While my travelling companion wrestles with a belligerent windscreen wiper, I pop into a gas station to pick us up some refreshments. Stepping into the brightly lit store, a fakey doorbell DING! announces my entry and a slow drawl comes from the back,
“Be out in a minute.”
“No hurry,” I say, scanning for the drinks fridge.
There is a crash and a series of metallic clunks. A scrawny white woman with not so recently dyed blonde hair scraped back off her face, appears out of a storeroom, pails and boxes in tow. She stops for a moment to consider me. Blue and black tattoos cover both her arms, disappearing into a tent of a pristine white polo shirt, and peeking out again above the collar.
“Be a minute,” she says.
“No hurry,’ I repeat in as bright and helpful manner as I can muster.
With what seems a major effort she bundles the boxes and pails into another storeroom and plods toward me. She looks at me with fuzzy eyes as she makes her slow way round behind the counter. She appears to be concentrating intently on putting one foot in front of the other. She breathes heavily. I am relieved when she makes it to the till. I put my bottles of water down on the counter’s Perspex-protected lottery card display.
“Yes, thanks. Just water,” I offer apologetically.
“Where you from?” she asks.
“Scotland,” I tell her.
She stops what she’s doing and looks up at me appraisingly.
“Well, isn’t that a trip?”
I’m not sure if she is referring to this encounter or to the distance she has presumed I have traveled in order to reach this gas station on the Hoquiam side of Aberdeen tonight. I say nothing while I attempt to assess the situation.
“You speak really good English for someone from Scotland.”
I have no idea if she is joking. I look at her. She attempts to meet my gaze. Her eyes fail to focus. She hands me my change. I thank her for the water and, for the second time tonight, flee.