We were going to ditch the car. I knew that much, right away. All I had to do was get my legs to move. They were still there—connected, turned on. I could feel Fitz’s hand when he gently touched my knee—but when I tried to move my mind commanded them one way and the muscles went the opposite. It was a matter of figuring out the right way to think it.
Then we could get out of here.
And no one would get in trouble. That was definitely the plan.
There was a black veil over my left eye. I couldn’t see a thing out of it and I couldn’t seem to blink. Through my other eye I saw Fitz looking at me in horror.
“Oh, my poor baby,” he moaned, his breath reeking of Jack Daniels.
“Let me see,” I commanded, breathless to know how bad it was, but the rear view mirror hung there limply, with all it’s glass smashed out.
“Bad luck,” Fitz said, pointing out the obvious.
He brushed at the bits of windshield that lay across my lap like powdered glacier ice.
“Pull her out!” TRUE commanded. Her voice was cold. She stood outside the car, smoking angrily as she glared at us through the empty pane where the driver’s side window used to be.
“This isn’t happening,” Fitz said, his face blank. “It CAN’T be happening. I swear to god it isn’t!”
“Do it! C’mon!” she hissed, but instead he stumbled back, his hand over the gash above his brow.
“Jesus Christ!” she spat.
“I’ll do it myself.”
She put one foot up on the floor of the car to brace herself and then she reached for me.
“Don’t,” I heard myself saying.
“Don’t touch me.” I was seeing things moving in the street—twisted shadows in the smoke.
She stopped and looked at me with a strange, intense glare.
“But I’m getting you out,” she said, matter-of-factly.
“No, you aren’t. Now go on. Hit the road.”
She seemed to consider this for a moment. Something flickered across her face.
“Sterling,” she began, preparing to reason with me.
“Go!” I shouted.
“We’re not leaving you, no way.”
“It’s going to be OK,” she said.
“No. No it’s not going to be OK. It hasn’t been OK for a long time and it’s all your fault and I can’t take it anymore. Don’t you get it? Look what you did to me! Look what happens when I follow you around! Now, please, get the fuck out of here!”
As soon as the words were out of my mouth I regretted saying them. I was the one to blame, not her. I was the one who knew better.
I called out to TRUE, by her real name, but she didn’t seem to hear. She backed away slowly, a stricken look on her face. Her eyes were fixed on a point off in the distance, something only she could see. It seemed that she was close to breaking down. I wanted to go to her—I wanted it more than anything in the world. I tried to pull myself up but my legs melted beneath me like cooked spaghetti.
Her feet crunched the broken glass as the sound of sirens filled the air. The sidewalk was suddenly filled with people whispering and pointing in that strange English way of theirs. Fitz leapt back in the driver’s seat, trying stupidly to start the engine.
“Never mind that!” TRUE called to him as she lit another cigarette.
“The only place we’re going is nowhere, fast,” she said. She calmly took a long drag and exhaled slowly. The sirens were like snakes, winding closer…she looked at me and winked before flicking away the cigarette and proceeding to jump up and down, waving her arms like a hysterical cheerleader.
Meanwhile, there was a bolt tightening throughout my body. Even my teeth hurt, deep down, where the roots met my jaw.
Something in me gave up when the cops came on the scene. I no longer cared what kind of trouble we were going to be in. I was just relieved that the responsibility was on someone else’s shoulders, and that nothing more was required of me. TRUE was in the street, covered with flashing red light. She gesticulated wildly, her features washed away as the lights grew stronger. I wondered if they would trigger in her a flashback. It wouldn’t be the first time flashing lights had that effect. But that wink…it seemed to me she was acting. I watched noncommittally as she stumbled over and puked violently into the gutter. This seemed to convince Fitz, who ran over and put his arms around her. He was still wearing her yellow windbreaker. TRUE grabbed his hand and wiped her mouth on the cuff and stared wide-eyed at the debris-covered street. She bolted free from Fitz’s embrace and threw herself at the officers as they sprang from the screaming cruiser.
“I puked glass!” she screamed, “Right there! All on the ground like New Years Xmas decorations, like fake ice on the family hearth. Fucking Boxing Day, mother fuckers. Fuck! You’ve got to help me! Don’t you understand, that came from INSIDE of me!”
She fell to her knees as an officer rushed to either side of her.
One had a brand new crew cut. I could see his shiny clean scalp as he bent down in front of her.
Their accents made them like little birds, chirping about insignificantly. All at once there seemed to be hundreds of them, spilling from their cars and running around with just the right mixture of excitement and fortitude. As I watched, one headed straight for me, a worried expression on his face.
"Hey! Motherfuckers! Why didn't you stop me?" I heard TRUE demand. "You guys had ways of knowing what was going to happen...all that m15 secret spy shit. Why didn't you put an end to it all? You’re supposed to be the good guys! Why didn’t you stop me!"
It was impossible to know what was real and what was a show. As the police scuffled with Fitz off to the side, she changed her act up and became hysterical, scooping at the ground and threatening to eat the very same glass she told them she’d puked up.
“I did it already—you see that, that came out of my fucking mouth. I’ve got rock diamonds in my stomach, crushing that shit up. I’m eating glass whole, and I’m puking it out in pieces…”
She staggered between the bright headlights like an exhausted dancer—but one whose exhaustion was still part of the act. I got the feeling that everything she did was written down somewhere.
“Look fellas! I’ve become completely transparent…can’t you see how I’m all cut up inside?”
Meanwhile, I was eased out of the car on a long, flat board. “Easy, easy,” the medics called to one another as they gently deposited me onto a waiting stretcher. They wheeled me forward a few inches, affording me a view of the Peugeot. The entire front seemed to be missing—it looked like a crushed beer can. The realization of how serious the accident filled me with a sickly, sleepy sensation. We could have died, I thought. I felt detached and matter of fact, as though this was all just a mildly disturbing show on late night television.
I could still hear TRUE’s voice, begging the cops to make a stop at the night shop for a tallboy.
“Just one last beer,” she begged, “Just one more for the road, one more before we get where we’re goin.”
“Is that gurl yer friend?” the ambulance worker asked me as she strapped me down. I glanced up and saw fresh, glistening curls…acne scars and laugh lines and what looked to me like a kind, forgiving expression…
“Yeah,” I said, and then my whole body lurched forward as they injected me in the thigh with something so hot I literally saw white.
“Sorta,” I told the woman when I could find my voice again. I had an urge for her to touch my head.
“Wha ya mean?” she asked, as she shined a red beam into my right eye, the one that still seemed to work. I noticed that her crisp white shirt had a lovely curved collar.
“I mean, in order to be friends with someone you have to know them, and you see, TRUE she lies all the time, and so I don’t know whether the person I know is the real her, or merely the set of symptoms and stories that I’ve analyzed as being her, which I’m only NOW starting to realize are wrong…all my presumptions and facts. All wrong. Wrong as rain.”
“It’s just like how it happens in books—at the part just before the end,” I concluded, as bright blue and yellow flowers bloomed in my brain and pushed all the thoughts away.
“That so?” the nice English woman asked me in her sing-song voice, smiling wide, too wide, I thought, perhaps because she knew I wouldn’t be able to answer. Then I was lifted into the ambulance where it was dark and there was someone else to look after me.
Posted by sterling at 1:58:00 PM