I always knew we were strangers, Maryland and Virginia; close enough to be sisters, but a mystery to each other. And she convinced me it is true, standing in my suburban parking lot where the bus had left her. Her slim red dress stabbed the sullen atmosphere of concrete and smog. On stilted heels she went from person to person asking for directions to the address she had been given for a job interview. I didn't know where it was, either, but I couldn't abandon her, especially since the bus driver had told her she'd have to turn right and walk down the highway two stops.

"What kind of stops," she demanded of me and the world at large, "stop light or bus stops?"

The heavy traffic speeding along the indicated thoroughfare convinced me nobody should be out there walking any kind of stops. "Get in my car," I said, "I'll try to help you find it."

She had a street number but we couldn't locate it. "What's the name of the office building?" I asked, looking at all the commercial towers around us, with their names emblazoned high.

"I don't know. The man just gave me this number." "What was the name of the company?"

"I don't know that, either. That dumb man just told me to come to this address, but I don't see anything like it." Neither did I. And she'd left the telephone number at home.

Suddenly her eyes fell on a Beltway sign pointing to Richmond and Alexandria. "Oh." Light seemed to dawn, "Is this near Alexandria?"

"No," I said. "This is Tysons Corner."

"Is it somewhere near Crystal City? Somebody told me I could get a bus there if I got the job."

"Well, that's not very close, either. Are you from the District?"

"I used to be, but I live in Maryland now, in Oxon Hill."

Now I began to understand her situation better, because I don't know where Oxon Hill is or how on earth you'd go about getting there. "It must be a pretty good job if you're coming all this way to try for it."

"It's just a receptionist, but I don't think I want it. I didn't know it was way out here. In the winter, it would be dark before I even got off. If we don't find it in a minute, take me back to the bus stop."

In a good many minutes, we still hadn't found it. "Take me on back to the bus stop. I'm going home if I can get there, prop my feet up and forget all about this job. I can't come out here every day, anyhow. I'm gonna call that man up and tell him I couldn't find it."

At the bus stop she thanked me, and our friendship had become so cemented that I made one last attempt to furnish some orientation to this strange and foreign land. "This is the upper part of Fairfax County. Way beyond Arlington, even."

"Yeah," she said, ''and if I'd a-known that in the first place, I never would have fairfaxed out here."

I understand you, lady -- if I can possibly avoid it, I'm never going to oxonhill out there, either.