The sun was shining and I had my windows down as I was driving down the dirt side road, approaching someone walking on foot. The person – a woman, I saw, as I got closer – turned around at the sound of my approach and stuck out her thumb. Her brown skin gave her away as a native and I figured she must be heading toward the nearby reservation. I slowed down beside her and unlocked the passenger door.
“Goin’ ta Garden Village…” she mumbled, climbing into my van’s passenger seat.
“I’m not going all the way, but I can drop you off at Gokmis’ Wigwam, if that works for you.” I told her. I wasn’t even actually going that far but it didn’t seem a big deal to drive an extra kilometer and then turn around to go home.
“Yeh, s’fine.” The woman mumbled, barely understandable.
Her slurring was either due to drinking – even if it was only 2PM in the afternoon – or some sort of mental defect but I could safely assume the first from the sour smell of beer coming off her person.
I got up to speed again, staying quiet. I’ve never been much for small talk and never much saw the point with hitch hikers, especially one like this lady whose words were barely discernable as words at all. The only reason I was even there at that time on the road was because I’d gone into town to pick up a bottle of vodka. My drinking wasn’t something I was proud of, but sitting next to this rundown alcoholic of a woman, I wasn’t certain how I felt about it.
I couldn’t be called an alcoholic – I paid all my bills on time, owned a vehicle, kept a steady job – but still I drank every day. Not to mention the whole reason I’d picked up vodka was because I found myself restless and ill at ease by night if I didn’t have something to drink. Did that make me an alcoholic? Or just someone with a drinking habit? I sighed quietly as we turned onto Garden Village road, nearing our destination.
A man and woman were walking on the side of the road towards us, coming from the direction of the reservation. They seemed vaguely familiar to me, since I’d lived there myself for several years in my teens. But people age quickly with any sort of substance habit and I couldn’t quite place their faces.
“S’Bonnie n’ Ray… mmm, walkin’ der…” my passenger mumbled.
“Ah. Yeah.” I replied, not really certain what else to say when I wasn’t sure what she was saying.
It was usually safe to assume anybody who chose to walk from the Village into town was likely a substance abuser of some sort, either having lost their license or unable to afford a vehicle. A lot of them rode bicycles but even that was too much responsibility for the really far gone, like my passenger.
Stealing a sideways glance, I felt sorry for her. Grey hair was cut into a savage mullet, obviously something done by hand with a pair of scissors. Her face was heavily lined, the eyelids droopy behind the thick-lensed glasses. Her teeth – what teeth were left in her mouth anyway – were stained brown. She’d never bothered to put on her seatbelt but I didn’t have it in me to ask her to do it.
Finally we pulled into the parking lot of the now shut down Gokmis’ Wigwam – what had once been a home style restaurant come cover for the owner’s cocaine sales – and I stopped to let my passenger out.
“Alright, have a good one.” I said to her.
She only grunted and didn’t look back as she shut my van door and started walking down the road the rest of the way to the Village. I frowned and sighed again, and turned my vehicle around to head home. I still intended to drink tonight, despite seeing what happens to women who lose themselves to drink.
The world felt particularly harsh and lonely though, as I passed two young boys walking on the roadside. They had plastic bags with beer cans in them that they were collecting from the ditches as they walked. I still considered it miraculous that I didn’t more often see my own cocaine addicted cousin walking the roadside doing the same, but maybe he avoided my street. Or maybe he just wasn’t around to do it anymore.
Turning into my driveway and parking my vehicle, I lifted my vodka-weighted purse and went into the house. Microwaving myself a cup of coffee, I filled half of it with Irish cream from a bottle I’d bought around Christmas.
I skulked back to my room to begin drinking for the day.