It’s 12:30am December 20th.
A flash of light catches my eye as I drive down King George street. A woman is in the street frantically waving a flashlight. I hesitate for a moment. My building is yards away. I’m almost home. Do I stop?
I apply the brake before I have time to answer the question for myself. I am an Eagle Scout after all. Do a good turn daily. As I stop I roll down my window. It’s uncomfortably cold outside. The kind of cold that makes you wish you were home. I wish I was home. The woman comes running up to my car, but it was more like an odd fast-paced hobble.
“THANK YOU JESUS” she exclaims.
“What’s going on? Are you ok?” I ask.
The woman launches into a story about a job at the Naval Academy, a broken down handicap van, and needing a ride. Before she can continue I tell her to hop in and I’ll give her a ride. She climbs in and we’re off.
“Oh Lord it’s cold out there. I’m so cold. I didn’t think anyone would help me. Feel how cold my hands are”
She places her hands on my arm. I expect to flinch from an icy cold touch, but her hands aren’t particularly cold for someone who has been outside.
“Where do you live?” I ask.
“My house is in Edgewater and I have money there”
“You see my son is handicapped and on an oxygen tank. While I work at the Naval Academy I have a baby sitter who looks after him. Well, we drive around in this handicap van, but today it broke down. My son only has an hour of oxygen left and I need to get him home where I have more. There is one handicap taxi service in Annapolis but they only accept cash.”
At this point in the conversation we are driving by the mall which at this time of night is only about fifteen minutes from Edgewater. This story seems a bit far fetched, but I’m already committed and I want to see how deep the rabbit hole goes. “Great so let’s drive down to Edgewater we’ll get your money. You can call the cab on our way back and then you’ll be on your way.”
“NO we don’t have time! Can you help me?” She is getting irritated.
“I am helping you by giving you a ride” I responded.
“Don’t you have a bank card or something. Can you help me?” She asked again.
“There it is.” I think to myself. “No way I’m going to the bank right now.”
By this point we’re over the South River bridge. We’re closer to Edgewater than to Annapolis.
“Listen we’re almost to Edgewater at this point we should just get to your house instead of wasting anymore time. Your son needs oxygen we could pick up another tank for him”
“NO we don’t have TIME. I don’t live in Edgewater I live in Deale”
Deale is an additional fifteen minutes south of Edgewater.
At this point I’m fairly certain that I’m being taken on a wild goose chase in hopes that I’ll just give up and go to an ATM. It’s now after 1 in the morning.
“Ma’am I’m not going to go to an ATM. I’ll drive you or your son anywhere you like, but I'm not going to the bank.” I say very matter of factly.
“Just turn around! Drop me off at the CVS.” She demanded.
“The CVS?” I ask confused.
“Yes! Now turn around.” She is yelling at me now.
“Ma’am don’t yell at me.” I’m frustrated.
“What about your son? He’s gotta be running out of air” I don’t even think she has a son at this point. I just want to hear what she’ll say.
She pulls out her phone and makes a call to her baby sitter.
“Yeah Hello? I found this man who I thought was going to help me and he’s just crazy. I thought he was a man of God.”
I glance over in shock at her blatant insult. As I do I realize I can see the screen of her phone pulled away from her face slightly. The home screen of the phone is illuminating her side of the car. No call timer. She’s pretending to be on the phone.
“You’re not on the phone are you?” I ask.
She looks at me half shocked and presses the phone tightly against her cheek.
“This guy is crazy.” She doubles down on her lie.
“Please stop lying...I’m trying to help you.”
She concludes he faux phone call and demands I take her to CVS again.
“Well…how is your son?”
“Oh…Well…The babysitter found another tank in the house”
I wish I was home.
I make a hard u-turn back towards Annapolis completely missing the no u-turn sign. A cop pulls out. Lights on. I pull over.
“OH LORD JESUS! Don’t tell him you don’t know me. Just tell him you know me!” She pleads.
My hands are clammy.
“Please stop talking. I’m not lying to a cop.” My eyes look dead ahead.
The cop takes my information and comes back shortly with a warning.
“Merry Christmas, make sure you pay attention next time.” The cop hands me my license, heads back to his car, and drives away never asking about my new friend.
We sit in silence and I put the car back in drive and head towards CVS.
As we pull up into the parking lot. She cracks her door. Bitter Cold. I’m bitter. It’s 2 am. Before she steps out I ask “What's your plan? What are you going to do?”
“God will show up. You’ll see.” She retorted.
“Ma’am I am a Bible believing Christian who works at a church. I don’t think that God could be more apparent in this situation.”
We sit in silence. The car idling. I let out a deep sigh.
“Can I tell you why I think you’re lying to me?”
She shrugs as if to allow me, but says nothing.
“Over and hour ago you told me that you had a son who had a limited oxygen supply on his respirator. We spent all that time driving in circles and I offered to drive you anywhere and you want me to just drop you at a random CVS. Meanwhile your son is still running out of air and you’re telling me this is your best plan. You better believe that if the clock was ticking and it was my son I would move mountains to make sure he is safe. My offer still stands I will help you and your son, but I don’t believe anything you have told me is true.”
She never looked me in the eye. She just looked down opened her door got out and walked across the parking lot. I sat in my car for 10 minutes and watched her talked to the one or two people that walked in and out of the CVS.
As I drove home I came to a stop at a red light. A car sitting on the overpass in from of me was smoking and began to burn. I sat through four light changes watching it burn before I decided to head home. Sirens in the distance.