So my old friend Hallie came through town a few weeks ago and requested a trip to El Charro. Hallie and I met in the 5th grade, at a Magnet school in LA. Hallie was from the Palisades, so when we were 12 and reached that awkward age when everybody looks pretty much awful and seeks to make it worse with horrid haircuts, Hallie got one of those asymmetrical numbers. I was from the not-nearly-so-cool Valley, and so I decided to part my hair down the center and have it feathered all the way down. Plus, I added some horrendous bangs. And sparkly blue eye shadow up to the brows. We both looked fairly bad, but Hallie looked cool-bad, and I just looked regular-bad.
(Is no wonder, really, that I cannot embrace this retro 80's style thing that is going on. I see neon with geometrics and have post-traumatic stress flashbacks. Is like asking a veteran to relive the war. Only, not really like that at all. Is bad simile, and offensive to veterans. Sorry, veterans.)
Anyhow, fashion aside, while I was driving up to El Charro that day last month, I thought of another time I was in that neighborhood, back in August 1992. And since, I have had a niggling feeling that I should write it down.
I was 18. The guy I was dating was in some sort of band. They were practicing in an empty warehouse at about Country club and Broadway, which is (and was) not a nice neighborhood. I drove down from where we lived in north Mesa to watch them practice, and when they finished, after 1 a.m., I hopped in my little white Acura Integra and started home. About a mile on, I realized I was being followed.
Behind me was an at least ten-year-old American boat of a car, lowered considerably, and packed full of boisterous, probably inebriated men. At a stop light, they all climbed out the windows and hooted at me. I jammed down the accelerator, let out the clutch, and tried mightily to shake them. They stayed dangerously close behind. At the next red light, I slowed, checked for cross traffic, then went right through the light. They followed. I was going fast, 70 maybe, in a 45 zone. I hoped a cop would see my illegal maneuvers, but the roads, still wet and shiny from the monsoon rains earlier in the evening, were completely clear.
It occurred to me that I couldn't go home. Because then, they would know where I lived. And also, how would I safely get from car to house?
I began to sweat. And mutter things. And I drove faster still. And they crept closer. I couldn't look in my rearview mirror because I could see their shiny eyes and tight grins.
I was out of ideas. And so I began to pray.
Immediately, a voice came to my mind. Like a command.
Go to Taco Bell.
And I actually laughed.
I'm really not hungry, thanks, I said aloud. It honestly sounded like the worst idea ever.
You know, I might feel like some tacos later, when I am not about to be wrecked, raped, and possibly worse. How about some help in finding a police station?
But the voice in my head was calm and peaceful, and I was not. And it seemed very insistent that I go to Taco Bell.
And since it seemed like the best and only option I had, I started toward the nearest Taco Bell, at Brown Road and Mesa Drive.
It was open. 24 hours, I think.
I pulled into the drive-thru, in front of the speaker, and behind a 15 passenger van. The men in the low-rider, 6 of them, pulled in behind me, got out of their car, surrounded mine, and pounded on my windows and shook my car, whilst screaming and leering. I was trapped. I couldn't roll down my windows, so I honked my horn insistently, hoping the workers inside would come outside and call the police.
Instead, something else happened.
From inside the van ahead came a whole herd of very, very attractive boys, all wearing maroon baseball caps.
The first fellow came around the back of the van, opened it, and started tossing baseball bats to the other pretty fellows that followed him.
Turns out, I had pulled in directly behind the Stanford University baseball team.
The boys ran toward my car, waving their bats around and looking hot and fierce, like young warriors.
My pursuers jumped back in their ride, backed out of the drive-thru line, and left, tires squealing.
When I was sure they were gone, I rolled down my window. The handsome man-children checked to make sure I was okay, then told me to wait while they got their burritos, so they could escort me home.
I still have no idea what the Stanford Baseball team was doing at a Mesa, Arizona Taco Bell in the middle of the fetching night.
I was so flustered from my possible near-death experience, and thinking about how my prayer had totally, without any question in my whole brain, been answered, against my own logic and judgment, that I neglected to get any of those baseball players' phone numbers.
I know. Was terrible waste of smart, cute boys.
P.S. Hallie, I totally apologize if you liked your 12-year-old haircut. Yours was WAY better than mine.