Reyna gazed at the moon yearningly as if attempting to communicate with it from the backseat of the dingy taxi she was forced to take that drizzling morning. Another inclement day in that putrefying city. It was still dark out, assisting in shrouding the squalidness, but everyone knew it was there. Men hiding in the shadows willing to maim you for a buck, soiled tents lining every sidewalk with human feces and used needles in-between.
“Here?” The taxi driver withdrew Reyna from her conversation with the moon.
She paid and sprinted across the street, more so to circumvent altercations, than for concern of the unrelenting rain. Her stomach turned as a man steadily approached with a baseball bat clutched in his hand. She tapped her keycard to the reader beside a large silvery door and breathed a sigh of relief hearing it click shut behind her.
Reyna had been working two jobs for the past eight years, oftentimes a third. She, like many others had been dazzled by the city lights, and accepted the higher cost of living, trusting the benefits would deem it worthy. The first couple years had been quite amusing, with much to do, the ability to walk many places, and an abundance of jobs, but things quickly went downhill. The city had a huge growth spurt, rents skyrocketed to ludicrous amounts, the crime rate rose more than 300%, and hardly a day went by without a horrendous act of violence being perpetrated on someone.
She had made it her goal to move out of that city as soon as possible, whatever it took. That was six years ago, and she still hadn’t made much, if any progress. It wasn’t for lack of trying, most days she worked upwards of sixteen hours, refusing to spend money on anything frivolous. Everything went towards rent, gas, and food; the majority of her meals being rice and beans, sometimes potatoes to add some reasonably priced elation. She saved a little here and there, but something always came along to drain that right up, the latest being that she required a new vehicle.
Originally, she had enjoyed not requiring a car in the city, the ease of not worrying about finding parking or paying the associated fees. However, with the downturn of the city, that musing was abruptly snuffed out. Walking was now a vastly dangerous activity, especially so in the early and late hours, and completely precarious if one was a female. The day before an elderly woman had been knocked out and dragged off mid-day. Reyna frequently had customers come in trembling after being pushed in front of a car, or smacked or spit on by the ills that inhabited the streets.
Public transport had become a traveling circus of assaults that one avoided at all costs, rather than be viciously kicked in the face or molested by a deviant. All whilst all eyes looked ahead pretending not to see, in hopes that they were not next. Even the bus drivers dared not say a word fearing what abuses may befall them.
And so was the city, one so tarnished many couldn’t have imagined to see such in the country that they lived. They always assumed that such could happen somewhere else, but never there, such a tragedy could happen to someone else, but never to them, and they went on as if everything was okay, perhaps their psyche too fragile to accept reality. To admit, would shatter everything they believed, so they trudged on in a trancelike state with their horse blinders firmly fastened.
Reyna hurried through her first job as a corporate server, running to and from all the different offices contained within the building. The clanging of utensils, pots and pans, monotonous conversations, and sighs of agitated cooks again filling her day. She called a cab before changing into the uniform for her second job, concerned she would be cutting things close. She needed to a get a new car immediately, taxis were not sustainable financially nor timewise. Yet, how was she going to be able to afford anything that wasn’t a total junker?
The day continued in the same manner as those before, the same endless work just to be able to maintain food and shelter. Upon leaving her second job, she inhaled the night air seething with notes of rotten eggs and wet dog, clutching onto her taser as if the handlebars of a gnarly rollercoaster. She spotted her cab across the street and advanced towards it, the cross walk began shrieking its usual DON’T WALK, DON’T WALK. A man who had seemingly been sleeping or in a drugged stupor raised his head and widened his eyes as he become aware of Reyna.
“Hey baby! Hey! Buy me a beer!” He stumbled to his feet with a needle clenched in one hand. Reyna’s stomach recoiled as she recalled a coworker who’d been purposely stabbed with a needle and was now battling a lifelong illness. Cars continued blasting down the street and the DON’T WALK warning remained. “Hey you bitch! Come here. I got a little something for you.” He was less than ten feet from her when she abruptly dashed across the hectic street.
A flurry of horns assailed her ears as she narrowly evaded being struck by an SUV. She made it into the taxi and managed to mutter her destination before her cheeks reddened and tears began to swim in her eyes. She hated this city with a passion and needed to get out, yet she had tried for so long to no avail. She frequently deliberated just leaving with no savings and dealing with the consequence’s once she got to her new destination, yet those fantasies were short lived once good sense caught up with her.
Reyna looked dubiously at the numerous suitcases brimming with belongings in her living room.
“Hey…you look like you’ve seen a ghost?” Her roommate Machi appeared, tossing a messy pile of clothes into one of the cases.
“So okay, Lam asked me to move in with him,” she grinned fervently.
