Somewhere Outside Memphis

I blew out of there quick as you could imagine. 28 minutes to the state line and my blood was thicker than Nyquil. I met the girl somewhere outside of East St. Louis, a nasty town with nasty people. We met at the Waffle House on Old Route 66. I didn’t know it was Route 66. I was single minded in focus; I didn’t know there was history in my presence. Door to door bible salesmen would drive up and down the strip, selling their Bibles to the heathens that couldn’t afford them.

A few weeks later I found myself stuck in a discount gas station trying to pay the bill, with a gas shortage looming over my poor damn head. It was like Jesus was born in the lowly car wash of this filling station. The giant hair dryers and undercarriage sprayers mooing like cows and screaming in the night.

Positive. It was positive like mathematics. Read upside down, it was still the same. She would soon be swelling with the physical byproduct of our labors. Lusty nights in the backseat of a rusted Ford sedan had taught me to always engage physically with the only child. Who would want to take the risk with some genetic freak of nature with 14 siblings? You might as well not believe in condoms.

I pull out of the filling station and I’m back on the road at last. Mile 62 shrieks through the night like it’s counting the forgotten women in my life. How many wanderers held it for a brief second like I held her?

There were foreign potatoes, sizzling on a foreign grill as I stoked my cigarette with my lighter. She was behind the counter, counting the night’s tips. So began one month of a stupid mistake. Why did I stay long enough to get desert? I should have been satisfied.

Her skin was like a thousand radiant suns. Like a machine gun blowing whipped cream in my eyes. I thought I’d seen girls with the complexion of skim milk before but hers was unparalleled.

Mile 57 approaches and I’m smoking my second to last cigarette. I’m thinking about Jenny serving up pie with ice cream, her skin cool and distant, like the moon on a winter’s night.

4317 Wausau Avenue. This was her house – what would be our house for three weeks. This was my short-term destiny, bathed in the glorious tangle of her thighs. I had spent each night hidden between her breasts, towering like conjoined-twin Mount Vesuviuses, two round pink perky pinnacles of flesh.

She started with horror when I first parted her valley. Soon horror gave in to lust and all night rang like Sunday morning’s hangover in my head. When, after one week, she looked at me with those dairy cow eyes and asked how long I would be around I couldn’t answer. After two she asked if I would care to stay and I was horrified. Three weeks to the day I told her that I was out of money and couldn’t leave for now. She didn’t understand the implication behind this – that I would eventually be leaving – all she heard was that I wasn’t leaving yet.

After a month she showed me the test with big plus sign. She said that it looked like the cross that Jesus died on. I thought it looked like this filthy life propagating selfishly. Cells divide, mucus is excreted and blood is created, that is all that life is. I never much cared for life; it always ends far too soon in a desperate rush for something greater than itself. I don’t seek anything greater than myself; I have tabled that motion. All I need is a little money to keep me going in this wretched world.

Mile 48. I’ve been driving for far too long and the gas station coffee I picked up earlier today is cold. I have half a pack of smokes smoldering in its ash black fluid. Floating like a child puffing up their chest in a swimming pool to avoid sinking. The oil on the surface makes me wonder what I’ve been drinking all day. I have half a pint of Jack Daniels in my coat pocket.

She turned out to not be barren like the rest. Girls that work at diners shouldn’t get pregnant. I posited that something they put in the soda kept the young ones vibrant and sterile. The old ones were bitter and ancient. I had been experimenting for years across the country and nobody had disproven my hypothesis until now. She was the one speck in my molecule. How dare she get pregnant.

Mile 38. I’m out of whisky and all that’s left is Oxycontin. It drips down my veins and tells me I’m a fool. I’m not anyone’s fool! I have a reason. I have life to snuff out and smudge.

She told me with no gravity at all. I just wish she would have given it some importance. She told me with absolute nonchalance. That poor whore. She could have been my waitress still, telling me how they burned my eggs and had to fry some more. How much longer would this take? My eyes had had about enough. I was ready to scream.

Mile 24 and another gas station. I stop to buy another pack of smokes and hit the road again, eyes droopy from the Oxycontin and blood still thick as a sugar cube melted in oil. With a crooked grin towards the night I’m back on the road and on my way.

When she pulled the night shift I knew I had my chance. She should never have thought I was going to stay when my bag had never even been unpacked. My clothes and only belongings strewn around her living room like the remnants of a New Year’s Eve party. With a resolute mind I threw everything in my station wagon with its fake wood sides and took to Interstate 55. I thought of her fondly outside of West Memphis once the amphetamines from earlier that day began to wear off. She was now just a fond memory, another roll of the dice. The only difference was that this time I rolled eights and not sevens.

