Why Do I Do That? And Where Are My Pants?—Clark Humphrey
I briefly come to. It’s still dark.
I sense that I’m cold, and that something’s either wrong or merely weird about my condition. But I’m too weary to amass the thinking power to sort it out any further.
And how could I have gotten so tired from a day and night of sitting in car seats, interspersed with standing around and watching other people doing things?
I don’t think very hard about that, either, before I go “under” again.
When I awaken for good, it’s the daytime, such as it is on an overcast mid-January day. I slowly open my eyes.
There’s a thin, scruffy-feeling blanket on top of me. I feel its slight itch from my chest to my toes.
Wait a minute.
My clothes: where are they?
I’m pretty sure I was wearing them when I dozed off on this stinky old sofa.
No, I KNOW I was wearing them then.
I can’t run out of here in the rain, barefoot, wearing only a blanket, now can I? (Though that would make it more probable that I’d attract the local police, who could help me to get home from all this.)
The living room of this abandoned house, in the light, looks just as decrepit as it felt when I first got here in the middle of the wee hours. There’s peeling wallpaper on the walls, in some sickly looking ornate floral pattern. There’s flaky white paint (probably lead-based) on the window sills. The small front windows lie behind busted blinds. There’s a bare wooden floor with one dirty oval rug on it. There’s no art on the walls, though there is a rectangular light spot along a wall where something might have been.
I wrap the blanket around me as I stand up. I approach one of the windows and look beneath the broken slats of the shades. Yep, it’s still raining out, but not as heavily as earlier in the night.
There seem to be stains along this floor. Don’t know what they’re from.
I walk to the door and open it. I look around. No visible marks of human activity except the gravel driveway that disappears into the trees. I turn to look at the front of the house. It’s covered in a hideous brown fake-brick pattern (made of what—tar?), that’s flaking away around the edges.
I take one step onto the creaky small wooden porch. My bare foot immediately recoils from the wet cold.
I turn back inside. Still no electricity. Can’t recharge my phone here. If I can even find my phone.
I rummage through the mostly empty kitchen. Is there any food in this abandoned claptrap? Just half a box of stale crackers, a can of tuna fish (without a can opener), and one wrinkled old potato.
The (cold only) running water still works, like it did last night. I drink up straight from the tap.
There’s a battery-operated clock in the kitchen I hadn’t noticed last night. If it’s correct (and there’s no reason to believe it either is or isn’t), it’s nearly noon. There’s only eight and a half hours of daylight this time of year, and I’ve missed almost half of it. I’ve got to find my way out of wherever this nowhere is, preferably before dark. But now I’ll also need to find shoes, and my phone. Oh, and my pants. And my shirt and jacket, if I don’t want to get pneumonia.
In the bathroom, with the leaky ceiling whose sound I’ve somehow sent back into the background of my brain, the toilet works. I use it. I wash my hands and face again. I put the blanket back around me before I leave the room. I suppose I could walk around in here without it. Nobody else is here, right?
Wait, wasn’t somebody else here last night?
Yes. There was the girl. I keep calling her that in my head, even though she’s at least two or three years older than me, and from some angles looks even older than that. Why do I think of her as a girl? I guess it’s just that she acts like a teenager so much. Spoiled, then pouty, then petulant, then overemotional. Everything (well, some of the things) I’ve tried to not be, sometimes more successfully than other times.
So. The girl: where is she?
There’s not many other places in this house for either her or my stuff to be.
I go to the parts of the house I hadn’t gone to last night. Basically just a hallway, a closet, a small bedroom, and a smaller bedroom. There’s nothing in any of them but a small wooden chair and one half-unmade bed. So that’s where the blanket came from. I decide to use the white bedsheet (which, like the blanket, has seen better days) as my next makeshift robe.
I untie the blanket. The exact moment it drops to the floor is the moment the girl walks into the room. She snickers at me. Would she like it if some guy did that to her? I bet not, I almost tell her but don’t.
Before I can snap at her, she tells me to hurry up and follow her out in back of the house.
I tie up the bedsheet and dart out. I let each bare foot stay on the cold wet ground for as few fractions of a second as is physically possible.
She leads me into a little garage in back of the house. (When did anybody ever build one-car garages when they had room to build bigger ones?) She’s still dressed as she was last night: tight designer jeans with a knee patch, generic sneakers, a black and white sweater with the slogan OUT OF YOUR LEAGUE (the latter word in baseball-jersey script), a short fake-leather jacket, short-cropped black hair.
The concrete floor here in the garage isn’t much warmer than the ground between here and the house. Thankfully, she soon shows me to a spot in here where she’d hid my clothes. She makes no attempt to turn away as I clumsily put my underwear and pants on under the bedsheet. I undo, then step onto, the sheet. I put on my shirt, windbreaker jacket, socks, and shoes.
Everything that had been in my pockets is still in them.
She asks me to forgive her for taking my clothes. She says she was afraid I’d try to leave without her (which, indeed, I would have). She says again that I need her, and I’m supposed to know it. There seems to be a lot she thinks I’m supposed to know.
I’d been brought up to never talk rude to a woman. But now, I do. I look her in the eye. I tell her to stop talking in riddles already and tell me exactly, plainly, what she said she knows about why I’m here.
“But you KNOW why,” she insists.
“No I DON’T,” I insist right back.
She takes a step back, leaning against a wall. She lights up a (tobacco) cigarette, from a pack she’d fished out from a pocket in her jacket. It’s the same brand my mother used to smoke, the one that was supposed to be made by Native Americans but really wasn’t, and was supposed to be “good for you” but really wasn’t.
“Where do I (F-word) start?”
“How about at the beginning?”
She proceeds to start from the beginning, or at least from A beginning.
The story she tells is a really confusing one. It includes a lot of F-words in weird parts of her sentences. She talks about the “woke people,” the “freaks,” the “awakened ones,” the nonconformists, the ones who reject this world’s limits on who they can be. She talks about energy healing, vibrational frequencies, and the ancient Aztecs.
She asks me if I’ve heard of the “holy rollers.”
Of course, I tell her. The Pentecostals, the churches where people “speak in tongues.” My own church had apparently been one of those once, before my now ex-pastor took it in a more conservative direction.
No, she says. The original “holy rollers” were a group that had started in a town about eighty miles south of here about a hundred years ago, or so she says. They were called the “holy rollers” because they spent a lot of time rolling around on the floor in some sort of religious orgasm. And they were mostly women, she adds, some of them married women.
But that group’s preacher got into big trouble because, as she puts it, “he couldn’t keep his (F-word) (D-word) in his pants.” The husbands and brothers of his female worshippers got him jailed for adultery, which was something you could do then. After he got out, one of those guys shot him. Then one of the women later shot the guy who’d shot him.
I tell her I’m sure that’s a great story, but what does it have to do with me?
She starts to say something about people these days who’ve looked into these old stories, “not just because they’re great (F-word) true stories but because they think those old people were onto something.”
Before she can say much more, I hear a car approaching on the gravel driveway. From in here I can’t see it, but it sounds like it might be a different car from the one that had brought me here. Car doors open and close. Two or more sets of footsteps approach.