Last week I waited to make a left turn into my neighborhood and saw a woman jump out of the shot gun seat of a car idling at a red light. She looked as if someone had goosed her. The driver made no effort to call her back though she stood on a nearby curb and stared intently at him. She bounced on her toes as if waiting for him to make a move. She began to walk away after a minute passed, and then he finally turned the car in her direction. Negotiations had begun.
I saw a more vivid version of this story a few years earlier. I heard yelling inside a car beside me on Semoran Boulevard. We were stopped at a red light. The front passenger door flew open. A twenty year old woman slammed it shut and stomped away. She veered behind the car, stepped onto the median and quickly put distance between her and the car’s driver. He leaned out the window and called, “Hey, baby! Come back!” She ignored him and kept going. Then he began to cuss her out in Spanish, shook his fist at her, and hit the horn once. She kept going. When the light turned green he made a u-turn and slowly headed in her direction. He looked grim as if he expected no success in retrieving her.
Twenty years ago I heard yelling up the street from my house. It was 1 a.m., so I peeked out my front door and saw a woman staggering across a lawn at the neighbor’s across the street. Two or three men were inside a car idling at the curb, and one ordered the woman to get back in the car. She screamed at him. Her speech slurred, but I believe she told him to go to hell. She knocked on my neighbor’s door–no one answered. The man in the car yelled again, this time with greater violence. I stepped outside and headed toward the woman. When the men saw me they realized that a witness had arrived, and they sped away.
The woman spotted me and staggered to where I stood at the bottom of my driveway. She asked if she could use my phone. I let her inside and pointed to our land line. I asked her if she wanted some coffee to help her sober up. She glared and said, “I’m not drunk! My boyfriend hit me!”
I retreated to the kitchen to get her some ice, and while I was gone my wife woke up. Judy came out to the living room half awake. She found a strange woman with crazy hair talking on our phone. The lady’s outfit, cut offs and a sweaty tube top, gave her a street look. I took Judy aside before she could make unfortunate assumptions and explained the situation. The woman put a hand over the mouth piece and asked, “Where am I?” I told her, and then she gave instructions to the person on the line: “Pick me up at the 7/11 at Forsyth and Aloma.”
She hung up, and I offered her a ride to the convenience store. She refused and headed out the door. I followed after her and watched her walk up Bougainvillea Dr. I worried that her tormentors might return. A police car turned the corner and stopped next to her. She waved her arms, shook her head and refused to get in the cruiser. They let her go shortly after, and she strode away with firm, determined steps. She turned the corner and disappeared, and the cops drove on.
Fifty years ago my mother stepped out of a car after an argument with my father. We were stopped at a light about three miles from home. We three kids huddled together in the back seat and wished that the nightmare would end soon. My father drove off, and Mom’s figure grew smaller and smaller in the rear window. I felt an odd sensation that I was the one left behind. Two hours later Mom opened the front door to our house, came inside, and hung up her coat in the hall closet. We all pretended that nothing had happened.