Tonya was my best friend, and she died last year of the seventh cancer that finally killed her. Tough, tall, take no shit, she was a powerhouse of a woman.
Before she died, she told me this story. In the years before she found sobriety, she lived a wild life, and this is one of those unforgettable scenes from the insanity.
How the Pervert Saved Her Life
The Pontiac Le Mans was lean and low and she sang
swing low sweet chariot as she drove
to her self-appointed date with death.
In the dead of night, in a halo of lights around a bar,
a hitchhiker waited, odiously dressed
in overcoat and hat. She screeched to a halt,
threw open the door and said get in,
take a long last ride in my Le Mans.
He got in, misreading her intent.
She tore out of there, fishtailing.
There was no moon in the mountains.
The road was a tunnel writhing like a snake
and she sang swing low, my sweet chariot
thinking of the river, the swift, mean river
hidden in the darkness below the road,
and the Le Mans carrying her home to it.
She dreamed he slid his hand between her white thighs
and she screamed in outrage you pervert!
You sonofabitch! I’m out to kill myself, and now
I’m taking you with me! He cowered in his overcoat,
clinging to the door, as she swung the wheel
of the mighty Le Mans to and fro across the road
scraping the car with roadside shrubs.
You crazy bitch let me out, he hollered at her
but she hurled her fist into his face, connecting
with his nose. He sobbed out loud. He spit blood.
She laughed. The river was coming for to carry
her home, and he, the man with the wandering hand,
would see that she didn’t go alone.
Then please he said, soft as a lover, soft as a kitten,
and something broke in her, some wild and keening
sound fell silent, interrupted. Startled,
she pulled over, turned off the car. The Le Mans
fell silent. The black mountain above them
was silent. Below, the river swept on.
He flew from the car, slammed the door,
and vanished in the dark. She sat dumbfounded,
strangely happy the Le Mans was safe.
Carry me home, she said, and turned the key.