I didn't take my camera, because it was 10 o'clock at night, and I was making a quick trip to pick up Dani at Trinity Washington University, via the Metro. I'd only be seeing the inside of the underground tunnels, and whatever random sites the brief city bus ride allowed me after that. I had my route mapped out, and I felt confident and bold, and excited to see Dani again.
Not long after I left my hotel, Dani called and told me she was ready early. Forty-five minutes early. I'd already calculated the timing, and knew that I wouldn't arrive at her campus for another 45 minutes at least, what with the Metro switches I've have to make, and waiting for the bus at the other end. So I made a snap decision to get off the Metro and hail a cab, which could get me there in 10 minutes or less.
But D.C. is not NYC, and hailing a cab wasn't as easy as I thought it'd be. There were no cabs in sight. I had a list of DC cabs phone numbers with me, so I decided to call one. Lesson #1: DC cabs will not drive in to Virginia to pick you up, even if you're standing on the Potomac River looking at the Washington Monument. So I hopped back on the Metro, rode one more stop in to DC proper, and went back up to street level to hail a cab.
But again, no cabs in sight. In fact, very few cars in sight at all. I called the taxi company again, only to find out that they won't send a cab to a Metro station. Uh, okay. You must give us an actual street address, they said. So I began walking, looking at buildings, searching in vain for an address. There were no street signs as I crossed a highway overpass. Finally, I came upon a building that had an address etched into its stone front: 955 L'Enfant Plaza North. I called the taxi place, and was told that the address I provided was bogus. It wasn't in their system. They would not pick me up there.
"Lady," said the cross woman on the phone, with condescension in her voice, "here's what I need you to do. I need you to find yourself a building, and look at its address, and call me back."
"MA'AM," I snarled back. "I am STANDING in front of a building, looking at its address."
"That's not a real address," she snapped. "You need to find yourself an actual address and call me back."
"LOOK," I said, my voice beginning to tremble. "I'm not FROM here. I just want to get to my DAUGHTER ACROSS TOWN. I just need a CAB to come pick me UP. Here.... let me look at this street sign and tell you which intersection I'm at...." but it didn't matter. She hung up on me.
I felt defeated. I felt helpless, and despite myself, and to my great annoyance, I felt afraid. I was on a dimly lit, deserted street in Washington D.C at 10:30 at night, and save for a homeless person on those steps over there, and something lurking in the shadows down that way, I was alone. With hot tears stinging my eyes, I headed back towards the Metro station.
I should mention that my feet were badly blistered from wearing flip flops all day, and my shins were screaming from pounding the pavement for 3 days, something they are most certainly not accustomed to doing. I should also mention that I'd promised my friend Erin that I'd call her if I got into any trouble or needed her help. I PROMISED her. I did not call. She'll flog me later, I'm sure.
As I trudged back across the overpass, I called Dani, because by this time, I was later than I'd originally planned. So much for being early. I couldn't help the shaking in my voice. She became worried for my safety, because I'd spent a lot of energy warning her of the dangers of the Washington D.C. streets after dark before she left on her trip.
A few minutes later, just as I was heading down the escalator back to the Metro, my phone rang. Dani said that two of her Team Leaders had offered to bring her to the nearest Metro stop and meet me there. Ahhhh. Relief. I was so grateful as I hopped aboard the yellow train and headed for Gallery Place/Chinatown, where I'd switch to the red. Sometime later, as the red train came above ground, I called Dani again and told her that I was two stops away. She said she'd tell the Team Leaders to start walking.
When I arrived, Dani called again and said that there'd been a change in plans. She wouldn't be meeting me at the station. Instead, the Team Leaders would meet me there and walk with me back to the campus, 10-15 minutes away. As I sat outside the Brookland/CUA Metro station, I looked around. I was sitting on a bench, directly across from a city bus stop, with a well-lit, occupied guard shack on the corner. For the first time in a couple of hours, I felt safe in my surroundings. I called Darren, and railed against myself for deviating from my original plan in the first place. Dani and I had planned on a late (LATE) dinner at the hotel restaurant, overlooking the D.C. skyline. Now it would be closed by the time we returned, and neither of us had eaten. The Metro would stop running at midnight. Darren asked if I wanted to talk to the boys. I didn't. I was afraid that their sweet voices would be the end of my stoicism, and I'd end up crying. I was recovering from the frustration and fear of my adventure on the street, but I knew that I wasn't far from the cusp of full-out crying.
Looking up, I wondered aloud, "CUA. I have no idea what that stands for." Then I noticed a banner hanging from a light pole across the street, with a crest emblazoned on it. "DEUS. LUX. MEA. EST." I said. "I know it's Latin, but I don't know what the words mean."
"God. Light. My. Is." answered Darren.
"God is my light," I repeated. "God is my light."
The tears came.
God, in the form of a banner lightly fluttering in the night sky, at a Metro stop in the heart of Washington D.C., was with me. I wasn't alone. And I knew in that moment that I hadn't been alone for a single second on my journey. God is cool like that. I love how He sends me messages and reminds me not to despair.
I was reunited with Dani about 30 minutes later, and had a delightful conversation with the two college-aged Team Leaders who walked with me. Our adventure wasn't over.... it was almost 2 a.m. before we finally made it back to our hotel. (D.C. taxis SUCK. After three no-show taxis, I finally called a Virginia cab, who arrived in 15 minutes and took us back home to our hotel.) Oh - and CUA? It stands for Catholic University of America. The guard shack? CUA campus police.
God? He truly IS nondenominational. Deus Mea Lux Est.
Deus. Mea. Lux. Est.
For a moment, I wished for my camera, back at the hotel.
I wanted a photo of the banner.
But God is my light. I shouldn't doubt in darkness what He has shown me in the light.
I don't need no stinkin' picture.
I've got my memory.
I've got my God.