My good friend T. was driving and I was the passenger and we were lost in South Buffalo. She was supposed to drop me off at the Amtrak station and then hop the Peace Bridge to visit family in Ontario. I was just going a few towns over to visit friends. It was hard to find anyone with clear eyes as we drove through bleaker and bleaker blocks of post-industrial abandonment and graffiti and alley cats and pigeon droppings. The few people we saw who looked coherent didn't look they wanted to be looked at anymore than we wanted to be there, looking.
And then T. rolled down her window to a man who looked marginally healthier and more alert than anyone else we'd seen, but the curve we graded his trustworthiness on was steep and arched over chasms of desperation and yet-grimmer options. "Can you give us directions to the train station?"
He shifted his paper bag from one hand to the next and deliberated something himself before speaking. It had been a few days since a shave and probably a few more since a shower and he didn't have many teeth. I noticed one stood sentry in the bottom gum of his mouth, just like the one pane in the cracked mullions of the bashed-in window behind him.
"I don't give directions too good but I'm trying to get that way to get to my sister's. If you give me a lift I can show you." His sour smell blew into the car and he looked at something over his shoulder.
T. looked at me and I looked at her and I whispered, "drive!" and she called out, "Get in."
(part two, tomorrow)