Feminine pads, cough syrup, and eyeliner…pads, cough syrup, eyeliner…pads, cough syrup, eyeliner…
I repeat these three items over and over in my head as I make my way into the local retail chain store. I am on my way out of town for a few days and forgot the first and last things, and thanks to the sudden cold I have, need the second item.
It’s midday and the store is almost empty, save the few moms pushing carts of whining and crying children through the aisles, the carts full of diapers and macaroni and cheese and bottles of cheap wine. One woman’s toddler drops his sippy cup and it rolls over to me. I stoop over, pick it up, and hand it back to her. I offer a little smile and she stares at me and utters a feeble “thanks.” Without wiping the mouthpiece off, she hands the cup back to her son who happily jams the thing back into his slobbery mouth. Her phone vibrates and she busies herself with texting.
I find the pads I want–with wings; gotta have the wings–and meander to the cold medicine section. I pick up several kinds and compare the labels. Cough suppressant and expectorant. Cough suppressant. Cough expectorant. Nighttime formula. Daytime formula. Cold and flu. Sugar-free. I choose one and walk to cosmetics. Same overwhelming choices there: liquid eyeliner. Eyeliner pencil. Eyeliner gel. Retractable pen eyeliner. I find the one I want and make my way to the checkout
I stand behind a very large woman sitting in a motorized scooter. Her head barely clears the counter as she plops her items on the conveyor belt and the cashier lazily scans her items and places them haphazardly in plastic sacks.
“Be sure to double-bag the chicken. Last time my chicken wasn’t double-wrapped,” she croaks in a 2 pack of cigarettes a day voice. The cashier pauses as she scans, looks down at the woman, sighs as if this is the most off-putting thing she has ever been asked in her cashier life, and hastily wraps the woman’s chicken in another bag.
“Is that everything?” the cashier asks in a monotone voice.
“Yeah, gimme a carton of Pall Malls,” the Scooter Woman hacks.
“That’ll be eighty-five ninety-seven.”
“Jesus Christ!” Scooter Woman croaks, but digs deep inside her giant handbag and stuffs a fat fist of crumpled twenties in the cashier’s direction. After she’s given her change, she lurches the scooter forward, but not without hitting the display on the side of her and a box of Snickers falls to the ground. I place my items on the counter and pick up the fallen candy.
“You find everything?” the cashier drones.
“Yes, thanks. And I don’t need a bag,” I say as the woman starts putting my three items in a bag. She gives me a “dirty fucking hippie” look and places my things on top of the spinning carousel the bags are kept.
I swipe my debit card through the machine and punch my PIN on the keypad and she hands me my receipt.
“Thanksforshoppinghaveaniceday,” she rambles.
I smile politely and walk out of the store, glad to be out of there. That place always makes me mourn for humanity.
The sun is blazing down, even though it’s early September. I pull my sunglasses over my eyes and walk to my car. I fumble for my keys as I stand by the door and hit “unlock” once I have them in my hand. The lock tumblers click and I open the car door and notice something on my car seat.
It’s an unmarked envelope. I pick it up and glance around the nearly empty parking lot, trying to figure out who would have put this on the seat. I don’t see anyone, so I sit in my car, one leg resting on the parking lot pavement, turning the envelope over in my hands, trying to find a clue as to who gave it to me. Nothing.
I open the envelope and there’s a small business card on the inside. I pull it out and see it’s a picture of Jesus, hands outstretched to me from his 3.5 inch by 2 inch rectangle. I snort and rip the card into tiny pieces, letting them fall outside of the car and flutter away in the warm breeze.
“Thanks, but no thanks, pal. Haven’t believed in this guy for a lot of years.”
I put my keys in the ignition and start to bring my leg into the car, when something grabs my ankle and yanks on it hard, then intense pain as my Achilles tendon is severed. I cry out in pain and fall out of the car onto the hot pavement, reaching for my injured leg. I see someone under my car, scrambling to get out from underneath and struggling. Their shoulders are too broad and they’re having difficulty getting up, but they manage and walk over to me. I can’t make out their face as they stand over me. The sun is directly behind them and to the left and is shining in my eyes and I can’t make out any distinguishing features, except I know the person is definitely a man.
I let out a feeble scream and the man kicks me in the face, sending a new pain coursing over me. My mouth fills with blood and I try to spit some out. The man opens the back door, reaches down for me, and yanks me up into the seat, slamming the door on my leg. I cry out again and he forces my leg in the car and slams the door shut. He gets into the drivers seat, starts up my car, and we speed out of the parking lot.
We drive for I don’t know how long. Between the pain in my useless left foot as it dangles from my leg or my broken nose and teeth that jut out between my swollen lips, I float in and out of it. When I’m semi-conscious, I hear the man muttering to himself and I think he’s praying, or maybe that’s what my shocked brain is telling me he’s doing.
I catch his eye as he looks in the rearview mirror down at me.
“Why are you doing this?” I manage to spit out.
“Because you need saved,” he replies in an even, cool tone.
“Saved? Saved from what?” I can’t tell if this conversation is real or not.
“Saved from the path to hell you’ve paved for yourself. I know your lifestyle. You don’t believe in God and I can’t let you be like that no more.”
My mind reels and my face and foot bleed on my leather seats.
He turns his attention back to the road before him and I become desperate for a way out and away from him. I’ve been abducted by a religious nut and who knows what he’s going to do to me when we reach wherever he intends for us to go.
He reaches for the radio and scans the stations until he finds a Christian rock channel and begins thumping his hands on the steering wheel. He has no sense of rhythm and his timing is off, but he hums and bumps along regardless.
It has to be the loss of blood, but I come to a conclusion: I have to jump out of the car. I have to. It’s the only way. I think of it this way–either suffer his wrath and unknown torture or risk my own life by tumbling out on the highway. I decide on the latter.
The next few seconds feel like a thousand. The man behind the wheel is too focused on his bible songs and singing along to notice I have managed to sit up and sit upright behind him. My head is pounding and the blood from my nose is gushing out in rivers from my nostrils, but I don’t care. I reach for the door handle and lift up. It’s an intense struggle to keep it open against the force of us barreling down the highway, but I’m pumped full of adrenaline now and it’s easy.
He looks back at me as he realizes what’s happening.
“What the fuck?!” he screams and he reaches a meaty arm behind him to try to grab me, but it’s too late.
“Burn in hell, motherfucker!” I say as I fling myself out the car. My head hits the highway first and I die instantly from the impact.
I saved myself.