The Deep, Rough Purr of the Engine
BY NATE THOMAS
I got off the bus on 4th street. When I signaled for the stop, the driver seemed confused, but I didn’t engage in fear of conversation. I knew why he seemed confused. I got off the route 4 bus on Pearl St. every weekday for the past three years. I got off on Pearl because I lived on Elm; it just makes the most sense.
As confused as the driver seemed, I was just as unsure of myself. Why was I doing this? I knew the reason at the time but didn’t admit it to myself until later. So, with no real idea of what to do, and the bus already out of sight, I just started walking. At first, I was in some sort of daze, just pushing my feet. A loud, commanding bark woke me up, and made my heart skip a beat. There was a dog in one of the yards. I can’t really say what kind of dog it was, it was just...a dog. I guess I walked too close to his territory, and he was trying to scare me away. His territory, a forest green, two floor house, with brown shutters that were fading to a bland tan and an equally faded roof. As I look at this house I wondered who lived there, what their lives were like. A father who was a businessman, a mother who was a teacher, 2.4 kids. That’s what I pictured. I guess I was just projecting my fantasy onto this unsuspecting family, who were living their lives, not knowing that someone they have never met was laying out this image of their lives.
A few hours went by. The only reason I knew this, was because my shadow was getting longer and longer in front of me, seemingly trying to escape the situation that I was in. I hear a door slam near me, which makes me look up for the first time in I don’t know how long. Two well dressed people, one older man, and one gorgeous twenty-something year old woman, are walking away from the slammed door, and now, towards me. For the second time today, I try to avoid eye contact.
“Excuse me, miss. Do you have a moment to talk about God’s plan for us?”
I just keep walking.
“Miss? Can we please have a moment of your time?”
My stony reaction cracks.
“Why? What’s the point? There is no God. If there was, I wouldn’t be living a personal hell every day of my life.”
“God is just testing you. God works in mysterious ways.”
“Yeah, well, I failed that test.”
As I turn to walk away, I hear him say:
“Such a shame.”
I’m not sure what made me more angry; that he was trying to sell me on his bullshit, or that the woman, who never even looked up at me, let alone speak, let him. Then again, I can’t really judge a woman for just letting a man do something.
Further along my walk, as the twilight seemed to penetrate my being, I realized, I must not be on 4th street anymore. I didn’t really know where I was. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and noticed the 13 missed calls and texts from my husband. I guess I subconsciously ignored them, because I never miss anything on my phone. Even those annoying little social notifications that I can’t figure out how to turn off. It really shouldn’t be my job to turn them off, it should be my “friends’” jobs to realize that I don’t want to visit their bullshit virtual farm. I look at the phone some more, then just drop it. I didn’t really do it with any form of intent, I didn’t throw it down in some sort of display of defiance, it just sort of happened. I watched it bounce off the ground, then land screen up, with the now cracked screen blinking with my husband’s name. I continued walking.
It’s dark out, I realize that I have no idea how long I have been walking, nor do I care. A ways away from where I was, I saw two beams of light piercing the otherwise desolate blackness of night. The lights were getting closer and I had to raise my hand to block my eyes. Blinded, I couldn’t see what type of car it was, but I didn’t need to, I knew it was Rick. I could hear the deep, rough purr of the engine of a 1968 Shelby Cobra. The noise that I had come to hate. I heard it every single weekend while he fixed up that damn car. I only knew what type it was because he never stopped talking about it. He would cover it in a tarp every single night, whether it rained or not. Most people yelled at their cars from time to time, but not Rick. He would reserve the yelling for me, and coo the car like a baby.
The dreaded machine comes to a stop next to me, and the windows roll down.
“Julia! There you are! I’ve been looking all over town for you! What the fuck are you doing?”
I walked on as if nothing was said.
“What the fuck...?”
I heard the car door open, then get slammed shut. I knew that he was walking towards me, to bring me home, but I couldn’t bring myself to turn around. Rather, I had the strength not to.
He grabs my arm and spins me around.
“Have you lost your fucking mind?”
I felt his strong hands grabbing hold of me, of my being, as he dragged me towards the car. At first, I thought about just accepting it and going home, but some kind of switch was flipped in my brain. I did something I had never done before; I fought back. I grabbed his arm and clawed down it like a desperate, feral cat. He let out an almost childlike yelp, as his skin collected beneath my nails and the future scars started to bleed.
He looked at his arm, and me, in disbelief.
“You fucking BITCH!”
He slapped me across the face, knocking me onto the ground.
This didn’t shock me, it was nothing new. What shocked me was his next move. Rather than shout at me to get up, rather than hit me again, which was usually what he did, he just walked back to his car, muttering under his breath about how I could rot where I was for all he cared.
He opened the door to the car, got in, and slammed it shut. I heard the squeezing of tires as he pulled away fast, probably in fear that someone would see him.
I felt free, for the first time in years. I fought back, I actually fought back! I just wish it had been sooner. I realize that I will have to go back home eventually, but if I brought a friend or a coworker, he wouldn’t be able to do anything.
I see another set of lights piercing the dark, that now seemed far less desolate, and more like an empty space for opportunities to rise. The lights were coming from behind me this time, but I thought nothing of it. I was too lost in my own head. Well, I was, until I heard the engine. The deep, rough purr of the engine of a 1968 Shelby Cobra. I didn’t have time to fully turn around.
When the ambulance showed up, I heard them say something about my spine, followed up with mutterings about how they hoped the police would catch the scumbag. I was fading in and out.
So here I am laying on a stretcher in the back of an ambulance. I don’t hear the sirens, and I think I know why. Why use sirens when no matter how fast they go, I’m going to be gone before we reach the destination.
The EMTs looked at me sympathetically, but I didn’t need, nor did I want their sympathy. I was free, finally free.
I closed my eyes, and I smiled.