It’s cold when we pull up to the pumps. The night is tough with an unwelcome chill. The blood made soft by the easy Bay Area weather makes it harder, more rigid. No one should be outside, I’m thinking.
So I’m startled when the knock on the window comes and I turn to see a pockmarked face behind the glass. She is young but there is no youth in her features. Her skin is scabby and sore filled. Her eyes plead.
“Sir, I need to get to my grandma’s house. Can you help me? I have no money.”
The boys in the back stir with uncertainty. What is this? What’s happening? I am frozen. I want her to get away.
“I have kids in the back,” i say. “You have to step away.”
The fragile wall of tinted glass between us does not protect me from her humanness or myself. It just allows it to get closer. More dangerous.
“I’m cold.” she says.
“I’m sorry,” I say back. “This isn’t the place to do this.”
Even as I say the words, I want to reject them. I want some other option.
Then she’s gone.
Later, when we are leaving, I see her in flip flops, hunched and shivering on her way into the station. I am hoping she finds help — the ride to her grandma’s — inside.
Then L, the youngest says, “Dad, why didn’t you give her the Wookie jacket in the back?”