------ Part One - Rain ------
This kind of thing never happens in real life, not to me anyway.
An unexpected storm, an unplanned meeting away from work, and a split second decision to perform an act of kindness led to a friendship, and that friendship led to something more. I'm an idiot for even considering writing about it, but I can't seem to stop reliving the details in my mind. So, here it goes.
As part of my job, I routinely have meetings that require me to leave my office on the base and drive to other locations on San Antonio's south side. If you are familiar with most bases around our country, you'll know that people don't build million dollar homes and fancy neighborhoods just outside the base. Instead, you have a lot of industrial places, run down neighborhoods and very often, the poorest of people. It is sad really, and to be honest, where I work is one of those places that, once off the base, you probably don't want to go at night if you don't belong there.
Over the years, I have had cause to drive up and down most of the streets on the south side. From driving to junk yards looking for parts when I used to work on cars with my father in-law, to wasting a Saturday drinking beer in shady bars with my brother-in-law. I don't fear the south side like a lot of my co-workers do, but there are few places I'd park my truck and leave the doors unlocked.
To say that the most folks living there are at or below the poverty line is an understatement. San Antonio has a lot of really rich areas, and as far as a city of minorities making it, it's true. It is a multicultural city where in the newer, middle and upper middle class areas, you can have just as many Hispanics and blacks as whites on a given street. I'm not sure why I point it out, but I guess I don't want anyone reading this to get the idea that San Antonio is some slum. Yes, there are pockets of run-down areas, and the area I am talking about is one of those, but we aren't talking ghetto, just a little seedy.
We are in a constant state of drought in south-central Texas, so anytime it rains, I'm pretty damn happy. When I left my office and walked to my truck, I could see the sky was looking a little crazy, and all I could think was, bring it on. I drove off the base and down the road where, almost like a light-switch you make the connection you have just crossed into a different area. I drove through an area with a few convenience stores, tire shops, houses with makeshift repair shops operating out of the garages, and an equal number of Mexican restaurants and hole-in-the-wall bars, one right after another every few streets until I was back out on the the small stretch of road leading into Port San Antonio, an industrial complex where I had an unplanned meeting to urgently discuss a work related issue.
Just as I was leaving my meeting and climbing into my truck, the sky just opened up and beautiful rain came pounding down on my windshield. Of course, this meant I'd have to walk back into the office and get wet. Even with the umbrella I always keep in the truck, my slacks end up soaked.
I drove again toward the little path through the "barrio" as everyone who takes the shortcut around the base calls it, and the rain was doing one of those things where it is really coming down, then just lets up for 10 seconds, then starts coming down again. Just as I was coming around the curve, I noticed a figure up ahead walking up on the curb (there are no sidewalks) and some asshole hit a small puddle and splashed the person. I have to admit, I laughed at first, but then saw that it was a lady carrying a baby. The puddle wasn't that big, and the splash wasn't that bad, but still, jerk move.
For some reason, when I saw that there was a baby involved, I guess my fatherly instincts kicked in and even though there is no shoulder, I put on my flashers and stopped the truck when I got to the young lady. I rolled the window down just as the rain let up for another few seconds and semi-yelled, "Are you okay?"
The young lady looked up at me, caught off guard of course, and just shook her head. I looked in my rear view mirror, worried someone would rear-end me and then pulled out my security badge and showed it to her. "I work at the base, I'm not a serial killer." And then I chuckled.
She looked at me and smiled and said, "No, we're okay. It isn't far."
I reached down in the side door pocket and grabbed my umbrella and said, "Here. At least take this, I don't need it." Just then a huge lightning bolt and accompanying thunder cracked down and without another word she opened the truck door, handed me her child and jumped in.
She put on her seat belt, then grabbed the little girl and held her in her lap. I turned off the flashers and drove ahead, hoping we weren't going far. The last thing I needed was a ticket for having a kid without a car seat. "Thank you, sir. That lightning scared the shit out of me!" she said, then started to laugh.
"Where are we going?" I asked.
She pointed straight ahead and said, "We're just on the other side of Military." (the name of the road).
It was actually another mile or two up the street, and I was thinking to myself, why doesn't this lady have a car? It continued to storm and when I pulled into the gravel driveway of the house, I could see that it was really three houses on one property, and each of the houses had been divided into apartments. She said hers was number 3A, which equated to the house in the back, first apartment.
I drove up to the building and said, "I don't mind waiting if you want to sit here until this rain lets up."
She smiled again and thanked me for being so kind to her. In the few minutes that it took for the rain to let up, we introduced ourselves, her name was Veronica, and her daughter was Emma. I asked about the father, and she said he (Jonah) was at work with their only car. She said he would be pissed to find out that she had walked so far with the baby in the rain, but she had decided to meet a friend of hers for a late breakfast. The friend had picked her up, but a sudden phone call while they ate caused "the stupid bitch" to leave her stuck with the bill and having to walk home 2 and a half miles - in the rain.
"I'm just glad you rescued us. Thank you, sir." She put out her hand and we shook hands, and then she told Emma to tell me thank you, and Emma offered a little baby-talk version.
