I appreciate what she's saying, but I also criticize that she's not helping the problem.
Once the narrative is restricted to the familiar, though, we are back where we started and have to either run from or engage with the choice of whether to save or abandon the woman on the road. Under these limits the question, “So are you helpless, tragic, or stupid?” makes a lot of sense. Translated, it asks: “Tell me how to treat you.”
Whether the author likes it or not, she's a teenaged runaway. There already exists a narrative for teenaged runaways - it is not a "lack of narrative" it is "this is a fragile asset from a broken home, or else you would not be talking to her." The nineteen year old male college student does not have this narrative - but their narrative still exists outside the bounds of conventional society and must also be overcome in order to learn the nuances.
The author also mentions the trail of dead in countless nameless gas stations while also protesting the notion that one must be "helpless, tragic or stupid" to occupy that environment. It's a fair allegation. A young girl removed from familiar social structure who refuses to fill in the holes in her personal narrative will be judged against their backdrop. And that backdrop is rich, full of legend and in need of annotation in order to rise above it:
This is a fine story. It’s a true story. It has extremely pathetic moments, fantasy, unrealistic expectations—everything. But if I tried to write it, I would be asked to explain so many things that the story would never get off the ground. Why I was out there in the first place? Why was Goldenberry out there? What drove us to the road? Why couldn’t we go back? What were we running from? This is what it means to have no narrative outside of victimization and violence: it means wasting time constructing your moral right to tell a story in the first place, it means watching it get choked in the crib…
Humans appreciate stories. If you don't give them one, they'll make one up. By abdicating the responsibility of creating that narrative, the author surrenders herself to the external narratives of others. This is particularly egregious in an essay discussing the "lack of female road narratives and why it matters". The narrative need not be true: "My father hits me so I'm trying to find somewhere new to start my life." "I'm exploring America with my parents' blessing; I call them every night." "I got away from my pimp and am trying to make it back to my mom in Poughkeepsie." Yet the author is essentially saying "the story is so good you wouldn't believe me if I told it."
The author celebrates stepping outside the norm, then refuses to explain her allure of life outside the norm. She is hardly alone in being required to explain herself; nobody gives a shit about the "how" of Chris McCanliss, everyone wants to know the why.