Road Tale #3
This is my third "sketch" from the road. I was inspired to write these three installments yesterday, October 21, 39 years since Jack Kerouac died. See Road Tale #1 here and Road Tale #2 here.
I'd been seeing this girl from 7-11. We never really dated, but 'saw' each other one summer. She worked the graveyard shift, from midnight to 8:00 AM, Sunday to Thursday. At school during the week, I covered the shift on the weekend. To keep her sleep cycle intact, she operated at night all week and began occasionally hanging out with me at the store.
Hanging out together led to long, grand walks in the mornings after I got off work. A quintessential summer romance. When you've been up all night and see the color come back to the world with the sun, everything and everyone is beautiful. We held hands, had greasy breakfasts at a nearby diner, and made out in the grass just over the crest of a great big hill in the park.
It was nice and it was weird. She had a peacock tattoed on her back from above her shoulder blade to her lowest rib. Her mother was a rape counselor at the college. Yet I was never in charge. One night at the Super 8, her Ex, then living in a car, banged on our door, bragged about having a gun, and just wanted to talk to her for a minute. She talked to him, wearing my shirt, and keeping the door open just a crack.
Picture the scene from the parking lot, up on the second floor, leaning against the crappy metal railing of a cheap motel, a guy was talking to a girl in another mans shirt. The girl, confident, but not at ease, was clinging to the doorknob, not willing to let go of her other evening.
I stood, naked as a jaybird, behind the dirty curtains; curtains as thick as the lead apron you get in Xray. She told me she could get rid of him; didn't want me involved. Helplessly, I knew now, there was nothing I could do to help. She and the door were between me and him. I had gotten here by playing along. The only thing I could do was keep playing.
I can't imagine what he was thinking walking the length of the building and down the clanging exterior stairs of the motel. Back to his car, without her. She came slinking back into the room. For those of you, who've had a big fight with your spouse and thought making up was fun, you can't beat Post-Potential-Hostage-Situation.
Our road story came a few weeks later. A little while before the end of my shift one night, she and her sidekick friend came into the store. She was tall and tight; her friend short and curvy. They followed me to the back room while I punched the time clock. They sidled up to me, cooing in each ear. Without committing to anything, they hinted about a surprise that would involve both of them. They wanted to know if I would do whatever they asked. What American Boy would not!? That's when they showed me the handcuffs.
Out in the 7-11 parking lot, in broad daylight, while church people bought their coffee and donuts, they herded me to the friend's car. Voluntarily, I put my arms behind my back, was handcuffed and stuffed into a hatchback.
I tried to count turns and guess where we were headed but my head was swimming with anticipation. Before long, we were on gravel and the car rolled to a stop.
"OK, come on out!" They helped me crawl out of the back of the car. My arms were useless. All kinds of images and possibilities had been running through my sweaty brain. I found myself standing behind a car in the middle of a country road.
"Here?" I sputtered.
Each with one hand on my shoulder and the other on an arm, they winked and said, "here."
I hadn't noticed that the car was still running. The girls giggled, gave me a little shove, ran back to the car and tore off down the road. Disappearing in a cloud of dust, without me. My brain, shaking off its sweat, was spinning like an oak leaf in their dust cloud.
I was standing in the middle of the road, who knew what road, in handcuffs. On each side of the gravel lane, as far as I could see in each direction, a thin line of oaks and scrub bordered fields of corn. There wasn't a sound but the birds and the bugs. I tried to imagine how I would explain the handcuffs when Farmer Joe came upon me. Just thinging about it, a whole new personal dimension of lonesome and awkward.
The girls came back. They claimed they only went around the block; a country mile on four sides, but they were gone a long time. I hadn't started walking, neither direction made any more sense than the other. I heard the car first and turned, watching it get closer and the dust behind it get bigger. They laughed and carried on for the longest time.
The handcuffs came off and I got into the car, the actual passenger compartment. The three of us laughed now and we headed back to town. I missed the cuffs and their original possibilities. She made it up to me later; just her.