I had just got home and closed the tall wrought iron front gate when I heard her shouting to me –
“Sir! Sir!” she said with a phone in her hand, car parked on the other corner of street next to my house.
“Do you have a gas can? I’m out of gas and I’m stuck here with my babies in the car,” she said, almost whimpering.
“I don’t,” I told her, “let me think what I can do,” and I went inside the house with the feeling that if I didn’t help her, no one would.
My first thought was to empty out a gallon of water and use that, but I warned her that there might be a few drop of water in the gas and that could be bad for the engine.
She was on her cell phone dialing relatives frantically, and said her stepfather was supposed to be on his way but she didn’t know how long it might be.
“Could you just stand her with me sir, there’s a sketchy car up the street and it backed up and the people got out are starting at me. They are freaking me the fuck out!”
“Let me see,” I said, and went back through the gate and around to where she was standing.
She was thin, plain white lady with brown hair and brown eyes, and there were indeed two sleeping children in car seats in the back of the battered car while she smoked a cigarette. I sized her up quickly and noticed her that features were fairly clean and her voice didn’t sound intoxicated, and I decided she didn’t look like meth head or anything like that, not that it mattered really - I give money to drunk panhandlers downtown if they ask me.
“Don’t worry I think those people live there,” I told her, “and this neighborhood isn’t too bad. I’ll stand here with you until your family comes if you want.”
The people who got out of the car and walked rapidly toward us, and I could immediately tell they were just teenagers being dropped off and heading elsewhere, and in any case, the Mexican immigrant neighbors across the street were drinking beers and hearing the panic in her voice, they began eyeing the situation with interest.
But the people walking toward us were indeed just boys, and they walked past without a word.
“Thank you,” she said, “my husband was with me, but he left and went to a friend’s house up the next street because he was afraid the police might see us and stop, and he has a warrant.”
“Understandable,” I said, but really it wasn’t - I could not imagine leaving my wife and children in the middle of the streets to just stave off my own paranoia.
“It’s in Weld County, so I don’t think they could arrest him here, right?
“I don’t know, but I wouldn’t chance it either,” I said, trying to reassure her that he husband leaving her alone here was OK…. but I would have chanced it.
“He’s a good man, he works hard. He’s a mobile mechanic. We became homeless back in December and we’ve been living in motels, spending everything he makes. It’s been OK, but these last few days, he hasn‘t found any work.”
She told me she was staying at the Vasquez Motor Inn, and asked me if I was familiar with it, she wondered if it had bedbugs.
She waited and made more calls, and after about 10 minutes when it seemed no help would be coming soon, she said “Can you go ahead use the water jug?”
“Will you need to go to a gas station?”
“Yes I do.”
“Could you give my husband a ride?”
And now there’s this line between compassion and getting yourself too entangled with the problems of strangers that we were edging up to -
“I can get you a gallon of gas, it’s no problem really, it won’t take long, it’s just around the corner.”
“OK thank you!” she said and got back in the car.
As I grabbed the water jug I had emptied out to use as a makeshift gas can and headed for the car, one of the Mexican neighbors whistled for me -
“I have one for you!”
He got into the back of his truck and handed me a red gallon gas jug, and I switched to Spanglish -
“De nada!” he said.
“Ella se quedó sin gasolina?” one of the young ladies with him drinking beers asked.
“Sí, y sin familia también” I replied and we giggled a bit, apparently they had seen her husband leave.
I drove to the gas station and back in about ten minutes, and she was still waiting.
As I poured the gas into her car, she thanked me again –
“God bless you. I’ll never forget you, and your beautiful yard. It’s very nice.”
“Thank you, it’s nothing really.”
“Maybe someday you’ll come home and I’ll have filled your yard with chocolate… or gas cans!”
I smiled a bit at the thought.
“You wait here a second and I’ll go get you all the change I have, it’s not much but you can get a little more gas at the 7-11 on the corner, and get you little farther down the road.”
“God bless you!” she said again.
I came back with bag of change, and a bag of snack mix and a can of peanuts – things I’d usually use for a casual weekend poker game.
“Here you go. Do you want some snacks too?”
She accepted and thanked me again.
“You all take care!” I said and walked away while she started the car, heading across the street to return the red jug to the neighbor.
And now the neighbor was going with his best English – “You no have one?” he asked, pointing at the red gas jug.
I shook my head no.
“You keep it for you,” he said, “I have two more.”
They waved and wished me a good night, and I did the same.
I went home happy that I could help, happy that I have good neighbors.
And though there are plenty of people down on their luck in Commerce City,
In the middle of the night, we pulled together to get this lady and her family what they needed to be on their way and face another day –
A gallon of gas.
|Intellectual and dabbler in a wide variety of arts and music. I have a BA in Writing, an MBA, but I work primarily in IT. Singer, schmoozer, and all-around life of the party. Some have accused me of being a "Renaissance Man", but I view myself more as a "Jack of all trades, and master of none".|