Hitchhiking in Austin

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by Jan Seides
Saturday 6th June, 2009, 4:08am

When I was going to the University of Texas, I used to hitch rides all over town in Austin. That’s because I could never afford a car that lasted more than a few months. It would have been illegal to hitch on the highway, and anyway that was dangerous, as a friend of mine found out, nearly to her permanent cost. It was probably dangerous in town too, but somehow I never really thought about that.

There was a University-run shuttle bus to campus, but it didn’t come to East Austin, which was where I lived. There’s a whole ‘nother story behind why it didn’t, but suffice it to say that East Austin was where the ethnic minorities lived. And the students who were putting themselves through school, rather than depending on mom and dad to pay for everything, including a room in the dorm or an apartment. I shared a house with 4 other people — mixed genders, which caused some stir amongst the faculty in the Music School, I found out. One of my music theory teachers took me aside and told me they were talking about me in the faculty lounge.

“What in the world are they finding to say?” I asked. I was an undergrad. How did I rate this attention?

“Because you live with two men”

“And two women!” I countered. “And we’re all in Fine Arts.”

“All the more reason,” he replied.

I should mention that gossip was an ongoing entertainment in the Music School, faculty and students alike. I should have expected this. Still, I was pretty surprised.

Anyway, it turned out that there was a man leaving work at the warehouse a block away at the same time as I had to leave to be at an afternoon class. He picked me up several times. One day, I needed a ride to the other end of town, and he agreed to take me there. We got to talking on the way.

He’d been in the military, he told me. I expressed my sympathy. But no, he’d enlisted. I wondered aloud why he would do that. He answered me by saying, “I wanted to see what it felt like to kill someone.”

All sound in the car stopped, including breathing.

“I’ve scared you,” he said.

“Or shocked you,” he went on when I didn’t answer.

I finally got my heart started again.

“No. If you were going to hurt me, you’d have done it by now. But I just realized I was a fool to believe I would get through my whole life without meeting someone who felt like you do,” And every other way too, I thought to myself.

After that, I took the city bus.

Category: This ‘n’ That

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