My feet were beginning to hurt and the cold was biting the tips of my fingers and toes. I was getting hungry and I badly needed to drink some water.
One by one, the true inhabitants of Downtown Houston started coming out. Several homeless people were setting up their cardboard homes for the night.
I saw a group of young boys laughing raucously and passing a lit cigarette (might have been weed or crack) around. They were mostly black. I'm not sure why but for the first time that night, I became really afraid.
I thought of calling Steve but I felt that he already had his hands full with Isabel's illness.Even if I did get to find a telephone, I had no idea what his number was! There was no way to contact him or anyone else for that matter. I had left my little diary in my other handbag.
I knew for a fact that I was lost and alone. That's when the tears came.
There I was, a full grown woman, thousands of miles away from home, hopelessly lost in America. I cried quietly to myself, occasionally letting out a groan when there was no one else close by. I cried because I was angry with myself. I cried because I was afraid. I cried because I felt so stupid and silly at the same time.
Most of the shops and eateries were beginning to close further reducing my chances of getting help.
Up ahead, I saw a concrete bench and beside it a lone lamp post. I judged it safe enough so I went over and sat down. My teeth were beginning to chatter. My jacket was proving to be no match for the cold. There was a numbness in my toes and I wished I'd worn more comfortable shoes. I held my head in my hands marveling at my mind for being so blank at a time like that.
I do not remember now what it was exactly that caught my attention.
Across the street from me, there was this huge woman. She was talking to a smallish man but they were the least of my problems at the time otherwise, I'd have spared them 2 minutes wondering at their relationship and shaking my head at the vast difference between their sizes.
At that particular point in time, the woman started laughing. I looked up and at the same time I saw an old lady walking her dog. The lady was passing in front of the 'mis-matched' couple at just the point when the huge woman doubled over and let out a loud laugh."Buhahahaha!"
The smallish man must have been saying something funny because the woman just kept on letting out loud deep bellied laughs. She spooked the dog which took off suddenly jerking her owner after her.
It was funny to watch the old lady being nearly dragged by her dog. Funny enough to make the smallish man join the huge woman as their bodies were wracked with great feats of laughter. The huge woman was laughing so hard that she nearly lost her balance and had to support herself by holding on to a sign post.
I caught myself smiling and somehow that reminded me that I hadn't yet sent up a prayer for help. I looked up and said a really short prayer. It was short because I had barely completed my sentence when my eyes caught something.
It was the sign post. The same one that the huge woman was holding on to for support. How come I hadn't seen it before?
My brows furrowed as I squinted, looking intently at the words on the sign post. And then I started smiling as I mentally slapped my forehead, as if to say, "You stupid girl!".
Without thinking, I got up from where I'd perched on the concrete bench and crossed the street. The huge woman was trying to catch her breath but I judged she would live. I looked up at the street sign, it was pointing to a street that turned off the street I was standing on and sure enough, it said "Congress St."
Hah! Congress street! Thank you Jesus! I'd been so intent on finding 'Fannin Street' that I'd completely forgotten all about Congress Street. The Metro lady had said my 008 bus would pick me up at the corner of Fannin & Congress
but I one-sidedly stuck to the word 'Fannin'. I had been walking several streets parallel to Fannin all along!
The bus driver wasn't wrong in the general direction to which he had pointed. It would have helped if he had specifically asked me to go two streets further. Sure enough, as I walked along Congress, I got to a stop sign and there was the METROrail train approaching. I was too tired to mentally slap my forehead again. After the train passed, I crossed the street and there was Fannin staring me right in the face!
It had been nearly two hours since I had braced my self and taken that first step. Two hours of being lost, tortured by the cold. As I sat on one of the benches provided at the bust-stop, I wanted to laugh and cry all at the same time.
It wasn't long before my 008 bus arrived. It was a huge relief to find it warm and inviting. My body needed some thawing out.
I walked home from the bus-stop, slowly counting my steps. My mind was blank again, this time I guessed it was blank from relief.
I heard my name. I looked up and there was a man running towards me. There was no fear. I knew it was Steve. I didn't run towards him but I increased my pace. I had never been so glad to see anyone in my life. I let him hold me for a few minutes before I pulled away and we walked home in silence.
At the front door, I pulled out a hanky from my jacket pocket and handed it to Steve. It was still damp from wiping the tears from my face.
I said "Hold it".
He had a question on his face but he held it anyway.
"Feel the dampness?" I continued.
"Those are the tears I cried tonight"
There was a look of concern on his face which quickly gave way to a smile.That one sided smile of his. I smiled back and then we both started laughing. It was laughter born of sweet relief. It sure felt nice to be home again!
PS: - Steve had gone to look for me at the bus stop 4 times already. That was his fifth time after which he'd planned to call the police.
- Isabel had food poisoning, according to the doctors. They were not sure if it was the Ice Cream or something else.
She was allowed to come home three days later but she didn't return to work until after one week.
- I threw my Ice Cream away. Thanks but No, Thanks!