Before I could say a word, she opened the car door and got inside.
“Please help me.”
It was 3:43 in the morning on pitch-black Kimball Avenue, and she had stepped out in front of the one working streetlight, dressed all in white, and waved. Just as Roger Hodgson was singing, “That is not the place you want to be, sleeping with the enemy,” she shut the door to the car and leaned her head of black hair against the headrest.
“Please help me,” she said in three short breaths.
A Korean woman. Early 20s. She held a fistful of crumpled dollar bills in her hand as she turned to me.
“What’s the matter?”
“The hospital. Please.”
I laid on the gas. There wasn’t another car on the road. Her eyes were closed and she was struggling to breathe as we drove quickly by the cemetery.
She pointed straight ahead.
“No,” she protested. “It is other way.”
I made a U-turn.
“But maybe they will not take me. Go the other way.”
I made another U-turn. The light was red straight ahead as she gave a short cry and grabbed my hand. I looked at her. She opened her eyes. She turned away.
“Are you going to be OK?”
She didn’t answer.
“Has this happened before?”
I went through the red light in full view of a Chicago police car. No one seemed to notice.
“You’re going to be OK,” I said. “Just take it easy.”
She nodded and rested the side of her face against the window.
She pointed to the red, white, and blue glow of an Amoco station up ahead.
“Where am I going?”
She pointed at the gas station again. “Go there. Go there,” she said.
“You want to go to the gas station?”
“My friend is there. He has medicine.”
I pulled into the gas station and stopped the car. She opened the door and staggered out.
“Are you OK?”
She nodded and stumbled to her feet.
“Should I call somebody?”
“No. Don’t call anybody. He has medicine. I will be OK.”
“Are you sure?”
She thrust the fistful of money toward me. I shook my head.
“No. Don’t call anybody. Just go. Thank you. Forget this. Forget all about it.”
She opened the door to the service station and embraced the all-night man, holding her chest with one hand. Then she moved a step away from him and waved me off with her other hand. I couldn’t see her anymore as they walked to the back of the station and turned out the lights.