She stepped over the yawning sidewalk cracks in downtown Phoenix's defunct downtown. On one side of the street, sharp glass buildings loomed and on the other, an abandoned fenced-in house sat rotting in the warm monsoon rain.
Her wet hoodie clung to her like an itchy skin, and her hands gripped her dress skirt's frilled edges. The dusty monsoon winds and rain buffeted her face as she walked.
Wet rubber tires and bright headlights rushed past. She itched at her arms and wiped the black mascara streaks from her cheeks. Her feet kept her walking. She walked past a fenced-off abandoned house. Its empty windows stared at her between colorful soaked graffiti. Weeds choked the front lawn and sprouted through cracked concrete slabs to the front door. After tugging at the cold crisscrossed wire fencing, she decided against trying to get in and continued down the street.
A car came to a slow crawl next to her, somewhere to the left of her hood. Rolling thunder erupted in the distance. She glanced between the car and the empty abandoned gas station behind her. The window on the car rolled down and an old woman's voice called out.
"Do you need a ride?"
The words didn't register with her, and her addled mind searched for a place to go, anything to get out of the rain. She nodded.
The car was a sickly green thing more suited for the junkyard than dense fast city streets. The metal handle clicked, and she opened the door, met with a waft of musty roses and sterilizing chemicals. Her eyes fell on a wooden rosary hanging from the rear-view mirror, then the driver. A dark leathery face stared at her over a gaudy fake pearl necklace. The car rattled forward. The seat felt rough, worn. Her fingers poked at bits of exposed foam in the cloth's holes.
"Do you know where you're going?"
She was quiet for a while, watching fat raindrops buffet the windows and bounce off the furiously moving windshield wipers. The rain's roar was nearly deafening as it hit the thin sheet of metal separating them from the desert outside. There was no place she could think of to go.
She shook her head.
"I need somewhere to take you, mija."
She bit her red-streaked mouth and watched the rosary swing with the car's motion. The yellow flicker of passing streetlights fell on faded photos on a radio that played hymns softly. Ornate cards of Jesus and the Virgin Mary stared down from the visor mirrors.
The old woman had made herself a mobile shrine. She followed her passenger's eyes to the radio and said, "I keep my family and faith with me always. Where is your family?"
Before she could answer, something plastic shifted in the back as the car turned on to the main road. She looked and saw a black trash bag that covered the length of the seats.
"What is that?" She asked.
"You should not have looked."