Ft. Lauderdale, Fl USA
Once again, my thanks to the greatest collaborator this poet has ever had..
Rain sounded out staccato beats against the windshield glass
As needle drooped to indicate that I was low on gas.
Six days down Texas highways hauling cargo takes it toll
And I could feel the weariness go right down to my soul.
Through rising fog I saw the glow of diner's neon light
As smile broke out from ear to ear at such a welcome sight.
I eased the rig into the lot and entered through the door.
Outside I heard the rain beat down as winds began to roar.
The diner was a clone like many others of its kind,
A little spot of heaven weary truckers loved to find
Where steaming joe against parched lips made tired faces smile
And helped to ease the loneliness one felt, mile after mile.
I thought I had the whole place to myself, to tell the truth,
Until I looked and saw the lady in the corner booth.
Her face was filled with sadness although it projected grace
And I could see a small bruise on the left side of her face.
Although he hadn't noticed her when he walked through the door,
His entrance made her spill some coffee on the diner floor
She didn't lean to wipe it up, just shrank within her seat,
And tried to calm her pounding heart that almost skipped a beat.
"It's just another trucker." She repeated in her mind,
"I'm miles away from home, too far for anyone to find."
She stole a final glance his way, then turned her head and sighed,
Her face reflecting weariness from all the times she'd cried.
Her thoughts began to wander as she tuned the diner out,
Retracing what had brought her to this place of fear and doubt;
She drifted in her solemn thoughts, a little while, until
Her rain-soaked clothes began to give her skin a sudden chill.
I saw her shiver from the cold as she hunched in the booth.
Her age was hard to tell but she was not too far from youth.
Her hair was matted to her face, her dress was sopping wet,
Her eyes exuded sadness that I never will forget.
I took my jacket to her and I said, "Excuse me, miss.
Not tryin' to poke my nose in but you might be needing this.
You're apt to catch your death of cold the way you're freezing so.
Just slip this on and warm up till it's time for you to go."
I saw her head raise slowly as she looked into my eyes.
Her face conveyed a look of need that took me by surprise.
She tried to smile although it didn't turn out quite that way..
"Do you think I look pretty, mister?" I heard her voice say.
He seemed to hesitate a moment - silence filled the air,
His pause however, seemed to be much more than she could bare;
There used to be a day, she thought, when there was no delay ...
She must be truly hideous, she knew, and turned away.
Her lips began to tremble, and her eyes began to fill,
Beneath this stranger's jacket she could feel a bitter chill;
Her husband must be right, for yesterday, when she had fled,
The last words that he yelled at her had filled her mind with dread.
"What happened to the Beauty Queen who won the County Fair?!?
Just look at what a mess you are!" He spat into the air.
"Go run and hide, that's what you do, you're useless here to me!
I should have married Suzie!" he screamed out defiantly.
Now here she sat ... no beauty queen - a parody instead,
Her beauty must have faded over time, just like he said;
She turned to face the stranger, knowing that he wouldn't care,
But met his thoughtful gaze and saw a kind of softness there.
"Do you think I look pretty, mister?", she said, once again.
"Am I the kind of girl who seems respectable to men?
Do you see any qualities that say that I'm ok
Or am I just a loser like he told me yesterday?"
The sadness in her voice was thicker than the fog outside.
The pain she felt, I knew, was more than her heart could abide.
Abuse and mental anguish drove her to this sad despair
And I felt overwhelming grief for that girl shivering there.
I'd seen it happen many times from over-bearing men
When faced with their own failures, thinking what they might have been
Take out frustrations cruelly on their families or wives
To not accept the fact that they had ruined their own lives.
I took her hands in mine and squeezed them gently with a smile.
I said," The rain is letting up - be sunny in a while.
Yes, you ARE pretty! I'd be proud to have a girl like you."
Her smile was real because she knew the words I said were true.
The stranger turned and walked away, but left his jacket there,
He crossed the diner, waived the waitress over to his chair;
The lady watched him order, from the corner of her booth,
And felt a warmth she hadn't had since she was in her youth.
A little glow of self-respect rose slowly from below,
A part of her she'd lost it seemed, so many years ago;
"I don't deserve his cruel abuse. It's he who changed, not I."
She thought about it long and hard, then gave a little sigh.
She knew just what she had to do ... her sense of pride returned,
She walked up to the counter, paid her bill, and then she turned;
She saw the stranger sipping coffee, finishing his meal,
And moved in his direction, with a lightness she could feel.
She handed him his coat and leaned to softly kiss his cheek,
A move that made him blush so hard he couldn't even speak;
She said no words, just walked away, toward a better end,
Though paused to hear the waitress say, "She paid your tab, my friend."
"She told me as she paid your bill, to let you know this part ...
That jacket may have warmed her skin ... but you have warmed her heart."
The trucker looked and saw the young girl walking out the door.
Somehow the night was not as cold as it had been before.
Another thirty hours it took to reach my home and wife.
The time can pass by slow and lonely in a trucker's life.
I pulled in near to three a.m. and entered through the shed
Then tiptoed in to not disturb my wife asleep in bed.
Undressing quickly I slipped in between the cotton sheets
And kissed her in that special place where neck and shoulder meets.
I whispered softly in her ear,"You're very pretty, hon....."
Then closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep. This trip was done.
[This message has been edited by Balladeer (01-31-2003 09:03 PM).]