File this whole thing under mental illness.
I've been thinking for a while now that I'd like to move to a larger city, some place with things to do and more people to meet. If my encounter in Raleigh yesterday is any indicator, though, of how a small town girl like myself would fare in a metropolis, I think I'd better stick to smaller areas.
Yesterday I was leaving my therapist appointment, where we'd JUST DISCUSSED my need to set healthy boundaries, and to say NO more often. I was walking out to my car when I saw a woman approaching from across the parking lot. She was speaking, but I couldn't hear what she was saying.
Instead of shrugging my shoulders, turning my back, and getting into my car as quick as my happy ass could, I held a cupped hand up to my ear granny-style, furrowed my brow and shook my head in the universal postering of "I can't hear you."
The woman approached closer, still talking. When she got up to me, she was still talking. She was speaking very, very quickly. I couldn't latch onto what she was saying. I was viewing a program already in progress, and I had just tuned into the show. However, within forty-five seconds I had gathered that this woman had come from (somewhere?) to help her father who was dying of colon cancer, who had in fact died just last night, and that she herself had diabetes, as well as two children (ages were given, but I can't remember) and a brother, and all this was dispersed with a lot of vigorous and pleading "MA'AM's." Otherwise, there were no pauses or breathing. I felt that I was in the presence of a seasoned televangelist who was about to sell me some holy water to sprinkle on the dried tongues of impoverished villagers. She just kept hammering me with how terrible her situation was, and she seemed urgent, but not distraught. She slammed me with one awful fact after another, and, honestly, it sounded like she was standing in front of a group of Wednesday night bible study-ers giving her testimony or something. I just stood there and nodded and got really impatient for the point at which she would ask me for some money. I mean, really, it was going on way too long. Finally, I stopped her and told her that I didn't have any cash.
"MA'AM ALL I NEED IS A RIDE MA'AM IF YOU COULD JUST GIVE ME A RIDE TO THE GAS STATION MA'AM MY BROTHER HAS JUST WALKED UP THERE MA'AM AND I AM DIABETIC AND I DON'T HAVE MY INSULIN AND I CALLED THE POLICE MA'AM AND THEY SAID THAT THEY ARE NOT A TAXI SERVICE MA'AM AND I'M SURE YOU UNDERSTAND THAT PEOPLE FALL ON HARD TIMES MA'AM ALL I NEED TODAY MA'AM IS A RIDE TO THE GAS STATION MA'AM IF YOU COULD HELP ME OUT WITH THAT."
Uhhhh. Uh, sure.
The woman gets in my car, gives me her name, asks mine, and compliments my looks. Says my mother and father did a good job because I sure am a pretty girl.
Sure, pretty. But smart? Smart, not so much.
On the way to the gas station, the woman offers to pay back any surcharge if I could just MA'AM stop at the MA'AM ATM. At first, I'm sitting there with my hands on the wheel thinking, "Why would *I* get a surcharge if she's going to be using....the....oh..." I understand that she wants me to get the cash that I had previously professed that I did not have. I tell her I don't have an ATM card. Next, she inquires as to whether or not I could write her a check. No, no I cannot, and that is the first truth I've told her in the Journey of No I Don't Have ______.
We are in site of the gas station, and the woman says that she doesn't see her brother and that "WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO TURN AROUND WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO DO A U-TURN AND TURN AROUND HERE." And I'm thinking, Oh sweet Jesus God, how am I going to get this woman out of my car? But we're sitting at a red light and after finally just laying it out on the line and asking, "WILL YOU BE ABLE TO HELP ME WITH ANYTHING?"
(You mean, other than the ride I am giving you - a strange, loud lady - to the gas station, risking my own life because I don't have the PERSONAL BOUNDARIES MY THERAPIST AND I JUST DISCUSSED? No. No, I'm afraid I cannot help you beyond that. I need groceries.)
The woman suddenly decides that, even though she doesn't see her "brother" at the gas station, it would be alright for me to go ahead and let her off there. In fact, at this point, she becomes as eager to get out of my car as I am for her to get out of my car.
I turn into the gas station and she gets out of the car as I say to her that I'm sorry I couldn't do more for her. She informs me that I've done enough. And she sounded a little gruff, but actually sincere on that.
The last I saw of her was in my review mirror; she was leaning down and slightly into the driver's side window of another car at the gas station. She was intense.
I pulled away in wonder and amazement at my continued vulnerability in this world, how I fail to protect myself because of my immediate and overwhelming impulse to help others in the face of their need. I could've been killed. I know this. And each of my friends in turn have expressed the same fear for my life.
It's not a lack of knowledge or nievety, per se, that puts me in these situations, it's a level of compassion that meets that of pathology. It's sad, and pitiful.
One day, I've got to get to the point that my friend is - my friend who would shout "Stay back! I'm armed!.....What do you want?" to anyone who approaches her from the street.
My friend says its every bitch for herself.
And bitches don't give rides to random strangers coming up from off the street.
Oh, wait. She did give a caveat.
They'd have to be dragging their own bloodied stump. Then she'd help them.
But I feel like she'd probably look around to see if she herself was in any danger first.
And if the flannel-shirted dude with the chainsaw was approaching, well.
My friend-bitch would run, swiftly, away.
And my friend would live. She would live.
Why am *I* always approached by the crazies?