The white pickup pulled to a stop on the other side of the road. Justin walked over to see if I wanted a ride. He asked me what I was doing. I told him I was waiting for something to go with the sign, and that it just occurred to me that I was waiting for him.
I traded him a photo for a photo. He flipped through the stack, remarking that the people looked like the people in Afghanistan. We got to talking about his story. He was driving around looking for hitchhikers so he had someone to help. His wife had left him last night, he said.
A mile down the road, I got a call from Sarah from the motel, the one with the brain tumour that she had named ”the amphibian”. I had forgotten my spare camera battery; she and her boyfriend had left it for me at the office counter. A moment later, the two of them came past in the cab of Justin’s truck. Justin dropped them off, picked me up, and shuttled me to the motel and back.
During the ride, he told me stories of his time in Afghanistan. ”It turned me into a hippie”. I asked him if we still in the military. ”No, I was dishonourably discharged a year after my tour. I was diagnosed as insane because I couldn’t tell the difference between the Army and the Taliban – both were paying lots of money to disinterested people to kill each other. The Army disagreed with me.”
We drove on, sitting for a moment in the parking lot of the Mexican restaurant where he’d picked me up. The cab of the truck smelled of pot; when we stopped at the motel, he had picked up a handful and handed it to an overjoyed hitchhiker. ”There’s an easy way to fix that country,” he said. ”I just need to move some rocks. See, in the north, there’s a beautiful river that was dammed by the Russians when they exploded a mountain pass while they retreated in the 80s. If we can move the rocks, the water will flow again. One day, I’m going to go back to move the rocks.”
I shook his hand and grabbed my bag from the truckbed, telling him to be in touch if he went back, and that I’d come to help too. Saviours seem to get a bad rap most of the time, but every now and then, someone drops bagels off to you on the side of the road, handing you a dollar, or offers you a sandwich and a free place to stay, and doesn’t something good come out of dreams, after all?