that hit, I screamed and ran as fast as I could back to The Crick. My throat was dry from screaming, I think I screamed the whole way back to Angie and Bob.

Ang and I then thought we should take my younger sister Big Momma and another classmate there to freak them out, and we laughed at our sinister plan.

downwind | upstream