There are so many stories out there. Everyone you see is in the middle of his or her story—most often multiple stories. What they’re dreaming of. What they fear. What they think is happening. What’s really happening.
And sometimes, just for a moment or two, you find yourself a character in one of those stories.
I took a walk yesterday. It was a nice afternoon. Sunny, around eighty degrees. I was ambling along one of the side streets on the edge of town, alone on the street as far as I could tell, and suddenly heard a female voice: “Excuse me,” it said.
I looked around and realized the voice came from the car I’d just walked past. A little red sedan of recent vintage. There was prim-looking, white-haired lady of not-so-recent vintage sitting in the driver’s seat looking at me expectantly through her open window.
“Yes?” I inquired.
She pointed at a house on the opposite corner. Her car was parked just short of the intersection. “Is there a truck in that driveway?” she asked me.
I looked, wondering why she had to ask me. The house was no more than forty feet away and clearly visible. There was no truck. For that matter, there was no driveway.
Should I mention that? I wondered. That there’s no driveway? I didn’t want to cause the woman distress. She looked quite nice, healthy, sounded rational, seemed to be in good spirits even. Did I want to imply she was hallucinating?
No, I did not.
“I don’t see a truck,” I said honestly.
“Oh good,” she said. “Then I can go home. I couldn’t go home as long as they were there. You’re sure there’s no truck in the driveway?”
I looked again. Pleasant, neat little house surrounded by trees with a white picket fence no less. No driveway. No truck.
“I’m sure,” I said.
“Thank you so much,” she chirped cheerily and whipped the car around the corner to park on the street. Obviously not in the nonexistent driveway. She got out, hurried up the walk and disappeared into the house.
Standing there a moment more, I couldn’t think of anything else to do. Call the mental health authorities and try to explain what just happened? Nah. As far as I could tell, she was quite happy that “they” were gone and appeared to have a sufficiently well-functioning life otherwise. I didn’t want to put another “them” in her phantom driveway.
So I walked on, glad I could do my little bit to get her safely home, hoping that she kept finding ways to avoid that damned truck.