I was about 30 miles from home en route to Phoenix when I saw her standing along the side of the road. I see lots of hitchhikers but not too many young women hitchhiking alone. I passed her then backed up to give her a ride. I assumed she was going to Tuba City, some 20 miles away. She said she was going to Flagstaff.
The heavy fragrance of perfume filled the air as we traveled in awkward silence. She called someone on her cell phone to tell them she'd gotten a ride and told them exactly where we were on the road. This happened several times over the next hour and a half. I liked the way she'd accessorized for the trip - the lonely pink flower on the side of her head complimented her chipped fingernail polish. It reminded me of Flora Purim meets Billy Holiday.
I asked her name. Marina" she said.
I told her mine and she said she recognized me from the clinic. I attempted to make small talk and noted that this is nice weather for hitchhiking - not too cold, not too windy. (In fact, it's nice weather for wheat pasting too!) I asked if she hitchhikes often. She said she'd been doing it since age 14. She's 19 now.
Someone called Marina on her cell phone. She told them that we were in Tuba City now going down the hill towards the pawn shop and that she'd gotten lucky. This ride was going to take her all the way into Flagstaff. After the call she said "...my stepdad said he's one of your patients and he says hi."
Marina asked whether I was doing a day trip to Flagstaff. People frequently ask this when they're trying to figure out their ride back home. I told her I was going to Phoenix. She asked if I was aware of where the shelter is in Flagstaff and how much it cost to stay there. I wanted to make sure I understood her situation so I repeated what I thought I heard - she was going to Flagstaff and didn't have a place to stay. And like Peace Pilgrim (http://www.peacepilgrim.org/), whom I'd met many years ago while I was in college, Marina had no luggage - just the essentials stuffed into her pockets.
"Yeah, that's right." I called this guy to see if I could stay with him but he hasn't called back yet."
I asked why she was going to Flagstaff. "Well, my boyfriend - he's in jail. He's been there since January. You may have heard about it on the radio. He was drinking. I tried to tell him not to but he has an anger management problem. He went and broke out windows at the high school and community college in Page. He did over $7000.00 in damage. Tomorrow morning he has a hearing and the judge says he may be released. I'm going to be there with him. I hope he gets to come back with me."
As Marina and I talked about what she likes about hip hop and why she doesn't like to dance, I sent my wheat pasting co-conspirator, Stephanie (aka "Step"), a text asking if Marina could stay with her tonight. I dropped Marina off there and got a message from Step a couple hours later saying "...fed, showered, and now she's asleep cozy under a down comforter in the next room. so young."
Here's to hoping Marina and Truzinsky (her boyfriend), make it back safely to the rez tomorrow.