I sit here alone in a Walmart parking lot, somewhere between where I started and where I’m going. My partner and I were on our way from Arizona to California when our camping trailer suffered a broken axle. We are stranded here as long as it takes to fix it, which so far is almost 24 hours. My partner has to take trips with the car to seek out parts and tools to fix the axle. I am, therefore, alone most of the time as I wait for his return. It is already dark and I’m worried about my safety. My dog is with me, but she is uneasy too.
The parking lot is littered with homeless people–some sleeping in cars, others riding bicycles, several walking without direction. The few I talk with clearly have “issues”–varying degrees of mental illness. Most are suffering from malnutrition, are weary and filthy. An old woman, skin dark as coal, approaches me. She is about as old as my mom, early to mid-eighties. She asks me many questions about my teardrop camping trailer. A few minutes later, she asks me the same questions all over again. She eventually moves on to continue wandering. I wish her well and I worry for her.
Nobody mentions HILLARY in the parking lot, but I already know who the TRUMP supporters are. A white man I met at a gas station earlier in the day where I was also stranded for a few hours made sure I was a TRUMP/Sheriff Joe supporter before deciding if he should help me. I stammer and say I haven’t voted yet and that, yes, many people seem to like Sheriff Joe. He said Joe believes in the constitution, and this guy, now with a crazed Jack Nicholson look twisting his face, tells me he is happy to take up arms against the enemy. I am frightened by this man.
Late at night, back at the Walmart parking lot, I anxiously wait for my partner to return from a 3-hour round trip he must take because of our situation. A fancy pick-up truck loaded with young white males, blinking lights and a TRUMP sign as large as a twin bed is cruising the mixed-voter parking lot. The white posse drives around, blaring music, hooting and hollering. I am frightened, because I feel helpless here. I am not for their cause, so by default, I am their enemy. I am relieved beyond measure when my partner returns around midnight. I am grateful I haven’t been harassed. Though I’m not thrilled we must now sleep in this parking lot over nite, at least I am not doing it alone like most of the homeless.
The following morning after my partner takes off again on a parts run, an elderly white lady about the age of my mom approaches me and inquires about my situation. She reminds me this is a dangerous area, filled with dangerous people, especially dangerous homeless people. She hates coming here, but cereal is $2 cheaper than at her local store. I assure her I’ll be okay with the homeless people. If I were to be attacked by the homeless, it certainly would have happened overnight. The homeless looked at me and my trailer, they waved, they chatted, but they did not fill me with fear. She leans in, as if about to share a secret, and makes sure I’m voting for TRUMP. “Of course,” I say, sensing that is what I should say, but I am definitely not voting for him; I am protecting myself. Content with my answer, she asks if she can help me in any way and when she cannot, she wishes me well and walks away.
Sometime after my partner returns, a middle-aged white man who appears to be autistic emerges from a vehicle that’s just pulled in to the parking lot. He shuffles over to us and insists on giving us a dollar. We insist we don’t need it; we have what we need. He won’t leave till we take it. He seems robotic in his movement, like he has been pre-programmed to make this gesture, like his program requires he wait till someone accept this dollar before he can move onto the next task of shopping at Walmart. We accept his gift, thank him and he shuffles away.
Moments later, I stuff the dollar in the bark of a nearby tree, hoping a homeless person will find it.