Without a Thought

Without a Thought

From Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrating People Who Make a Difference

Without a Thought

If the creator had a purpose in equipping us with a neck, he surely meant us to stick it out.

Arthur Koestler

Rolling my car window down was not enough to keep me awake at five o’clock on a cold and dark winter morning. I had just ended my night shift at a local mail processing plant and was starting my fifteen-mile journey to pick up my four-month-old daughter.

I swooped my braids to the back, then pulled my skullcap down over my ears. I blasted the radio. I sang loud and off-key to the music and through commercial breaks. I needed to stay alert.

I guided my car onto Cedar Avenue, a long road that runs miles from downtown Cleveland to the eastern suburbs. Streetwalkers and drug dealers inhabit the first few blocks on Cedar Avenue, so I proceeded with caution—doors locked, windows up, and sitting upright.

Despite my efforts, I found myself asleep at a green light and with a set of headlights beaming in my car from the rear. I didn’t want to be the lead car so I slowly eased my way through the light. Even with the right lane clear of traffic, the vehicle behind me did the same.

To my left were a few condemned textile factories and dilapidated homes. To my right was an open field and a lady dressed in a pair of slacks and a long thick coat and standing at a pole marked “Bus Stop.” The vehicle behind me quickly switched to the right lane and abruptly stopped in front of the woman. She walked away. The vehicle backed up toward her. She picked up her pace in the other direction. The vehicle crept forward.

I proceeded to the next light, watching in my rearview mirror the headlights of the other car steadily creep along. My unease turned to concern; that woman was in danger. I turned around, headed back in her direction, and pulled up close to the car that was now up on the sidewalk near the bus stop. The lady frantically walked toward the open field. Out of fear for her, I put as much bass in my voice as a woman possibly could.

“Leave her alone!” I demanded, my skullcap pulled down to my eyebrows and over my ears. I hoped I would pass for a man.

“Mind your own business!” a man shouted from the other car.

I didn’t know what to do next. Without thinking I drove over the curb, into the open field, over gravel, broken glass, and debris. The man jumped out of his car to pursue the lady on foot.

“Help me!” she frantically screamed.

“Leave her alone!” I demanded, still trying to sound like a man.

“Mind your own damn business!” the man shouted again, picking up his pace behind her.

I pulled alongside the woman, “Look, I don’t know you and you don’t know me, but you better get in this car now!” I swung open my passenger door. She jumped in, the man leaping after her. I sped off before she had a chance to close the door, causing him to loose his balance and fall onto the gravel.

I drove a couple of blocks. What had just occurred began to sink in. Relieved to have gotten away safely, the woman held her hand to her heart and thanked me. Between breaths, she managed to tell me her destination and how much she appreciated my bravery. Minutes later, I dropped her off at a well-lit bus terminal. I watched her walk away, pause, and turn back as she mouthed the words thank you.

I sat in my car alone. My hands trembled on the steering wheel. It frightened me to think I had risked my life to save someone I did not know. It hurt me to realize that my baby would have been without a mother. Suddenly, I was no longer cold or sleepy, and there wasn’t a song on the radio I cared to sing. Instead, nervous and scared, I gave thanks and prayed out loud.

Vickie Williams-Morris

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