“They guy you’ve been talking to on the internet?’
“Yeah. I know it sounds crazy, but we’ve gotten to know each other. He lives in this quaint town in Connecticut, and I think this is the right decision for me. I’ve been trying to get out of this cesspool for a while you know?”
“Well, that’s great, I guess.”
“I know it’s short notice and you’ll have to find a new roommate, but I have some good news” she analyzed me.
“It’s fine, really. What’s the good news?”
“Well, I was thinking since some jackass stole your car, you’re probably pretty desperate for a vehicle right now.”
“Yeah, I definitely am but-”
“You can buy my car! I am just taking what’ll fit in this damned luggage and taking a flight out tomorrow evening.”
“I can’t”. Reyna shook her head picturing Machi’s car. A classic white 1957 Plymouth rocking groovy rear fins, one she had envied since first discovering it in the backyard. Machi’s father had purchased it for her when she graduated college. It was astonishing that it hadn’t been destroyed or stolen yet, as a city of such repulsion couldn’t stand to have such beauty within its limits. “I couldn’t afford your vehicle, but I wish.”
“Whatever you can afford,” she shrugged.
“Well then, that would be around $600.” Reyna laughed and began towards her room.
“Yeah right, you’re surely kidding?”
“No $600 and it’s yours!”
“If you’re serious, then definitely. That sounds amazing,” she responded in disbelief. As far as she knew the car was in perfect working order aside from a few cosmetic flaws.
She went to bed that night thinking of something other than the mold spores shrouding the bathroom ceiling, or the bathroom sink that hadn’t functioned in months. At least she would be able to drive directly to and from the parking garages, which had some security, and continue to safely make an income.
Gratitude radiated from her as the days passed, and she put her faith in the 57 Plymouth that allowed continuance of her customary routine. She ran beautifully, and aside from some rips in the upholstery or an exterior scratch here or there, the vehicle was the epitome of perfection in both appearance and performance.
A frown befell her in the parking garage one night as she spotted shattered glass near her vehicle. A window had been smashed out. It seemed to be the only damage however, which was much better than it could it been, having had her previous vehicle stolen from this same garage. Whilst highly safer than parking on the street, criminals would still sneak in to roam the garages and do as they pleased with other’s property, the security usually in an office haphazardly watching the cameras.
The following morning the shop-vac had been extracted from the utility shed and Reyna drudged away eradicating every last piece of glass, especially from between the splitting seat. Something plastic began being sucked up from within the seat. She flicked off the shop-vac and leaned closer. A corner of a plastic bag? She gently tugged on it and then abruptly fell backwards with shock. She peered around the backyard as if someone might be watching her, and then slowly leaned back into the vehicle.
There was money within the plastic bag, and tugging it out the rest of the way she discovered it also held a little black notebook. How was this possible? Who could have put it there? Back inside the house she dumped the money onto the table and counted it several times. It amounted to $20,000. She momentarily worried it was fake, but having been trained to recognize fraudulent bills, she was certain this was real cold hard cash. Examining the notebook, she realized it was blank aside from the inscription ‘Elvis Presley’ on the inside cover, and the first page containing the line ‘Follow That Dream.’
Glancing at the clock she realized she was running late to the auto shop, having been entirely enamored with her discovery.
“She’s a real beaut,” the sweaty mechanic ruled whilst swinging an oil ridden rag over his shoulder.
“Yeah, sure is,” she said eagerly.
“Why don’t you just have a seat over in there, and we’ll get this window installed within the hour.”
She sat impatiently in her seat visualizing the loot she had cautiously concealed back home. Excitement overcame her as she thought of the various possibilities and choices now open to her. The ability to move anywhere she wanted, the opportunity of starting her own business, putting the money down on some land and homesteading. The thoughts flowed, causing her to feel as if she might float up out of her chair. A woman refilling her coffee gave a weary glance, causing her to feel as if an elated bank robber about to skip town with a controversial bounty.
It was pedal to the medal on the journey home, and then all afternoon stuffing luggage with only the most desirable items. Not everything would fit into the car, but that didn’t matter in the least. She was leaving town and she had herself, $20,000, and that 57 Plymouth. She drove for hours that night, not being able to remain a day longer in that city of revulsion. She would call her landlord and jobs once she was state lines away to break the news.
Freedom and joy covered her as if a soft blanket that hadn’t caressed her in eons. She pulled into a campground shortly after crossing a state-line, and momentarily stretched before tranquilly leaning on the vehicle. She looked up at the moon and beamed, no longer wishing upon it to save her, but merely enjoying its radiance as she breathed in the crisp air and reveled in the night music of the rustling trees and lulling owls.