She is scared. She is stranded. She is pregnant.
Her car is broke down on the shoulder of the interstate. And she’s having contractions.
She left home in a hurry. That’s why her clothes are in the backseat. She didn’t have time to pack, so she stuffed things into paper grocery bags and lit out for God-knows-where.
She’s done letting her boyfriend smack her around. It wasn’t just abuse, he ran around. He was bad to drink. She didn’t want to raise her child that way.
It took six months to find the courage to leave him. She left in her old Subaru. After an eight-hour drive, she watched the sunset. She was free.
Things were going fine, until her car made grinding noises. It stalled. Then smoke. Then, a dead stop.
So, here she is.
She cries. She’s afraid. She’s angry. The contractions are getting worse. It feels like her lower back and stomach are going to snap. She wants to call someone, but there’s nobody.
This is the loneliest she’s ever felt.
Vehicles pass by the dozen. None of them stop. They don’t even slow. People.
She says a prayer. But she’s not sure who or what she’s praying to.
After all, she doesn’t believe in God. The outdated idea is something that her late mother believed, and look where it landed her. A cancer ward. A casket.
Even so, she is asking, the best she knows how. She repeats one word under her breath.
They shine through her window. A truck, towing a horse trailer.
An old man approaches the driver’s side. He is gray-haired, brown-skinned, bowlegged. He wears a gold belt buckle. He raps on her window.
The old man is small. He has dark eyes. He speaks soft words in another language. He kneels beside her. He gets to business.
“Benga,” the old man says. “Sí, se puede.”
“Huh?” the girl says.
She pushes. She bears down. Hard. She closes her eyes. Grits teeth. She moans. She weeps.
She remembers her late mother, and how bad she misses her. She remembers standing by her mother’s casket as a girl, holding her drunk father’s hand.
Feelings like that stick with a girl. They make a child feel alone.
She spent her whole life alone. It changed her. It made her feel like an outsider.
“Sí, se puede.”
Screams turn into tiny infant cries. The inside of her car becomes bright white—brighter than any domelight. It’s otherworldly. Like heaven and Subaru have become the same thing.
The old man’s face beams when he hands her the baby. He wraps the child, he places mother and newborn in the backseat. He stays with her, petting her.
She falls asleep.
She is awoken.
It’s two in the morning. There’s a deputy sheriff. It’s dark outside. The officer lifts her from her car.
It looks like a hog has been slaughtered inside her Subaru. Her baby is asleep.
“Where’s that old man?” the girl asks the deputy.
“What old man?” he says. “I found you out here all alone, ma’am.”
Maybe you’ve felt alone. Maybe you’ve gone through hell. Maybe you’re thinking you’re alone this very moment.
And neither are you.