After the manager paid her less than he promised, she tipped her head back and spilled her last shot of tequila down her throat. She stuffed the cash in her pocket and began to dig through her jacket making sure she had her phone and wallet. On the surface she tried to calmly search her pockets but inside she felt frantic and rushed to find her keys so she could make a quick exit.
She was on the last night of the run in Rawlins, Wyoming. It was as bad as she expected, and worse than she had hoped. Folks in Laramie had warned her that it would be easier to find meth in Rawlins than it would be to find fresh water. They weren’t wrong. Most the audience members were missing teeth and a disturbing table of young white men kept calling each other the N-Word in the most confusing display of ignorance she had ever seen. When she walked onstage before the show the owner smacked her ass and told her she was “lucky his old lady was here or she’d be coming home with him.” That was followed by scowls from a woman at the bar who did in fact match the description of “old lady”.
She needed to get out of this shit hole.
She felt a rush of relief as soon as she heard the jingle of her keys in her left jacket pocket. She made a fast break for the door. As passed the bigot rednecks playing darts and one of them drunkenly caught her by the wrist “Where you going, baby?” he slurred. She felt her hand tighten around her keys, edges cutting into the soft of her fingers, preparing to use them as a weapon. He was too drunk to hang on and she freed herself from his grasp with a quick twist of her arm. “Don’t leave, funny lady!”, he called after her.
She instinctively quickened her pace as she hit the door. She felt the man lumber after just behind her. She began running to her car, her car key pressed between her thumb and index finger. She had been trained from a young age that women should always have her keys ready before they walk outside to their car. Her hands were shaking violently and she scratched the paint of her car as she tried to fit the key into the door. The mans footsteps getting heavier and louder as he quickly approached. She pulled her front door open and through herself into the front seat of her car, slamming the door behind her and hitting the lock just as he reached drivers side.
His eyes were glassy and vacant as he violently pulled at the door handle. She dropped her keys along the floor board as he began hitting the window so hard she was sure it would break. She felt around in the dark finding her keys, shoving them into the ignition, and throwing the car in drive; she hit the gas without raising her head high enough to see the road. She was afraid the glass would shatter any moment cutting her face. She felt the tires spin over the dirt parking lot before gaining traction and lurching the car forward. She was soon out of his reach and heard his beer bottle smash against the back of her car as her tires screeched. She blew the only stop light in town, turning onto the main road out of Rawlins, Wyoming.
She travelled more than ten miles out of town before she loosened her grip on the steering wheel, her breath returning to a relatively normal rhythm. Feeling safer she turned on the radio, hoping music would calm her nerves. She felt an ache behind her eyes and resentment in her chest as she remembered the many times male comedians had told her that her being afraid was silly. “Bad things only happen if you seem scared, act brave and no one will bother you,” they’d say. Men never understood that women were taught to be afraid every waking moment. It’s a defense mechanism. We must always be afraid so that we can spot danger. We are not allowed be strong because we must always anticipate our own weaknesses.
To her dismay the only radio stations available were country, and after flipping passed the third Toby Keith song she turned the radio off in frustration. How did she even know it was Toby Keith? She’d been on the road in these shit towns for too long. Her fear of not paying rent overpowered her fear of dangerous men in Trump Country. There are plenty of scary men on every corner of the earth, and there is no reprieve if you are living on the street. No one told her that comedy wasn’t made for women when she started almost ten years ago. And now she lacked the skills and resume to retreat back into a corporate day job where she would go home every night to dog and a boring fiancé with a salary job. This was the life she didn’t know she chose.
She quickly settled into silence and felt relieved that she’d be back in Denver before the sun came up. Just as she went to look for her phone to plug in directions she felt the car choke and spit, slowly losing momentum. She pulled over confused as terror filled her chest as quickly as it had left. In the panic of a quick exit she had forgotten she needed gas. She let out a strained exhale and remembered she could call AAA. She might be there for a while but she wasn’t stranded.
As she searched for her phone in her jacket she saw headlights pop up over the horizon traveling towards her in the rear view mirror. Fuck, those men had followed her. Her hands began to shake as she realized her phone was not in her jacket where she had tucked it before running out of the bar. “Shit!” she whispered to herself, confronted with the fact that it had fallen out during her sloppy escape. She did not want to be in the car when the truck reached her. There would be nothing but a window between her and him and she knew he’d happily break the glass to get to her.
She thought the truck was still at distance they would not be able to see her exit the car on this unlit backroad. She grabbed a napkin out the fast food bag in her passenger seat and with a pen in her glove box scribbled a note “Went for gas. Be back soon.” She clicked the dome light to off so it would not light up when she opened the door. She opened the door carefully, pressing the lock button as she exited the car. She quickly pinned the note under her wiper, shut the door and headed into the darkness of the brush along the road.