I pulled out one of my business cards and handed it to her and said, "Look, I can't promise I can leave at a moments notice, but if you find yourself in trouble, please don't hesitate to call me. I'm just up the road on the base."
As they climbed out of the truck, Veronica grabbed her baby bag then apologized for getting the seat all wet. "Don't worry about it - it's a truck." I said, and I watched her open the door and walk inside, waving goodbye.
It was at least three weeks later when, in all honesty, I had forgotten about my small act of kindness, and then there was a message on my voice mail. "Sir, I don't know if you will remember me, but this is Veronica. You gave us a ride. I need your help, could you please call me? My number is [555-1234]."
I waited until I had a spare few minutes and then called the number. She must have had caller ID because, when she answered she said, "Thank you so much for calling me back, and thank you for not being a serial killer that day."
She went on to explain the dilemma and it was something about needing to get to the grocery store, but that her husband was not getting off until late, and by then, she wouldn't be able to make dinner, and if I could just help her this one time. I thought it seemed really odd. I said, "I'll tell you what, I'd be happy to help you out, but to be honest, I'm really uncomfortable driving the baby around without a car seat."
"Oh, don't worry, I have a car seat here." she promised.
This all seemed really convenient. I mean, if you only have one car, don't you just normally keep the car seat in the car? Either way, I thought what the heck. I cannot lie. I am a pervert and a dirty old man. The truth is, there was no way to get a really good look at Veronica when she was drenched sitting in my truck holding her baby. Yes, she had the Hispanic features I love, and long black hair, but because it was wet, there was no way of determining her style. I never really got a sense of boob size and to be honest, this little trip would give me a chance to see what she looked like normally. "I get off in an hour. I'll come by, but please be ready to go, I don't want my wife chasing us down thinking we are lovers!"
She gave a hearty laugh then said, "Hey, you never know." then laughed even harder.
Holy shit! I immediately wanted to be friends with Veronica. Yes, because I am a pervert but also because I loved her laugh and her quick wit.
When I pulled into the driveway, at about 4:30, I noticed a few other cars parked near the different apartments. My immediate thought was, can't one of these people giver her a ride? Whatever. I got out and went up to the door. Before I could knock, Veronica opened the door with a big smile. "You made it!" and then she hugged me like an old friend. This caught me off guard a bit since I'm not the huggy type.
Since the first time we met she was soaked from rain, I hadn't really gotten a good enough look or an appreciation of just how cute Veronica was. Casually dressed in Levis, a San Antonio Spurs T-shirt and some well worn New Balance running shoes, her dark hair was longer than I remembered, parted to one side and hanging over her shoulders. If she was wearing make-up, it wasn't obvious or overdone anyway, but she had a very nice complexion and was naturally pretty.
Before I could really take her all in, she turned back inside and handed me the car seat and said, "Here. If you can put this in, I'll grab Emma and you'll be home in time for dinner."
As I worked to put the car seat in the truck, I noticed a neighbor from one of the other apartments looking out her window at me. A lady probably in her mid 60's with a scowl on her face. When she noticed me noticing her, she didn't stop staring at all, but just continued the "Mrs. Kravitz" routine.
Veronica tucked Emma into the car seat and we drove out of the small property and onto the main street. As we passed by Mrs. Kravitz, I asked if her neighbor was always so nosy. Veronica asked which neighbor and I said, "You know, that older lady with the scowl on her face, the one in the second building."
She laughed, "Scowl? That's Miss Toni, she is the defacto neighborhood watch. When we first moved in, I saw her watching us so I went and knocked on her door to introduce myself. She wouldn't answer. Another girl who used to live here, the one I went to meet for lunch that day..."
I interrupted, "The stupid bitch?"
Veronica laughed. "Yea, the stupid bitch, that's her. Anyway, she told me that Miss Toni was a little touched in the head. We've been here close to a year and I have never spoken to her. Jonah will make funny faces at her but she never changes her expression."
I loved that Veronica felt so comfortable with me, after all, we really didn't know each other and only three weeks ago, she still wasn't sure if I was a serial killer or not!
During the short drive she asked me about my family, my wife and all the pertinent questions you go through when trying to get to know someone new. I asked her where Jonah worked and she told me he had just started a new job at a car dealership, not as a salesman but doing something in the office a part time basis. He was actually going to school full time using the GI Bill. I didn't want to sound insensitive, but asked if he would be paid enough to move them into a nicer place.
"That's the plan." she told me. But there were some bills that had to get paid before they could do any moving. I didn't press the issue. She told me that the crappy place they were living was a step or two above the even shittier trailer they were in before.
I also asked about her parents. "That's a longer story." she said. "My mom is here in town. I have a younger sister who lives in Austin, going to UT, and my dad, well, he has been in and out of our lives from the start. I haven't seen him in at least two years - he has never even met Emma."
I asked if she had a good relationship with her mother but she didn't answer. Instead, she said, "You are so nice to do this for me. I promise, I won't take advantage of our friendship."
