“I lost my driver’s licence over 20 years ago…”

I picked up my first hitchhiker today. A gruff, Native-American man with a long ponytail with naturally grey & white streaks. He wore black and grey clothes with a green military camo backpack. I pull over and he begins hurrying towards my car.

I hastily clean the passenger seat of the wool blanket and the empty chocolate soy milk carton. He jumps in and says thanks, thanks, noticeably exhausted. I appreciate it, I had already been walking seven miles. I ask his name. He says with a Native American accent, Gerald. He asks for mine. I oblige.

How far do you need to go? Oh, just up to the reservation a mile down.

He has been hitchhiking since he got his licence taken away. I didn’t ask why. I had more questions about his experiences. Back then, he says it was calmer. He recounts how nowadays, people throw garbage, sometimes bottles at him. Because of that, he hurt his neck. One time, he almost caught up to someone who threw something at him and it scared the crap out of that guy. He says he wouldn’t do anything. I guessed he was better than that.

His Dad used to do the same thing – hitchhiking. Mostly, Gerald is typically picked up by old women who are coming home from work, bored and want company.

Drop me off at that bus stop. That’s where the reservation is, he says.
He asks for my name again as if to assure me he would always remember me. It’s Stephen. Since we stopped, I finally see his face. Gruff. Experienced. But happy. I can see the creases in his face showing his deeply carved pattern of smiles.

He repeats my name a few times to himself. He says thank you, Stephen.
The door closes. As I drive away, he waves profusely, smiling.

A short four minutes.

Could he have been dangerous? Sure.
Then why? I just wanted to do something different.
And I’ll always remember it.

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