The wipers fight the relentless rain as I squint at the headlights lights of trucks heading east, to Philadelphia and D.C. There are never too many cars at this time of night. The turnpike was been built long ago. Unlike modern interstates, with large mediums, here only a concrete barrier separated the wet highways that reflected the lights. I rub my eyes, and count off another mile. The rain makes it worse, but at least it's no longer snowing as spring has finally arrived to Western Pennsylvania. Finally, the lights of the Monroeville exit appear. I swing off the freeway and toward the toll booth, wondering if she's there.
Sure enough, as I drive toward the booth I see the woman of my dreams. Tall and slender, her lightly curled long dark hair reaches down her back. She always smiles. I’m sure she smiles for everyone, but I fantasized that the smiles she gives me are special and times it seemed even her eyes twinkle. We always exchange a brief greeting while she takes my money and hands me change. Our interaction only takes seconds; The light changes from red to green and I’d drive ahead into the city. I often thought about her, working night-shift in the toll booth, and wondered about her story. So beautiful, she seemed out of place working the graveyard shift. I imagine her in a club, dancing and wooing suitors.
Tonight I feel lucky as I notice she's wearing a sleeveless shirt. Her hair is pulled around to the right side of her neck and drapes down her chest, exposing the side of her neck that faces me. The car in front pays and pulls away, allowing me to ease up to the booth. She smiles as I roll down my window and reach out with my bills. As she takes them, I look up and am shocked to see a multi-colored dragon stretched out across her back, its head resting on her upper arm, red tongues of fire reaching down her arm toward me. I had never imaged that under those turtlenecks she’d worn all winter was hiding one of the most elaborate tattoos I’d seen on a woman. I try to smile, worried she might see the shock in my face as I take my changed and thank her.
The light turns green, I push in the gas pedal and take off while tuning the radio to Magic 97. At midnight, they always play uninterrupted albums. Tonight's feature is Dylan’s “Blood on the Track.” As I sped toward the Squirrel Hill tunnels I sing along to “Tangled Up in Blue,” keeping the words coming even as the station fades out when I enter the Tubes.
I seen a lot of womenNow, looking back over two decades, I finally understood what he meant.
But she never escaped my mind