I am a lady of leisure! No, I don’t work and yes, I admit, I love not working. Sometimes I don’t know how I ever had the time to work and bring up a family. There’s the gym to go to, friends to meet, Spanish to learn and long weekends in Madrid to squeeze into my life. It’s tough sometimes! But, having said that, there are days that are not so fun-filled and I have to try to find other ways to occupy my time so I don’t slip into a Jeremy Kyle watching, sofa squatting slob, which would be oh so easy especially in the winter months. Anyhow, I have been trying to keep my brain active by doing a bit of writing. I suppose that’s also one of the reasons I decided to start this blog. So, a few poems have falteringly been written (maybe after a bit of tweaking some of them may find a way onto here at a later date so hold onto your hats – this may be a bumpy ride!) and recently, after a trip to Tennessee in February to visit Isabella who has been studying there for the last year, I decided to write up one of our road-trip adventures. Anyway here it is. It’s far from perfect, but I enjoyed writing it. And I guess that’s the most important thing. Enjoy x
No One Walks in America
“We could walk?”
“No one in America walks!”
“We’re not American. We’re British. We walk. Anyway, we need some fresh air and exercise.”
We had been snowed in all day. A very un-Tennessee-like snow storm had dumped a load of the white stuff overnight and driving anywhere in our little Dinky Toy hire car was a health and safety disaster waiting to happen. But we were hungry and we needed food and we knew there was a great BBQ place on the main road. It was only a few blocks away, maybe twenty minutes walk, Patty, our guest house landlady, told us. So, wrapped up warmly, we set off.
The snow wasn’t snow. It was ice. The ice was a few inches deep in parts but we found our way down the drive and onto the street. Icicles decorated the mail boxes and sunlight shone jewels on the whited-out front gardens. Our faces tightened in the cold and shone bright pink. We laughed as we slipped and held onto each other as the ice cracked beneath our weight. This was fun! This was a lovely mother-daughter moment. Creating memories for our own memory boxes.
The twenty minute walk took much longer. We were not really walking, we were tiptoeing, creeping along gingerly. As we walked past the block-long playing field of a nearby school the sun had had enough and started its descent. The girlish giggles had begun to give way to tired sighs and irritated gasps at bone-jarring miss-footings.
As we turned into the main road the distant lights of Taco Bell and McDonald’s shone like beacons in the dusk. But there was no sense of welcome despite their brightly coloured frontages. Their deserted car parking lots looked sad and threatening. Our light mood had been sucked out as the daylight had been sucked out by the dusk. This was the main drag through this part of town but it felt empty. A few pick-up trucks had braved the conditions, a couple hooted their horns at the sight of us …. maybe an encouraging “way to go girls” – but probably not. The sound felt ominous. We started to feel vulnerable and we were very alone.
No one walks in America. Let alone in the snow!
The darkness had really taken hold by now and we realised that somehow we were going to have to get back home. It had been hard enough to walk in the light of day. The street lights on the main road were helping us now but we knew that the long walk back past the deserted school playing field and down the unlit residential streets was going to be virtually impossible in these conditions, and very scary! We had come out for dinner but the hunger had left us. What should we do? Should we start walking back now?
I was floundering. I could not make a decision. Then I saw a taxi. Why oh why did I not just hail it then and there? But I was floundering and I could not make a decision.
“Why don’t we go to the BBQ place, then order a taxi from there? OK. Sorted. Decision made. Let’s go!”
But the BBQ place was closed. Domino’s Pizza was closed. The Mexican was closed. Almost everywhere was closed. Maybe the staff couldn’t get in. Maybe there was so little custom that they had shut up early. Who knows? But it added to the post-apocalyptic feeling that had descended over this part of East Memphis.
Then we saw a convenience store. We would go in get some snacks, and ask for the phone number of a taxi company. The lovely guy behind the counter dialled the number for us on his landline and handed me the phone. All the tension left me as I was waiting on hold for the cab control. Two grubby looking men walked in. I hardly noticed. My danger antenna had gone as I imagined a taxi pulling up in five minutes to do the scary icy drive that would not be scary because the taxi driver would be an experienced driver. Right? Nothing more to worry about now except the lack of decent snacks!
“It will be at least an hour ma’am. Maybe an hour and a half.”
“Really? We can’t wait that long. Sorry, I don’t want it.”
“You want to cancel ma’am?”
“Yes I want to cancel.”
I handed back the phone to Lovely Convenience Store Guy as he was serving the two men their six packs of beer.
“You can wait here if you like.”
“Thanks, but it’s fine. It’s going to take too long. We will figure something out.”
Back to floundering indecision. We stepped outside.
As we hit the dark I got a feeling in the pit of my stomach. My danger antenna jumped right back up. I had just had a conversation about needing a cab, where I wanted it to go to, cancelling it and that we would walk …. in front of two men who were now getting into their truck as we stood hesitating outside the store.
It was only 7pm but it felt like midnight in the deserted darkness and I realised that I had just potentially put us in danger. We headed back along the road towards our turn off trying to look confidently as if we knew where we were going.
“If anyone asks us if we need a ride we tell them we have sorted something.”
Why did I even think we would be asked? Sixth sense? Just then a truck pulled up. It was the two men from the convenience store.
“Need a ride?”
“We’re fine thanks. We’ve got someone on the way to get us.”
Just keep walking keep walking keep walking. We held hands, clinging onto each other, gripping tighter every time another pick-up truck drove past us. Then we saw another minimart type store.
“Ok. Let’s go in here. We just need to get off this road.”
The store was bright and warm with a sullen-faced woman behind the counter and empty apart from four, yes four, policemen. They looked like superheroes standing around a self-serve coffee station at the end of the store. I knew that I needed to talk to them. I needed them to know we were not from around here. That we were English. I needed them to know we were in a spot of bother.
“Umm, excuse me. I’m sorry to trouble you but could you tell me the area code so I can try to call a taxi from my mobile.”
I waved my iPhone around as if I had never used one before. After a little joke about where I came from and that it’s a cell not a mobile and did we even have phones in England they gave me the number for a taxi.
“Number not recognised. Number not recognised.”
The recorded voice was more than I could bear.
“It doesn’t work!!”
Was that really my voice? The desperate whine sounded pitiful. I was holding the phone looking at it as if it had personally let me down.
“Where are you two ladies trying to get to?” the main joker policemen with his big fluffy greying moustache asked. “Do you feel safe to come with me?”
I nearly cried! It was pathetic how thankful I was.
“Really? Really? Are you going to drive us home? Really? Oh thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou.”
He was my angel. I wanted to kiss him.
So, for the first time in either of our lives we went in a police car. A police car in the USA. A police car with ‘Memphis Police’ written on the side.
We were giddy with adrenaline as we recounted our story to Patty when we got home.
“I’m sure the truck guys were probably nice and genuinely trying to help us get home.” I said.
“I’m sure they were not,” said Patty.