I swirled through Jackson on a detour to settle a lost bet and then was resolute to head straight to Dallas by way of Little Rock to meet up with an old connection who had promised me some work I could do, stuff I was good at.

So here I am, on my way to Mile 8. My heart is pumping mud as I burn through the interstate. At first I don’t even notice the headlights in my rearview, a blur of lights and mirrors through the haze of my artificially induced, less than conscious state. It’s even harder still to hear the siren wail and see the flashing lights. I cock my ear to the dashboard. Is it the engine whining, finally given up to the hours on the road and mixed octanes? I notice after a minute it is the car behind me whining, blurring and spitting its light on my vehicle. I put the car in neutral, turn the key and let the wheels spin down freely, pulling aside. The mile marker on the right of the road announces my arrival at Mile 6.

I have dealt with cops a lot on the road. They never give me much trouble. My wit always wins over their intuition. My smile crooks to the night in secret as my car rolls to a stop and I flip on the emergency brake.

I roll down the window as he walks up. Most people would swallow out of fear or start saying their Hail Mary’s in this position. I just let it flow by like the rest of life.

“Where you going so fast?”

I think of multiple answers off the top of my head. Hell. You wanna come along? I decide my wit is best reserved for thinking and not speaking.

“Dallas,” I respond, curious at my own honesty. This is only a side effect of the drugs. It comes to mind that my brain is too vacant to lie or even know everything that I’m doing very clearly.

He takes his hand off the top of the window, turns forward and stares off into the distance and I see at once that he is no young cop. He’s probably had a partner get shot, or maybe even die. He’s probably had to deal with his wife being asleep whenever he comes home. He’s probably had to kiss her in the early afternoon before he left for work with that could-be-the-last-time-I-see-you weight on his shoulders.

He turns back to me.

“What you running from?”

“What do you care?”

He puts a thumb to his tongue momentarily and flips through some papers he brought up to the window with him. He flips through them like he’s seen them a million times and stops on the sheet he must have been fumbling for.

“Ran your plates. They came up stolen. That’s not a good thing for you, friend.”

My blood thins up a bit. His words are turpentine. I remembered in a distant memory that I had taken this car from some fool who’d left it unlocked in St. Louis,  in the Econolodge parking lot, near that new hotel and casino. I could remember the parking lot, but my trip across the Missouri river in search of a Waffle House and the ensuing month long drug and sex binge had made me forget to swap the plates. The bags on my eyes begin to droop lower and my reality of the current situation starts to come rushing back.

What do you want?” I hiss at him, my heart beginning to beat a little harder under my somewhat less cool exterior.

He holds my freedom in his hands and stands up again as if to think about it, weighing his options, thinking of his wife back home. Thinking of the catch that he’s got with me and thinking about how much paperwork it would take to bring me in on a big-sounding but shakable charge like car theft.

“What?”

I repeat in slight desperation as he sorts through his options, taking far too much time to decide my fate. The charges are something I could shake, or even take the hit for if necessary, but if they bring me in they might find more to charge me with. They certainly wouldn’t have to look too hard. I wish I could have a drink.

“I’ve seen you before and I know what you done.”

He replies, ignoring my question with the insolence of a cop who thinks he knows what the hell he’s talking about. I’ve never met a cop in Tennessee before. I think back to the times I’ve been pulled over before.

I think of all the stupidity I’ve encountered with this useless human race. I think of all the ways I can make myself forget these things. The stupidity, the insolence, the pride. The Earth is an apartment floor crawling with cockroaches.

This is what I’m thinking about when I realize that I’ve subconsciously reached inside my jacket pocket for the now empty bottle of whiskey, or else maybe I reached for my heart. This is what I’m thinking about when I realize this motion was a mistake. I think about all of this as I see him, with reflexes, aged but still taut, reach for his sidearm, whip it up and fire a single shot straight into my chest all in one smooth motion. This all feels so natural, as if it was meant to happen. What is surprisingly unnatural is my blood, which suddenly feels free and easy. I see it spray the inside of the cabin like Jackson Pollack in slow motion. I have been baptized in this blood and so has the car. Together we are clean and new.

As I’m pulled out of the car I don’t know if I’ll live or die. I’m turned face up on the cold pavement by cruel strong hands. My head is swimming between this world and some other as I feel the warmth of my blood pool around me. All I can think of is Jenny in her short skirt and her breasts. I wonder if our child will serve potatoes to strangers with the same natural grace?

Comments

One Comment so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Henry Lewis,

    Mesmerising. Yeah, that is what I would say. Not my usual read, but absolutely mesmerising.

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