This story is getting drawn out much more than I’d planned. But I’m having fun writing it, so I hope some of you are having fun reading it. If you’re just joining the action, you might want to begin with part one. I appreciate all of you who read this and welcome all feedback (especially negative) with open arms!
My eyes opened drearily and allowed the light that was coming through the window of my room to pour into my muddled brain. “Find your truth…” The truth was that I was hungry and thirsty, and I dreadfully wanted a shower.
I rolled out of bed reluctantly and saw my jacket lying on the floor by the bed. Sheepishly, as if anybody watching might think I’d lost my mind, I lifted it enough to slip my hand into the pockets to feel if my troubles were still stored in there, weighing down the jacket. I didn’t feel anything, except maybe a bit foolish. Of course my troubles were still tucked away safely in my own mind.
I showered, had a bowl of cereal and a glass of orange juice, then left to pick up my car. I had momentarily considered dressing in a suit, just so that I could pretend that yesterday had never happened, but in the end I went with a pair of jeans and a Hawaiian shirt that I’d bought for a themed party a few years back. The most casual of casual wear: rather than ignoring my problems, I would pretend that they didn’t bother me instead.
Mitch wasn’t on the sidewalk where I had seen him the previous day. I was a little disappointed, because I had wanted to ask him a few questions about what he’d said to me right before I’d left. “No matter what happens in these next few days…” What did he think would happen? Did he think I’d try to kill myself? Of course not. As evidenced by my Hawaiian shirt and jeans, I was entirely unaffected by the happenings of the previous day. He’d just seen me at a low point is all.
I added a little extra bounce to my step as I kept walking in order to reinforce this appearance of nonchalance. Soon, I’d bounced myself all the way to the parking lot where I’d left my car, directly across the street from the bar. Seeing the bar again reminded me of that absurd notion that this guy calling himself the self-fulfilling prophet was somehow limiting my potential in life. I tried to laugh at the idea but there was just a little piece of me asking: what if it were true? I’d certainly have a much better excuse for never quite achieving my goals than just ‘I’m addicted to failure’. But it was, nevertheless, a silly idea, and I shook it from my head. I could think about it later as I browsed the online job listings and tried to pull my life back together with minimal scar tissue.
I pulled out my car keys and, rather than using the button on the key itself, went to unlock the door manually — just to see how hard the key test was while sober. I missed the key hole by about a thumb’s-width in my first attempt, then slowed down considerably and got it in successfully. So maybe the key test wasn’t such a good measure of sobriety after all. Maybe I’m just clumsy.
I got in the car, buckled my seat belt and put the key in the ignition. As I turned it, I felt a thud and heard a crash from the passenger’s side rear door. Now, if this was engine trouble, it was coming from a very unexpected part of the car. I looked over straight into the bloodied face of some woman whose head was squished up against my window. I guess I was too distracted playing with my keys to notice that there was anyone else in the parking lot.
I pulled the key out of the ignition and jumped out of my car. My first thought was to help the woman peel herself off of my window, but as I came round the front of the car I was distracted by the cause of the woman’s current discomfort. That is to say, the rather burly gentleman with his hands tangled in her hair, pressing her against the side of my car.
“You bitch!” he screamed. “How could you fucking do this to me? How hard is it to swallow a fucking pill?”
It didn’t seem like a rape or a mugging. Still, he seemed quite angry. Though getting involved in other people’s business was about the furthest thing from my mind (my own business was quite enough for me to be involved with just now, thank you very much), the fact that this was happening right in front of me—on my car—made me feel I should intervene.
I ran over to the jumble of flailing limbs and said in my most commanding voice: “Let her go!”
The man looked at me in surprise for a second, then scowled. “Buddy, seriously, get the fuck out of here. You don’t know what’s going on, and it really doesn’t concern you.” He reapplied himself to the task of smearing the woman’s face against my car’s window.
“Uh, actually, this does concern me. It concerns me a great deal.” He ignored me, twisted the woman’s arm behind her back and started walking her away from my car. “Listen, ‘pal’, you just let go of that woman, OK? Don’t make me use my pepper spray!”
I didn’t actually have pepper spray, but the line was enough to get the man to glance in my direction once more. I brought back my arm and then unleashed with the most solid punch I could muster. It hit the man squarely in the jaw and, since he didn’t have time to brace for it, caused him to stumble back and lose his grip on the woman.
“What the fuck did you just do?” asked the man, though I suspect he had some idea, since he now started thundering towards me with murder in his eyes.
I’d like to say I stood my ground and took him down in a fight, but I’m not a strong man (that’s what I get for spending most of my waking life in front of a keyboard). Instead, I booked it for the driver’s side door of my car, jumped in and locked the door before the man could catch me. I reached across and unlocked the passenger’s side door and screamed to the woman: “Get in! Now!”
She had regained her senses enough to see that jumping in the car with a complete stranger was infinitely preferable to staying in the parking lot with the other guy, so she hopped in, slammed the door shut and even thought to lock it. Mr. Muscles was tugging on my door handle trying to get it open, so far with no success. Rather than waiting to see how long that would last, I slipped my keys into the ignition, got the engine going and backed out of the parking lot as quickly as possible.
“Take her!” bellowed the man as I switched into drive and started away from the fight scene. “She’s your problem now!”
Once I’d driven a couple of blocks, and put a bit of distance between myself at the rather confusing kerfuffle that I’d just left, I started breathing normally once more. I looked over at the woman slumped miserably in the seat next to me. She was really quite young, maybe just out of college. I didn’t notice much else about her, because my eyes were magnetically drawn to the deep-looking gash in her forehead, which was probably the source of most of the blood that was now smeared on the rear quarter of my car. I cleared my throat.
“Would you like to go to a hospital?” She didn’t seem to take notice of my question. I supposed she was probably in shock after that ugly encounter. “Because your eyebrow is bleeding pretty badly. You might do well to have somebody look at it.”
She stirred slightly. She lifted her hand to the sun visor on her side of the car and pulled it down to get a look in the mirror. Slowly, gingerly, she touched her forehead.
“Do you have a first aid kit at your place?”
“Well, yes, but you really don’t want to be going there. I’m going to take you to a hospital. A doctor will fix you up much better than I would be able to.”
She looked at me. “Please, could you just take me to your place? I really don’t want to have to deal with a bunch of check-in forms and waiting rooms right now. I can clean this up myself, if i can just get my hands on a first aid kit.”
Well, she’d asked nicely. I didn’t see much harm. My job search might be a little disrupted, but I knew my heart wouldn’t be in it today anyway. “Sure,” I said. “But first, could you tell me one thing?”
She looked like she knew what was coming and turned her head away, looking down at her lap. But she nodded her head enough that I decided to ask the question anyway.
“Who was that guy, and why was he just beating the shit out of you?”
end of part four
(to part five)