Our old neighbor, the Gypsy, has a bad heart. It's been stopping and starting with every beat. She called and told me in a message, so I called her back and we made plans to visit. I saw her Tuesday and Thursday. Tuesday was a social visit, but when I asked her to call me if she needed anything -- if there was anything I could do for her -- she said that I could come Thursday and help her find the freeway where the storage place full of her mother's things is. I arrived on Thursday, and she was sitting in the asphalt lot, in the driver's seat of her friend's car, waiting for me.
"Get in," she says. "We'll take the baby and go in my car, because I don't want you to have to pay for the gas."
"We can't," I say. "Diego needs the car seat in my car."
"Okay, we'll go in your car." She got out of the Accord and got into my Chevy. Her keys clanged against the floorboard where she threw them.
"Where are we going?" I asked her.
"I don't know. I'm not sure how to get there."
"Get where?"I asked. "The Storage Unit?"
"Yeah. U Haul," she said. Her phone rang. "Go to 59," she said. She answered her phone.
"North or South?" I asked.
"I'll tell you when we get there." I headed South, because that was the general direction she pointed in. She blabbered some language into the phone: Gypsy, she later told me. She was talking to her adopted daughter, making plans to visit her in New York, where she lives. I approached the entrance to 59 South, and the Gypsy started crossing herself, making the sign of the cross, very quickly and semi-consciously, at least twenty times. "Yeah, get on here," she says, immediately resuming her unintelligible conversation over the phone. We merged onto the freeway, and within moments, the Gypsy yells, "Oh no! We're going the wrong way."
"We need to go South?" I say, merging back into the far right lane so that I can exit on Sheperd and turn around.
"No, I think it's another freeway," she says, "Mama, I'll have to call you back," she says into the phone then hangs up.
"It's another freeway?" I need a little clarification.
"I think it's --." She's confused, too.
"Is it 45?" I say.
"Yes. No. I think it's the 10 freeway, sort of."
Sort of? What could that mean? "Is it 290?"
"No. I don't know. You know, I've got the paper at my house. If I can find it, we can look for the address."
I imagine she means newspaper. I'm starting to think we're not going to make it to the storage unit, the one that she doesn't know where it is. "You have the paper at home?" I say, trying to lead her to some sort of detail.
"Yes. I have a receipt from them. I can find it for you and you can find the address on it." The Gypsy doesn't read, can't read. I remember seeing her once at the Kroger, handing her bills to the bag person in the checkout line to read for her.
We pull back into her driveway. She gets out and I tell her I'm going to get gas and that I'll be back. "Okay," she says. She looks back at Diego and squeals, "Oooooooo you're so cute, yrsocuteyrsocuteyrsocute."
When I pull back into her driveway after getting gas, she's sitting on her neighbor's stoop with a long cardboard box. She gets into the car with the box, opens it up and shoves it in between us. The box is full of envelopes of receipts and bills and correspondences. She digs through, every few moments pulling something out and holding it up for me to read. "What's this?" she asks.
"The car registration," I say.
"What's this?" she says.
"A traffic ticket receipt," I say.
"Oh yeah, I paid that," she says.
"What's this?" she says.
"Uhaul!" I say. I dial the number at the top of the page to get directions. The person who answers gives me directions, 34th street between 290 and Magnum.
"Let me talk to him," the Gypsy says. "I want to ask them if I can come Monday to pay the bill."
"We can go out there, now, and pay it," I say. "Unless you don't have the money right now."
"I don't have the money," she says. Which shocks me a little because she was just saying to her daughter that she was going to call the airlines and make a reservation for New York for next weekend. That ticket's gonna cost at least $500. Maybe that's why she doesn't have the money right now. Probably.
It turns out that the Gypsy can pay the bill up until November 20 without incurring any late charges or property loss. She's elated. "We don't have to go now. But thank you so much for helping me."
I tell her she's welcome. I tell her that we have a new car payment due on that day, so I will help her remember the date.