Wednesday, November 01, 2006

No. 030

Driving home in the rain from making a (too-small) deposit at the bank one morning, I saw a young woman standing on the side of a farm-to-market road, soaked in the cold fall rain.

She held a shoulder bag and a bright-orange teddy bear.

I stopped to see if she needed help, which she, of course, did. I gave her a ride to the home of a couple of her friends. The shoulder bag held her makeup, a laptop computer, and a cell phone. She is 21 and she fled her 36-year-old boyfriend because he “woke up arguing.” She said he did not hit her; she was just tired of the arguing, and that recently he got another woman pregnant. She told most of the story as if she’d told it many times.

The young woman I gave the ride to said she has a five-year-old son and that she makes some money modeling for calendars in Dallas. She said she wants an 8-to-5 job – some stability – and wants to get her GED. In the county, one in five pregnancies is to a girl between 14 and 17 years old. Nearly three in 10 adults do not have high school degrees or GEDs. I gave her my card and asked her to call me about that because Educate Van Zandt – I’m president of that right now – hosts GED classes in the county that are taught by Trinity Valley Community College.

Will she call? Who knows? Will it do any good? Who knows?

I will not moralize about her situation, including whatever other details she didn’t tell me. Her life is what it is because of an accumulation of bad decisions. It’s certainly a valid life that will take some grit for her to change, if a second or third chance is what she really wants.

I hope she does.

Today, I think of her soaked in the cold rain, holding her teddy bear on the side of the farm-to-market road. I think of her as a muse who rejected her artist because he didn’t listen to her. She looks for someone who wants her, or perhaps looks for herself. A muse for a muse?

She is a minor muse, nonetheless real. Surely she is not Melpomene (the muse of tragedy) or Thalia (the muse of comedy and of, it seems, the countryside). Surely not any one of those nine daughters of the Greek god Zeus and of Mnemosyne, (who was – or is? – the goddess of memory), for they all have greater things to tend.

Perhaps this is some modern muse from our own age of distrust and disgust.

Perhaps, when I let her out of the car in front of her friends’ house, she changes her mind and gets another ride and ends up in a traveling medicine show where, on the road, she sleeps and spends most of her time in someone’s suitcase between the folds in the clothes, and hears the sounds of many adventures during the seemingly endless journeys with infrequent stops where, when the steam calliope plays, she comes out to smile and dance for the rubes.

The teddy bear ends up on a shelf in a local Goodwill store with a missing ear and a ripped-out button eye, water from its mud-matted “fur” puddled onto the shelf’s faded paint until it finally dries.