She ran about 100 ft when she tripped, scraping her face on a rock as she hit the ground. She started to hear the truck approach as she crawled on her hands and knees to a fallen tree big enough to hide behind if she laid on the ground just behind it. She worked to quiet her breathing for what felt like a few minutes but was in actuality just a few moments. She could hear the truck come to a stop on the road near her car. She heard the engine cut, the door swing open and slam shut. She laid there trying to use her ears as her only means of information. After about a minute she heard the door open and close again, feeling a wave of relief, hoping the man had gotten back into the car and decided to head back to Rawlins.
She lay there waiting for the sound of the truck starting when a flashlight tore through darkness in her direction. Her heart slammed into her throat and she began to cry. He was headed towards her. She felt frozen as she began to hear footsteps getting louder and louder. As she lay there in panic clenching her keys so hard, it was surely drawing blood, she suddenly felt what seemed to be a garden snake glide across her neck. Unable to sit quiet any longer she jumped up throwing the snake towards the light and yelling “Leave me alone! Please just leave me alone!” The tone of her voice resembled that of an eight year old being bullied rather than an adult woman. As the tears blurred her vision she watched as the light stopped about 15 feet from where she stood.
“What the hell are you doing out here?” She heard a voice say. The voice was that of a woman, not the scary man. She slowly opened her clenched eyes to find the bar owners wife staring at her in complete confusion.
“Uh—um—I’m sorry, I thought you were someone else,” she said as she wiped the tears from her eyes and the blood from her cheek.
“Those boys are too drunk to come after you, I hid their keys from them hours ago,” explained the bar owners wife. “You dropped your phone on your way out the door, I thought I’d be able to catch you. I didn’t think I’d find you out here trying get eaten by Coyotes.”
“I ran out of gas.” She explained trying to regain her composure.
"Well let’s go,” the bar owners wife said, plainly.
She began to feel foolish as they headed back to town in the old pick up truck sitting in the passenger seat next to the wife. Toby Keith played on the radio and red “Make America Great Again” hat resting on the dash. I guess those kind of white women did exist. She stole a few glances over at the wife as they drove back to town. She realized that she wasn’t scowling earlier. Her face naturally rests in a frown. She wasn’t angry; she was tired.
They didn’t exchange any words on the way back to Rawlins. When they arrived she quickly filled a gas can and went into the tiny station to pay. It wasn’t until they turned back out onto the main road headed out of town that the wife began to talk.
“I’m sorry those boys scared you. They don’t mean any harm. Boys are just being boys,” she said, excusing them for their behavior.
That is exactly the kind of thing she would expect a Trump supporter to say.
“That’s not really acceptable behavior, I was really afraid,” she said quietly but sternly, wanting to express her disapproval but not wanting to alienate her unlikely knight in shining armor.
“I know,” the wife conceded. “But there isn’t much women can do to change the behavior of men. God wired them that way, its biblical. Best to just keep your head down,” the wife explained as if this was fact and not an opinion.
She didn’t respond knowing that she wouldn’t be able to convert this Trump supporter into a feminist in the 7 miles between her and her abandoned car. When they reached the car the she and the wife both got out of the truck. The wife carrying her flashlight in order to aid the process. She emptied the gas can into the tank and got in the car and started it up. She rolled her window down to thank the wife for her help.
“I never heard a woman talk like you did tonight,” the wife cut in unexpectedly. “That was really cool.”
“Oh thank you,” she said surprised, not expecting this Trump supporter to like her jokes and ideas.
“Yeah I never tried to be funny or talk like that in all my life. You are really brave. I could never do that,” she said with a faint smile.
“I’m not brave, I ran into the bushes like a scared cat.” We both laughed.
“That’s true,” admitted the bar owners wife. "You looked like a idiot.”
She laughed but also blushed realizing how stupid she must’ve looked.
“Thank you for helping me tonight. I might’ve died out there if you didn’t trek out there with your flashlight. I really appreciate it,” she said sincerely.
“No problem,” she replied. “I’m glad I caught you. Those iPhones are expensive, i’d have to drive all the way to the Walmart in Laramie to get me one of those.”
They both sat there awkwardly for a moment as my car idled on the dark road.
“Well you better get back to town for more gas, I’ll follow you back until your reach the gas station,” She said reassuringly.
As the wife started to head back to the car she yelled out to her “Hey! You can share your thoughts and ideas too. You don’t have to be a comedian, and you most certainly do not need to be brave,” she urged, trying to sound too preachy.
The wife look at her for a moment with her signature scowl and then a smile spread slowly across the wife’s face, “You’re right. If a scared little girl like you can talk to all those men like that, I certainly can too.”
As she headed back into town she considered the evening. The show was shit, the pay was shit. Those men had terrified her and now she was definitely too tired to make back to Denver by morning. But in the end she realized that between her and Trump, at least one of them was actually making America great again.