Where Am I Going? And Who Is He?—Clark Humphrey
I can’t see much through the back window (just raindrops and the silhouettes of trees and a couple of glaring outdoor lights). But I can hear things. I can hear at least two dogs howling and yipping. I can hear a loud TV, coming from a building I can’t see from here, playing some action movie. I can hear the man and woman who drove me here, arguing at the top of their voices against at least one other person.
Actually, the woman isn’t getting many words in. Most of the yelling’s being done by her partner—boyfriend? husband? brother? From the way they were shouting at each other a few minutes ago, they seem to have a lot more emotionally invested in each other than you’d think mere business partners would have.
This guy, and the guy he’s arguing with, sure like to drop a lot of F-bombs on each other.
I try to make out what they’re saying, in between all the F-words. Even when I can make out a complete sentence, it doesn’t make any sense.
At one point it almost seems as if they’re trying to come up with a business deal of some kind. How much money, in what form, delivered when and where. But then they just start insulting each other again.
It’s been more than half an hour since the couple left me in the back seat and told me it would just be a minute. They were supposed to drive me to the nearest town where I could get a bus into Portland, and from there get back to Seattle, and from there back to the ‘burbs.
They’d made a bunch of other stops before this one, including a short stop at a gas station/convenience store, a long stop at a bar, and a longer stop at some small rural house. After they came back to the car from each of these stops, they were louder and more incoherent and more belligerent.
Especially the man. He’s about five foot one, stocky. He’s got a gruffy tenor voice and a face that’s more “delicate” looking than his personality would imply. He’s wearing an oversize black suit jacket, slacks, and a white shirt without a tie. The woman is a few inches taller than him, with hair almost as short as his. She’s wearing beat-up jeans and a flannel shirt, and is pretty obviously braless. She’s got a stern demeanor and a sharp tongue, especially toward the man. They seem to have known and hated one another for some time. I’m trying to remember everything about them, in case I have to testify someday.
It’s dark now. Very dark. It’s January, so it’s not even 6 yet. Even when I do get to the bus stop, will there be any buses still running? If I have to use my emergency-only credit card for a motel room, my mom will know I’m not at the church youth retreat I’m supposed to be at.
All my life I’ve tried to be the good child, the one who’d never get into any trouble or cause my mom any worry. And now I’m here, wherever this is. All I know is it’s on a gravel road, off of a two-lane paved road, off of a four-lane state highway.
Every mile or so while it was still light out, I could see a small sign posted in memory of someone who’d died in a drunk-driving crash along these roads. I pray to my lord Jesus that I don’t become one of them.
I know I haven’t been a very good Christian the past 24 hours or so, or a very good person either. I’ve slept with an older woman, a woman in what news stories about court trials would call “a position of trust and authority” over high-school kids like me. I let her convince me to run a weird errand for her, driving across the state line in the same car I’m in now, carrying I still don’t know what in the trunk.
The drive was all right, considering. I’m still new at the whole driving thing, so I was borderline panicky and extra careful anyway. I found this couple’s place all right, even though I’d promised that woman I wouldn’t use the GPS.
This other woman and this man were sort of nice when I first drove up. They didn’t open the trunk or ask me anything about what was in it; they apparently knew. They had me get into the back seat while they got in the front.
Outside the car now, they’ve stopped screaming. Now they’ve started screaming again. Now they’ve stopped again, and I’m hearing strange sounds from the general direction of the house, as if they’re fighting. Or it could be a fight scene in the action movie on the TV. I think I hear a gunshot; but that could also be from the TV.
The dogs are even louder now.
Now the two are coming back to the car; the woman running, the man stumbling. They get in. The woman gets in on the driver’s side. She looks a little scuffed up. But the man looks worse. He’s got a bloodied hand (I hadn’t noticed how skinny his fingers were until now). His suit jacket is opened; it may have lost its buttons. His shirt is opened a little too; he’s got Ace bandages all around him from the shoulders down. Was he already injured from some earlier fight? They say nothing. Neither do I. The woman seems even more annoyed by the man’s behavior than before.
The woman finally drives us toward the nearest town, even though the man keeps yelling at her to take him home instead.
They stop at a tiny, tired looking, old Greyhound station that seems to be closing for the night. The woman tells me to get out. I immediately do just that. Then she motions for me to come toward her. She whispers to me something about how the man’s stupid on testosterone. I may be young but that’s not the first time I heard a woman complaining about testosterone or stupid men. Then she tells me I should have seen him “before.” I don’t ask what she means.
She quickly drives off back in the direction we’d come from.
The bus station has indeed just closed.
In the alley behind the station, I hear some teenagers screaming and clinking bottles together. One of the voices sounds vaguely familiar.