And so it happened that Danny mentions one afternoon that she's volunteered to go read to children who live in high risk areas. "What, with the school?" I asked. She said that they were asking from classroom to classroom and she said yes.
Which I thought was nice. And I also thought it might get her off the naughty list with her father, who has grounded her because she didn't do very well in chemistry last month - she has since aced her chemistry test, but Raul has only gotten last months grades and Danny doesn't want to speak to him about anything lately, it seems. So. That includes her last results. They always end up arguing. In any case, this is not why she volunteered, she just genuinely likes to read to people and is always looking for possible victims. These kids need to know someone cares, etc. etc.
She is a good kid.
And so Monday morning, everyone is on spring break holiday, and Danny and I are braving the empty city streets to drop her off at school, where they are all meeting to go to this church - she doesn't know where it is, and this will be important later - where they will get a small group of children to read/sing/act/play with. The parking lot is empty. We wait and another kid shows up with his mum. Danny walks off into the school, the mum drives off, and so. I wait a bit and then drive off.
She had told me to pick her up at noon. I drive off to the school and there's no one there. I call her. They are done but are doing that milling around a place once you're done that always takes up ages. She will call when they are on the road and closer to the city. "Where is this place?" I ask. "I don't know!" I make a mental note to talk to her about how it is always necessary to know where one is in relation to others. Because I am always thinking dark forest and axe wielding madman which way do I run scenarios. I mean, it happens. It's important to know where you are.
I come back home and she calls again to tell me they are on the road now and it will take a while but they will get her to school. Great, I say, and we both hang up.
She calls again. The police have stopped the kid who was driving them back from the church, because he doesn't have the car's documents. "What?" She tells me that there are police all over the place, looking for someone, maybe, or looking for nothing, as they seem to do so often in this city, looking for trouble. This could take forever and I don't want her to be in the middle of nowhere in what has been consistently described to me as a high risk area, so I ask her where she is. She doesn't know. She asks the policeman: "Is that your mum?" The man asks. "Yes."
He tells her: The entrance to Fraccionamiento Salvatierra. I am googling madly, I've never heard of this place. I don't know where it is, and neither does google, but there are some cheap houses for rent there, and that's all google knows. I ask for more, how do I get there? We're right at the Loma Alta strip mall. (at this point I am tempted to say "ah, well, why didn't you say that in the first place?" because I have no idea where that is either, but I refrain as it is not helpful and she's in the middle of nowhere with kids who are carrying their guitars and have tumblr pages. They are all helpless). He says down the Fundadores boulevard, under the bridge. Fundadores sounds like the name of a road whose location I should know. So I head on out.
I go to the petrol station, as the man wipes the windows furiously with a flannel I ask him how to get to Fundadores. He tells me I should go up the 5 y 10, and after a while, after this and that, there will be a sign reading "Fundadores". I ask if he's sure, if this sign is not going to read something stupid like "Tecate" or "Playas" or some such, and I am supposed to understand that Fundadores was also in a dropdown list that I just didn't click on. No, no, it reads "Fundadores", you can't miss it.
I have a mental block to all roads that go southbound from the 5 y 10. I always get lost. I don't want to get lost. I told Danny, just in case, that if I didn't make it before the kids parents should make it, she should call me and go with them, as the point is to get her out of that area. I don't really care if she goes back to school with me or with someone else's parents, so long as she gets back to school.
I drive down the road, going past the exit to the factory I used to work at, past the exit to Ivan and Lluvia's, past the exit to that factory where everyone hated each other, past the exit back downtown, and I get worried and turn in there, thinking this might be it because I remember there was an "under the bridge" direction with the policeman and I can't remember many bridges, but I can remember this one. I stop at the lights and there is a man there asking for donations for a rehab centre. He has tattoos on his neck and face. I ask him if he knows where Fundadores is, in Spanish. He says, in really broken English: "You speak English? I tell you now, you come the wrong way, you turn here, yes?" "Yes." I say. "You go up, and then there's an exit. Not far from here. You will see. You give me money now?"
I give him a fistful of change I had in my purse and take a u-turn back to the main road. Southbound again. I drive for a bit and then in the most complicated area possible, there's a sign. "Fundadores". Except there's one arrow and there's like a million exits - or so it felt to me, there were probably two, but one of them was the wrong one and who wants this grief? So I pull of at another petrol station and ask the man who is furiously wiping the car with a flannel. "Right after that building, you take the road down, but then you turn to the left, so you can go under the bridge and out to the Loma Alta Strip Mall." I was there. Or I was pretty confident that I was there.
I take the road, down the bridge, and I call Danny, to tell her I am nearly there. Except of course the traffic is very dense, because of the cops having stopped people and looking for more people to stop. They are asking everyone for something, what they could be asking for I never find out, because as I come up to the policeman I say "Good morning, officer, do you know how to go into the parking lot of that strip mall there?" He points to the exit and tells me to drive down the hill instead of up and I'll be there. I thank him and call Danny again. "I am at the parking lot, where are you?" "Can we take some people with us?" I say yes. "We're on our way" she says. I see her coming down the hill on the road I had to take to come into the mall. She looks happy and well. Everything is funny now. Which is nice.
I get screwed on the exchange rate at the parking lot gate because I gave my change to all the men who wiped the truck with flannels and the man with the face tattoos. I don't care. I ask about the kid who has to stay with his car while his parents get here with the documents. Is he alone? No, the school's deputy head is with him. So all is well. I hope he doesn't have to wait long.