Tonight after dinner, I went to Hancock fabrics to pick up a few essentials for the dress I am sewing for Aubriana. I was all by myself, which is weird for me. Usually I flagellate myself by bringing along at least one or two children, or if I'm feeling particularly masochistic, possibly all of them, including a husband who has painful flashbacks to childhood upon entering a fabric store. I got some pink thread and a zipper and headed back home.
Someone who is obviously business savvy with insider information has placed a 7-Eleven smack on my way home. My sister and I do our best to keep them in business by buying hot chocolate by the gallons. 7-Eleven is the best place to get hot chocolate, because they have the best fixings. My favorite is a shot of French Vanilla and Irish Cream, garnished with those adorable little mini marshmallows. I just want to kiss each one before carefully placing it into the top of my hot chocolate to bob around like a happy buoy on a windy day. The other thing I love about their hot chocolate is that it comes in those cool little coffee cups, you know, the sippy cups for grown-ups, those beautiful little lids that inspire lawsuits and therefore come with many wise warnings, like “Caution: Contents Hot.” This makes me feel cool, probably the result of years of conditioning from watching those two caffeine addicts, Lorelei and Rory Gilmore, of my all-time favorite show, Gilmore Girls. I still curse the WB for first ruining it and then canceling it. That was the year all my favorite shows got the kiss of death. Probably from me loving them too much. I’m dangerous that way.
Anyway, because 7-Eleven is on my way home, I cannot lose this opportunity to stop to get some hot chocolate. This is a risky idea for two reasons: 1. I’m all alone and it’s night, 2. I may run into the crazy gas station attendant who always asks David and I if we are newlyweds, and then seems completely unimpressed when we tell her yet again that we have been married seven years, and then she proceeds to tell us what she’s done at work that day, usually sweeping or taking out the garbage, and then her work schedule and finishes off by telling us her birth date and social security number and the names of all her pet gerbils. This is too much information. But the hot chocolate is worth the risk. I do feel sort of sorry for her, because she’s a little older (she’s been married 32 years) and she probably gets really lonely and bored, but honestly, I’m sort of a recluse and I simply want my hot chocolate, to do the shifty eyed thing for a bit, pay and leave. Instead, I have to do the smile and nod thing, which I’m bad at faking. Maybe I'm just thinking that if no one sees me buy the hot chocolate, that the calories won't count.
She is not there, and I feel guilty for being a little bit glad. Guilt is going to be a large theme in this story.
So, I notice as I go in that I’m the only person there. There is a younger guy hanging around the front of the building. I hurry into the store, get my hot chocolate and leave. The guy is still skulking. He seems nice enough, but he has black hair with a red streak. That I would judge him for this is ironic, considering that today I was telling David how much I want to die my hair with light chunks and make some of them pink. But I don’t think of this until later. Or maybe I'm just being sensible to be suspicious, considering the skulking he's doing at night outside a convenience store.
I’m remembering what I’ve read in advice columns about what to do if you are a woman and alone at night. I walk confidently. I have my key at the ready. I’m not lingering. I’m aware of my surroundings. Just as I’m unlocking the door, he calls out to me, “Hey, do you have a few dollars you could spare?” This completely startles me, so much for mental preparedness, and I jump out of my skin, with all the explosive power of one of those crocodiles on the nature shows as it pops out of the water and snags a zebra. I was lucky I didn't key my car.
Now, in situations like this, I tend to lie before I can think of what I want to answer. I apologize and say no and then this is a direct quote, “You scared the crap out of me.” He apologizes. I get into the car and casually lock the door with my elbow. I don’t want him to be insulted if he notices me locking the door to protect myself from a potential murder, rape or the stealing of my last stick of Stride gum, which all things considered, is a big deal. You’ve seen the commercials. Those things last forever. Although if you are brave enough to chew it, you risk a goat ramming into you or a gang of Germans in lederhosen jumping you so you’ll chew a new piece. I like to live on the wild side.
As I’m driving by him, I’m reconsidering. I sort of want to stop and crack my passenger window, making my van into a sort of rolling ATM machine, and slide him three dollars, which I totally had in my purse. I lied. To prove I’m not a horrible person, I have given people money before. Once I bought some sign language pamphlets from a deaf man in the grocery store parking lot, even though I already knew the ASL alphabet. Of course, in that case, I actually went into the store, thought about it the whole time and then got some cash back so I could find him on the way out. Basically, if you want to ask me for money, it's best to give me some time to think on it.
So, the whole way home it’s bugging me. I knew I probably did the right thing. His intentions could have been malicious. But he looked pretty vulnerable and maybe stranded? I only live a few blocks away, so I come home, find David and give him my three dollars to go back to the 7-Eleven and see if he can find the guy. I think this is the perfect solution. No risk to me. Guy still gets money. I don’t have to feel like I missed an opportunity to help someone. Good things all around.
David comes back home with my three dollars, which is disappointing, but hopefully the guy didn’t really need it and just wanted to buy a package of Doritos and a bottle of Coke Zero. Plus, on the good side, I can treat me and the kids to Wendy’s for lunch tomorrow. Sweet. And hopefully I get some gold stars in heaven for trying to do a good thing.