(Posting stories I wrote an intro to and never followed up on for a while, this is the last of the Kill Order)
Once when my friend Marti and I were heading on a trip out west for a college visit we got turned around, this was in the days before smart phones folks, and we ended up going the wrong way on a desert road. The kind of road where you see “next fuel 200 miles signs”. We didn’t run out of gas but we almost did. When we coasted into town we were at the point where you shake the wheel back and forth to get the gas at the bottom of the tank sloshing into wherever gas goes in a car.
That experience made me think of a story I read in Reader’s Digest (again, this was before smart phones and therefore entertainment had been invented) about a family whose car broke down on a desert road and they all died. The dad tried to hike to wherever to get help and the mom and the kids stayed with car. I remember reading that when they found the bodies they figured out that the mom had smeared the kids faces with ChapStick to try and protect them from the sun.
That story stuck with me enough that once I became a real adult I’ve always kept a roll of fives and a burner phone and a pre-paid credit card in the compartment inside my glove box. It’s not literally a secret compartment but no one ever thinks that there’s going to be a compartment inside the compartment you know? That set up would do me no good if I was stranded in the desert, but that’s where the idea came from, that ChapStick story. I don’t want to get stuck without any resources.
Always be prepared.
I can’t start my car without the key but I can get in with just the keypad, which is nice. I grabbed a spare shirt and the phone and the cash from the compartment which made me feel better. Still not great, but better. I just wanted to get home. I wanted to see Victor. I wanted to tell him what was happening. I wanted his help. If we’re being honest I wanted him to tell me what to do. It made no logical sense. Whatever was going on it would probably be better if I didn’t expose him to it face to face, but logic doesn’t ways win. Maybe not even most of the time.
I just wanted to get home and not be in it alone.
You ever walk in a restaurant and feel like everyone is staring at you? They aren’t. They aren’t even staring at me, not all of them, and I’m god damn gorgeous. People are too self-involved for that. But when I got on the bus every was staring at me. Everyone. Like they knew who I was.
My grandma used to always tell me not to give people a chance to hurt you. She was talking about relationships (my therapist says thanks for the summer house grandma!) but it works for bus people too. Seeing twenty-some-odd sets of eyes staring at me? No thank you.
The driver tried to shut the door behind me the same time an old man in the front row dropped his bag of groceries to lunge at me but I was able to ninja cat fall-jump-slither off the bus before they could trap me. For some reason, too many movies I guess, I expected the bus to drive away once the door closed but instead the door just opened back up and people started pouring out onto the street.
I’ve heard cocaine is a hell of a drug. I don’t know about that but I’m going to guess now that adrenaline has it beat. I’ve never run so fast or so far before. I was weaving through people on the sidewalk, darting between cars, leaping and tearing around I was like a free running spider hopped up on Four Loko. Or at least like a moderately athletic woman in her mid-forties who’s scared out of her wits and running like her life depended on it.
When I sprinted into the house Victor was standing in the kitchen making a cup of tea. Even in that first moment there was something off about him, but I was too keyed up to care. I noticed it, I just couldn’t be bothered in that second you know? I made it. I was home. I was back at base. Everything was going to be fine. Shut up about something being off brain!
I told him the whole story in a confusing rush that probably made no sense to him. I knew I was talking too fast and saying everything in an out of order jumble but I couldn’t stop myself. I told him not to get too close to me just in case I really was contagious with some kind of disease. Something bad.
I finished up by asking “Do we call a lawyer or a doctor or what do we do here?”
“I don’t know” he said “but we’ll figure it out together.”
I’ve never felt so relieved in my life. I nodded and told him I was going to change. I headed for the bedroom and saw that the TV was on in the living room. There was a picture of me on the screen, I don’t know from where, I’ve never been arrested, saying that I was “at large” and “extremely dangerous” and people in the area need to be on the lookout for me.
But you know what the terrifying part is? What it didn’t say was anything like, do no approach this very dangerous woman, find a safe place and call the cops, leave this to the professionals. What it did say was if you see this woman try to apprehend her yourself. The Mitt Romney looking news guy was telling people that if they saw me they should band together and try to tackle me dogpile style. He was giving them instructions on how to bind someone’s hands by ripping the electric cord off appliances. One thing he was very clear about was that they MUST take me alive. It was better to let me escape than to injure me.
I turned to say something to Victor and I saw that he had his phone in his had. He dialed three numbers. Just three. For half a second I thought he was calling 911 for me, to get help. My wife is in trouble, we need someone here now. But he wasn’t, it wasn’t that. Our eyes met and we both knew.
He was looking right at me, dead in the eye, as he responded to the voice on the other line “Yes, she’s here in my house (gives address) yes she’s aware I’m calling. No, there’s no one else here. Yes, I’ll try.” He set down the phone on the counter and pulled a knife out of the block, it was a wedding gift from my cousin. “I don’t want to hurt you Ela. Please just stay here until they come.”
The waterworks really came them, sorry grandma, my voice broke like I was a boy going through reverse puberty. I shook my head violently “No, no, not you. Why?”
He looked at me like he hated me, a look I had never seen from him, the love of my life, not even when we were having the bitterest fights that a couple can ever have. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that look on anyone’s face ever. He pointed the knife at me and came forward.
“Just stay still Ela.”