Author: Kim (email@example.com)
Summary: A man remembers...
Five years ago we were driving down the interstate when the back left tire of my car had a blow out. I remember the initial drop and lurch. As the car began to fill with a flat, thud-like noise, I remember adjusting my rearview mirror. What the fuck? I said, squinting back. The black-tar ribbon remains of my tire were still bouncing off the pavement and crashing into the front-grills of the cars behind him. I could barely make out their grainy photo-print faces, but I swore that they all had the same look as bits of rubber jumped off their cars. What the fuck? You frowned at me and then gave a look to the car seat strapped in behind, but between us. She was sleeping and completely oblivious as I began to steer the car onto the shoulder. Like a rag-doll, she was slumped over and her little mouth was slick with drool.
Ignoring your looks, I slapped my hands down upon the steering wheel. Through gritted teeth, I cursed again. You slapped my arm. I glared back this time. Roughly I pushed in the emergency light button before snapping off seatbelt and exiting. As cars and monstrous eighteen-wheelers streamed by, I remember the wind-slaps that they gave me. Then, the sky opened up.
I swear you always did have some sort-of in with God. I should have known better by then. By that time, we had been married for three years. I cursed and raged as the rain soaked through my clothes and I realized that there was no spare in the trunk. Who the hell doesn't keep a spare in their trunk, I wondered both aloud and silently.
Across the busy lanes of traffic there was the worst sort of bar. It was rundown and so bleak that in the downpour, one could barely make out the gravel path that off-ramp bled into. The windows were grimy so that the light came out unformed and hazy. You were sure that I was going to be hit by oncoming traffic as I bolted out across the stretch of road towards it. I never asked, but I always knew. When I got back to the car, you had that look on your face -- part relief, part worry, part wonderment (not because I had completed some great feat, but instead lived through another reckless act of stupidity. You had always been the careful one.)
So, anyway, the bar… It was even worse close-up. Next door to it was an adult store with its windows covered in white butcher paper, but edges still pink with a gritty, awful sort of glow. Inside, the entire place must have been lit up in the same neon-street walking colors. It had once been a Mom and Pop filling station so the exterior was a deceptive white clapboard. A man had been milling around the front door. When he saw me grimacing and trudging through the gravel-sludge towards the bar, he startled and pushed his way inside. Funny the sort of things people are ashamed of.
Parked outside the bar was a line of motorcycles. I remember blinking at them and how rivulets of rainwater streamed across the sleek fiberglass and metal framework of them. I said, must be a bitch to ride when it rains -- or something to that effect. It's all a blur really. I had a wife and kid waiting across the street to take care of and god knows what sort of asshole could have pulled off the road by now.
The bar filled me with dread though. I remember a slow roll of revulsion pass over me as I walked past the bar where several hulking, greasy-haired men were hunched over tall glasses of beer and cigarettes. They stared at me in my once neatly pressed dress-shirt and slacks. Both were pasted to my body and gave me a slightly adolescent look, I'm sure.
Thirty minutes later, thanks in part to one of the fine gentleman (read: Hell's Angel,) I was back on the road. By the time that we got to your parent's house, my clothes were dry again and apprehension had faded away.
It's weird the sort of things that you fear. Or how your body goes off like a roman candle: throwing sparks and chemical reactions like crazy. I couldn't even tell you what made me so afraid. I didn't think someone was going to harm my family or myself. I didn't even worry that we'd be stranded forever. I was just gripped by such a terrible anxiety that couldn't be fixed until everything was in its place again.
See, it's not about the location. It's never about the location. I'm not afraid of bars like that anymore. When I walk in, people don't stop to look at the lost city boy in his fancy Brook's Brothers clothes and ruined loafers. They don't even stop to look at all. I've become one of them: a wanderer like Cain.
However, I'm still filled with the worst sort of feeling that's only made worse by the fact that I know that nothing can be fixed again. It'll never been fixed again.