While the urge to apologize is almost overwhelming, I will post this Life in the Real Desert sans soppy sorries and jump straight in. Death, I have learned, is a red car. A Volkswagen Beetle, current model and the driver is a middle aged woman of Mexican lineage, or possible Native American, and the portly lady wears glasses that are coke bottle thick. Were it not for sheer luck and the later warnings of two lorry drivers on break, my life would have ended a three weeks ago.
On my daily pilgrimage back from the local town, I was on the long straight stretch of road that runs between a pest control warehouse and the “Super 8” hotel. Both sides of the road are covered in aggregate, sand and rock. In the evening, around 6 or 7 o’clock, there are not many drivers out and about and it is usually this spot where I stop for my first gulp of water and where, if it is hot enough, I take off my shirt for the remainder of the ride home.
The night that I met death, and defeated it, it was not too hot, but it was uncomfortable enough to warrant removing my vest, aka T-Shirt. Coasting on the edge of the paved road, I pulled off onto the aggregate just as a red Beetle passed through the space on the road that a scant second previously I, and my trusty Schwinn, had occupied.
Practically falling off the bike, I stared at the vehicle, which was moving so slowly that I could have caught up to the driver by walking quickly. As I watched, the car crept forward and swung out to the right as it began a long leisurely about-face in the road ahead. When the car was facing my way again, it pulled over onto the aggregate shoulder and sat idling.
The driver, as mentioned above, was a heavy set female, black hair with grey shot-through and thick glasses. The lenses distorted her eyes, making them look insectile and huge. I froze and waited to see if I could be quick enough to get out of this mad woman’s way when she headed back to town. After a moment she took off, hugging the shoulder on her side of the road.
I stood watching the spotless red Volkswagen move slowly towards the truck stop and the entrance to the highway. When she drove out of sight, I turned and shakily got back on my bike. The thoughts running through my head had to do with luck and timing saving the day. I was so rattled that the T-Shirt stayed on and I continued on toward the hotel.
Two men, lorry drivers, stood outside the back of the building next to the road. They were drinking either Red Bull or some local equivalent. As I approached the two chaps they turned toward me staring. I checked to make sure I had my pepper spray handy, as a precautionary measure since it was getting dark, and one leaned toward me.
“You want to move man, she’s not looking,” he said. His companion repeated the warning, “Yeah, get off the road man, she is not looking at all.” The alarm in his voice got me onto the aggregate once again and just as before, the red Volkswagen Beetle passed the space that I had just vacated by nano seconds.
One of the drivers muttered something about the driver and I said, “That’s the second time she almost got me.” I never stopped the bike and kept pedaling, attempting to put as much distance between me and death as possible. Around 10 minutes later, I heard a car coming up behind me. With my heart in my throat I zoomed off the road and onto the shoulder.
It was not the red death car but a truck. While this driver did not give up too much space on the road, he did not get close enough to run me down either.
Later, as I sat sweating in the night heat, I reflected on the way the woman had driven and then sat looking at me with those huge eyes magnified by glasses so thick that they did not look real.
I got the shakes. The way you do when surviving a close call and having the gravity of situation hit all at once.
In my mind I could see myself not leaving the road the first time. The bug-eyed woman would have driven slowly over me and my own red vehicle. I would be knocked down and under those Beetle wheels, which would roll over my bones crushing them as I screamed in agony. This vision was so real and disturbing that for the next two weeks, if I heard a car coming up behind me on the road, I would scramble off and on the shoulder, heart racing and blood rushing to my head.
Finally, I have calmed down enough that I do not see that heavy woman and her red instrument of death sitting on the side of the road and looking myopically in my direction, in my mind’s eye. I have racked my brain wondering who I may have upset enough to try to run me down, in slow motion, not once but twice, turning around and having another go but missing each time.
Who ever it was has left me with a phobia about red Volkswagens, not to mention one’s driven by visually challenged heavy set Latino women who do not go faster than a crawl. All the better to drive quietly and sneak up behind someone to run them down.