A Haunting Memory

I glanced at the radio on the dashboard for the time and exhaled as I scowled. A delay at work kept me longer than expected. Tightening my grip on the steering wheel, I imagined my daughter pacing in front of the dance studio even though I instructed her to wait safely inside the building until I arrived. After passing a car traveling well below the posted speed limit, I glanced at my speedometer, loosened my ten-and-two grip on the steering wheel, and eased my foot from the gas pedal. The last thing I needed today was a ticket.

            My mind drifted to my to-do list: call the dentist for cleaning appointments for the five of us, try to reduce the pile of laundry that seems to magically double in size while I sleep at night, and stop at the grocery store to get the few items for dinner. I usually went to the grocery store before ten o’clock on Saturday mornings to avoid dodging carts and waiting for an indecisive individual to choose an item while standing in the center of an aisle. I cringed, assuming I would have to play bumper cars with my cart while gathering what I needed to make dinner. Was I being purposely delayed throughout my day for some mysterious reason?

            I was pulled from my thoughts as a sign on the side of the road caught my attention. Printed in black and white, I thought it was a political sign pleading for anyone’s vote, but when I was close enough to read it, the gooseflesh on my arms began to prickle. The blood drained from my face, my heartbeat increased, and my palms became clammy as I read the few words printed on it. It offered an outrageous hourly pay for ‘Summer Work,’ ‘Even With No Experience,’ ‘base-appt.’ Base appointment? ‘Text For Info” A phone number was printed at the bottom. I knew exactly the kind of sign this was. I exhaled, not realizing I had been holding my breath as I lifted my foot from the accelerator and pulled into the closest parking lot on the busy five-lane road lined with retail stores. Bringing my car to a stop, I stared at the two-sided sign and put my car in park.

            The sign reminded me of an ad I answered in the newspaper nearly twenty years ago. Are these the same people? How can they still be in business? Haven’t they been caught yet? Or maybe this is something even worse – sex trafficking. My imagination kicked into overdrive. How many people have seen this and sent an inquiring text? What if one of my daughters saw this sign and did so without me knowing?

            I held my hands out before me. They were quivering, shaking uncontrollably as memories of a desperate decision I made long ago rose to the surface from the deep abyss where it had been buried within my mind.