Sam looked at Rick first, noticing him wince as he tried to stretch his back. “No, it’s not totaled. Just relax, and don’t worry. We gotcha.” Then Sam addressed Rick. “Man, how can I help? You going to be okay there? Want me to trade places with you?”
Rick tried to move again, but as soon as he did, Jessica’s head began to bleed. “No, I need to stay here, I just have a bad back, but I don’t want to move Jessica until we are sure nothing is broken.”
Sam thought for a second and then walked between Rick and the canyon wall that was about three feet away. He knelt and turned around and sat back-to-back with Rick, placing his feet on the wall and pressing into Rick’s back for support. Sam cleared away as much of the gravel underneath him. “Does this help your back any?”
Rick felt the support immediately and was relieved. “Yeah, that feels better. Are you okay doing this? How much longer till help comes?”
Sam felt tingling in his thighs already but knew he could hold this position for a while. He had a lot of practice in a similar situation. “Yeah, no brainer, Man. We got about ten minutes to go.”
Jessica began moaning again. “Oh, God, I’m feeling so nauseous, and my head is starting to pound.” She reached up to feel her head where the rock was protruding, and Rick quickly grabbed her hand. He started talking to distract her. It was all he could think of doing.
“Hey Sam, Jessica was just telling me before you got here that she attended her first rally. Jessica, tell us what it was like.”
Jessica put her hand down and tried to think. She was starting to feel very sleepy. “Um, well, my mom has always been an activist my whole life, and, like, I never really understood why she would take the trouble to go to meetings or march in the street. But when I got to college and then, like, I started following what’s happening to our country and what’s happening to our rights, especially women’s rights. I thought we had already achieved equality, but I didn’t realize that we were backtracking these days, and with the behavior of politicians in Washington, we can’t let them take away our rights. So, I went to this rally that this women’s group was having, and it was so empowering to be marching with other women, all, like, standing together, and I could feel the power of doing that. I can’t describe it in some ways. We have to do something, right, to change where we are going. Don’t you think?”
Rick relaxed his back muscles as Sam pushed a little harder into his back. “You got a good point there, Jessica. We must stand up for what we believe. We must fight for our rights. It’s commendable that you are getting involved at a young age. When I was your age, I didn’t know diddly-squat about politics or anything. What do you think, Sam?”
Sam was half-listening to their conversation while he meditated to disconnect from the physical discomforts that he was feeling in this position. His ears perked up when he heard his name. Never had a stranger asked him for his opinion before. He usually kept his head down and tried not to be noticed.
“I think everyone has a right to be free.” He said nervously. “I haven’t attended anything like a rally yet, but maybe someday, if things change.”
Jessica tried hard to hear his words, as Rick’s arm has half-covering her ear. She focused on the last part of his comment. “What, what do you mean if things change? Change can’t, like, it can’t happen unless we do something to make it change. Like, at least, that’s what I’m learning.” Her voice trailed off as sleep started to take over.
Rick looked down and realized she was falling asleep. “Hey, Jessica, you with us? Don’t go to sleep yet. Sam, you have an answer for her, right? Jessica, listen to Sam. Stay awake, Sweety.”
Sam froze for a second, not sure that he wanted to continue this conversation. He tried to stay away from these kinds of discussions. He never was comfortable speaking honestly, but he knew he had to help Rick keep her awake.
“Jessica, what I mean is, sometimes it is hard for people to stand up for what they believe in if their opinion is the minority. People judge others too harshly sometimes. They assume that everyone like you is the same, and we are not. We all have different opinions, even within common groups. You know what I mean?”
Jessica’s brain felt scrambled. “I get it, I think. I think it is part of the problem.” She squeezed her eyes to regain focus. “Don’t you think it’s part of the problem, Rick?”
Rick tried to adjust his posture as the spasms came back. Sam had let up pressure for a minute, and he pressed back into Rick again. The spasm dulled. “Thanks, Sam.” He looked at Jessica, and the blood seeping between his fingers and prayed he’d hear sirens soon.
“Jessica, believe me, I wish I knew what the real answer was to your question. I wish that everyone would find a way to get along, but things feel too off track, Honey. We have all gone into corners for now.”
“So, do you think I’m wasting my time going to rallies?” She asked him with a tinge of hopelessness in her faint voice.
“Na, Honey, you keep doing what you are doing. Stay true to yourself.” Just as Rick finished, a giant spasm shot through his back, making him jump, and he bit his lip, trying not to curse out loud and scare Jessica.”
Sam’s legs were on fire now, and he wasn’t sure he could hold up the pressure much longer. “Is there anything else I can do for you?”
Rick winced, “No, Sam, just keep doing what you’re doing, and we’ll get through this.”