It didn't take us long to get to the large HEB Plus grocery store on the corner of South West Military and Zarzamora Street. The few times I had been into this place, it was a madhouse, filled with senior citizens in those little scooter baskets, and young, 15 year-olds with kids, and their 30 year old grand-mothers all shopping with their Lone Star cards. In Texas, the Lone Star card is the polite and convenient way to use food stamps. We parked and While Veronica grabbed her shopping bags, I grabbed Emma and we went in for a quick shopping trip.
Emma is a cheerful little girl, never once hesitated to let me pick her up and put her in a shopping cart that some jerk left in the middle of the parking lot. I strapped her in and Veronica put her canvas shopping bags in the cart. I pushed the cart and gladly let Veronica lead the way. Between making faces for the baby and talking to her, I kept a pretty good eye and Veronica's tight ass and slight muffin top.
I'm not even going to lie, I was very happy to imagine what type of panties she was wearing, what type of sex she and Jonah got into, and any number of dirty ideas about what I might do if given the chance. But during the trip up and down the aisles looking for things on her list, she would often ask about my wife and whether or not she was a good cook, or if she used a particular generic brand and such. It made it hard to have perverted thoughts about her, but it didn't stop me from taking in the views when she would bend over to get something from a lower shelf, or reach up to grab something on a higher one.
We finished up in the cosmetics and pharmacy section where Veronica had no embarrassment in buying tampons and some KY Yours & Mine lube. Well, she isn't pregnant and they are definitely having sex! She didn't make any more or less emotional look tossing these things in the basket than she did the bananas or yogurt. No hang-ups.
We made our way to the registers and she said, "You pick a line, I always end up behind some asshole with an issue."
I had to laugh, because I always say the same thing. If there were 5 lines and 4 of them were long and one was empty, I'd end up getting the slowest cashier in the store and still be there longer than everyone in the longer lines.
When it came time to pay, Veronica pulled out a Lone Star card and swiped it, and then pulled out her regular bank card to pay the remaining balance of $14.26. For some reason, her card wasn't working and she just looked at me and said, "Great, now I'm the asshole with issues."
I said, "Let me try." and quickly pulled out my own card and paid the bill.
As we walked out of the store, Veronica told me I didn't need to do that, she could have just put a few things back, but I wasn't hearing any of it. I said, "Let's get this little baby home so I can get myself home before my wife starts thinking they are overworking me again."
On the ride back to the apartment compound, or whatever it is, I asked Veronica about her sister in Austin. "How is it she is in school but you aren't?"
Veronica told me that her sister, Mari, was on a full scholarship for one, and for two, she would be done with college already if she had stayed in but quit two years ago before the start of her junior year at St Mary's. I asked, "Why'd you quit, the baby?"
"Oh, no. Emma came after I left school. Emma and Jonah both. I was involved in a pretty bad accident, I was a passenger and when I woke up in the hospital, they told me the girl I had been partying with, the one driving, was dead. There was also a person in another car who was killed. I have no memory of any of it."
I didn't bother to ask anymore detail, but figured that if she started college at 18 or 19, went two years and it has been another two years, it made her about 22 or 23 at the most.
We got to the apartment and Veronica took Emma from the car seat and I grabbed the bags. We walked in the apartment and I headed straight for the kitchen and placed the bags on the counter. The place was clean, not that I expected it to be dirty, but you could tell it was one of these slumlord places where they put in the cheapest peel & press tiles, the cheapest paint, the cheapest appliances and so on.
"Watch Emma." Veronica instructed me as she went back out to the truck to grab the car seat. Emma sat quietly on the carpeted floor in front of the small couch. When she came back in, she set the car seat by the door, then said, "I'd give you a tour of the place, but this is it."
It was a living room dining room combination, a small kitchenette, and there were three more doors, one for the only bedroom and one each for a bathroom and a small linen closet.
"Listen, I gotta run, but I also gotta pee. Do you mind?"
Veronica laughed. "Please be careful. I have my husband trained pretty well, so aim good and lower the seat when you're done."
I figured if she had no qualms about buying tampons and sex lotion in front of me, she wouldn't be embarrassed by a guy needing to take a leak. The bathroom was small, same tile as the kitchen and also clean. I seriously was hoping to find a pair of discarded panties on the floor, but no such luck. I didn't dare open the vanity or look in any cabinets, and when I finished peeing, washed my hands and wiped them on a towel. Yay! Next to the towel on the rack was a fairly well used bra hanging there, a faded 34C on the label gave me a slight stir.
I walked back into the living room and saw Emma still quietly sitting on the carpet, now playing with a small book. Veronica was putting up her groceries and I said, "I gotta run, but this was a real hoot. I hope we can do it again sometime."
"You are so nice to me, I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't helped us out today." she said.
I waived to the baby and started to open the door. "Not so fast, mister!" Veronica pretend yelled. She came to the door and gave me another tight hug and planted a fresh kiss on my cheek.
"Careful." I said, "my wife will think I've been on a date!
She playfully slapped me, thanked me again and said goodbye.
When I drove out of the apartment compound thing, I didn't see Mrs Kravitz but I did see a young girl, maybe younger than Veronica peering out the window of another apartment. She didn't smile or frown or make any faces, but when she saw me look back at her, she closed the curtain. "Don't these people have TV?" I thought to myself, and drove home.