She'd been in the United States a little more than five months, from Russia. She'd met a man from Colorado on the Internet, and based on photos and letters between themselves, she decided to move from Moscow to marry and be with him. Almost immediately he began beating and abusing her. She described her attempts to seek help.
"In Moscow, not like here. Religion not like here. Here, absolutely deefrent. Everybody beleefes in God, everybody shows me Bible, but they never help me when I ask them."
Unlike most of my airport-bound customers before dawn, she stood outside in the cold motel parking lot with her suitcase at her side. Among the dozens of riders I've rounded up previously at that hour, I could not remember anyone in such a neatly organized, poised state of readiness. She wore a faded down jacket with an imitation fur collar and leather gloves, resembling Lara in Doctor Zhivago.
"He tries to prove thet he is upper than me," she spoke with soft anger. "He tries to prove thet I'm nothing. 'Look at you,' he says, 'you can't even afford a hotel.' And of course I can't. I gave up my job to come here." She borrowed the money for her emergency trip home, and told him she was in a local women's shelter until tomorrow, giving her time to slip away.
"We were living in apartment in the mountains. He bought a car for me, he was not greedy at all. He bought me a Mercedes. He would spend a lot of money on me. But he show me knife and say he keel me."
"So I stay for some time in county safe house. And he beg me to come back, thet everything is going to be all right. But I go to lady in safe house and ask her to help me because he is abusing me, and is so nasty, so nasty words, and I ask her to bring me to the cheapest motel, and she says, 'No, no, you're married, this is your beesness, you work it out by yourself.'"
"She said that?"
"It was 'not a big deal,' the lady said. 'I don't want to stay between you and your husband. This is your beesness, now you guys are married, you have to work it out.'"
She rode silently for a few moments, looking out the darkened window, avoiding the glare of oncoming headlights. "If I go home, I'm not going to be able to come back because of immigration papers," she murmured. "They ask so many questions about what I'm doing here. I just can't freely travel."
She talked a bit more about feeling so alone in America, and though it felt naïve, I had to ask: "Did you think of going to the police at all?"
"I'd been to the police already. But he didn't leave mark on me, first time. He just grab me by my neck, he just shake me. But I lost my consciousness. And they say, 'OK, you quarreled. OK, you married. So what?' So I decided not to go to police."
"What is he so angry about? Do you know his family?"
"I know his family. His family pretty nice. So you know, thet was surprising." She described his retired and comfortable parents, how they seemed to welcome her into their spacious American home.
"Did you talk to them? Did they know?"
"I'd been to their house. Very nice family," she said, now in a kind of daydream, and relaxing. "Not like smoking cigarettes and spitting or using bad language. Nice family."
Once past the intersection of Powers and Milton Proby, we caught a beautiful herd of pronghorn antelope grazing. We were a bit early and pulled over so she could watch them. It was nice to let up for a minute on the story of abuse, of another moron beating up a woman. I made an attempt at consolation and optimism as we pulled away to the departure gate.
"You learned all this very fast, and it's over," I said. "It seems like you're well rid of him, and you can go back and resume your life and not have lost that much time."