Something I wrote alone in the park, during those hours between sunset and closing, when I’m the only one I can see braving the dark and the October chill.
All original material posted here is the intellectual property of the writer. All applicable copyright laws apply.
© Copyright 2013
I sit in my old Honda for about five minutes before I decide to go into the men’s room. I was kind of hoping to get the drop on somebody, but I’m the only one here and the fast food coffee is getting to be more than I can handle.
So I’m going on minute two of peeing before I hear the door open. A guy sidles up to the urinal beside me. Short, chubby Latin guy. In my peripheral vision I see the bill of his ball cap swing from side to side, and the movement makes me curious enough to look up, ‘cause maybe the guy’s having a seizure or something, I dunno.
Nope, no seizure. As soon as I look over he looks me in the eye and smiles, nervous-like. He has a moustache that’s too sparse to keep, and crooked teeth that somehow matches his sorta offset eyebrows. Poor dumpy bastard grins even wider, but I roll my eyes, shake off, and flush. He follows me with his eyes as I walk to the sink, hoping maybe I’ll look back. Fuck. So I got a witness, I guess.
I like this place because there aren’t any cameras around. Weird, really. Georgia has three times the police budget Tennessee has, but their cops only do about a third of the work. No privacy from the cops north of Chattanooga; there’s a trooper or two at every rest stop until Kentucky.
I kick open the door, turn back to the guy, see he’s still at the urinal, probably only just now getting to business. I whistle, a quick generic two-note to get his attention. He looks over his shoulder, hopeful at first when he sees me, starting to smile even. The smile drops when he sees me wave the knife.
I wiggle it in my fingers, rapping the point against the particle board door. I motion outside with my eyes, hoping to convey that I’ll be waiting when he comes out. The look of terror is absolute. Here is a little man trapped in a box, his only crime the desire for a blowjob. And now for reasons that can never be justified, someone wishes him dead.
His mouth sags in the kind of toothy frown only horror can inspire. He looks like he’s about to cry. I go out and leave him to his urine-soaked prison.
I get in my car, move it far down the lot where the safety lights can’t reach it, park it, and wait. Thirty minutes go by. His ride, a beat-up Civic from the eighties, sits lonely and forgotten by the building’s entrance. I wonder what he’s doing in there. Crying, maybe, probably praying, though that’s probably bigoted of me to assume. I doubt he paid much attention to my vehicle before he came in. Really I just needed him to stay back long enough to move myself out of sight.
A family pulls in, their minivan’s brakes squealing so loudly I cringe in my seat. They pour out like beer from a shaken can, children practically rolling onto the asphalt. The father speaks as though he has a megaphone shoved down his throat. The mother is liberal in her use of the term “smartass.” They file inside, half a dozen at least, and trickle back outside over the next ten minutes, refreshed from emptied bladders and assaulted vending machines.
They sip coffee and soda, nibble pretzels and orange curls of not-quite dough. While they hover around their van I see the Latin man emerge. He’s glancing around like a squirrel who smells a cat, taking small, hopping steps, emboldened by the family’s presence but not impatient enough to lose his caution. He reaches his car, hurriedly climbs inside. I catch him scan the backseat before the lights come on, and he must be flooring it when he makes for the interstate.
The family stays behind for another five minutes before piling back into their roving fortress and going on their way. I’m alone again, left to my thoughts and the humming sodium lights.
The trooper comes in twenty minutes after the family leaves, and for a moment I’m nervous. I guess the Latin guy called the cops. Can’t blame him, I guess. The trooper stops in front of the restrooms for a moment, seems to be considering going inside, then a glare shines from his cruiser and I realize he’s turned on his spotlight.
He twists it slowly, scanning the empty lot. The light is strong, and he sees my vehicle tucked away in its little dark corner. The light stops, and the trooper ponders his next move for several minutes. Eventually the cruiser turns, its overworked engine groaning as it mounts the incline and inches forward. The trooper keeps the light steady on my Pontiac.
I pull the knife from its nest between my flesh and my belt and I wait.
The trooper, he’s a plodder. Takes him forever to make up his mind. I wait, crouched so uncomfortably my thighs begin to cramp. The knife is cold in my grip. I breathe slowly through my nose so that no mist will give me away. I lay the warmed blade against my free palm. No fall leaves to step through. Good. The trooper opens his door.
He climbs out, a thick, log-like man, long legs, long arms, long face, everything thick and heavy looking. A man who is strong by nature. He rests a hand on his sidearm prematurely and approaches my car, his bland face showing neither focus nor confusion. It’s a face unused to processing emotion or thought.
He shines a flashlight through the windows, inches closer until he can reach out and rap a knuckle against the glass. He gets bolder, knocking even harder, scrutinizing every corner he can. After a little too long it becomes clear to him no one is inside. He straightens up, looks into the darkness beyond the trees.
There is a moment between him and me. There is an instant in which one step forward or one step backward will make all the difference. Another few inches, and I can spring and knock him down with the whirlwind of my madness, my toothed knife grinding through bone and organ. I can scream and scream into his empty ears and spill myself down the dark road that always opens in those moments. I’ll see the blessed empty highway I take to escape the unrelenting anger that bites at my heels and threatens to suck me down whole. The street will roll through the unlit fields of my mind, and I will be lost and free of the animal for a little while, the mutt busy feeding on gasps and split veins.
A step backward, and I will be stuck here with the nagging wasp that is my will. He’ll leave me to slowly sink down its throat, ground by bullying teeth into a paste that could once cry and scream and flow with spilled blood. He’ll leave, this fighting buck that could have held back the Great Little Thing long enough for me to have a little peace in a cold black corner of my mind. I can’t take little people or those already pushed around. The stalking boar in my spirit has great need to exert itself, to smash against the sinews of pride and allowance.
The trooper’s breath mists in the light. He turns, and walks away.
The cruiser backs down the inclined parking lot, the trooper killing the spotlight before swerving the wheel and aligning the Crown Vic with the onramp. He guns the motor and leaves, and I am once again alone.
I take a breath, allow it to fog the chilled knife. I wait, spring-loaded, for bait. I feel worn tusks behind my eyes, steamed breath within my ears.
When you come, you will never know I’m here.