The first time I met the goat man, I was sixteen years old. Three friends and I had been down visiting a local college town south of my home town of Plummer. We had been up for a few days in the grey, cloudy musk that is Moscow, Idaho, finding trouble as only teens can find it. We had met college students who seemed so old and foolish, but then, everyone to me then had the air of old and foolish about them. I knew it all; I knew the world, and I saw it for what it really was. One did not live in a tent if one did not have some answers, or so my youthful pride told me.
My hand was lifted before me, but the fingers were the thing—the fingers, or what was between them. I could see through them, and into them. There had been a lightness in my vision that dimmed as I moved my fingers before my face. I pushed my hands down, forcing myself to stop. I moved my fingers in a complex weave, enjoying the feel of them stretching and dancing.
I watched as a butterfly settled gently upon my finger, before striking fiercely at the wasp that never seemed far from me. The two circled and struck, neither able to kill the other. They danced around my fingers in a dance with each other that was a blur of color and pain. I wiped them from my eyes with my hands and looked at the sky.
I lived in a place of purity in my life. I had seen who I was, and the quiet sounds of accented words filled my ears. My purity was greater than that of those foolish enough to be older than I. I knew this; they kept their many objects and trappings of ownership around them while I had my car and lived in a tent. Not everyone can live in a tent in Idaho year-round, and those people who cannot are not as pure as I was at the age of sixteen. Pure and filled with understanding—at least that is what I told myself. I washed away all other reasons for my situation and attributed that situation to purity.
James had come out of the dark yellow house with a laugh to find Aaron and me sitting on the porch. James entered every scene with a laugh. His smile was his trademark look, and his laugh was a short, loud bark followed by the low laugh that seemed so out of place on his large face. He was always larger than life. It was not his height—which was greater than mine, but not by much. Not many Coeur d’Alenes were tall, but he pushed that envelope, at least when standing next to our group. Well, next to all but Aaron. It was not James’ girth that made him larger than life, though he outweighed me by a good margin. It was the smile that came suddenly and yet sat forever upon his dark features. His face was classically native and should have had the stoic look of an Italian Iron Cloud, but instead, he laughed and smiled. His eyes sparkled as he spoke, and there was always humor looking out at me from those wise eyes. And this moment was no different. He laughed, and I soon realized he was likely laughing at Aaron and me.
I pulled my eyes away from the sky to look at Aaron. Staring at the sky was a lifelong obsession of mine. I knew the clouds and what each one meant. I had spent hours of my life reading and studying what the sky meant and the many labels that scientists had attached to the different phenomena. I could tell you what kind of clouds were in the sky by the smell of the air. The sky held a fascination, through beauty and violence, that had immediate effects on the lives of those under it without ever really touching them. The sky was a vibrant tangle of emotions, and for a kid who had few emotions, it was fascinating for me. The cumulous clouds that sat sorrowfully to the south of us were traveling slowly, preparing to weep into the air. They were a point of depression in an otherwise happy sky. I realized I was trying to describe the emotion of the sky in my head, and I made a purposeful point to stop. Talking about things in my head created a layer of perception that just got in the way of my deeper understanding of the world I was staring up at. I wanted to enjoy what was there and not what I thought about it.
Aaron was an Apache kid who had joined us in our lifelong adventure during middle school and had become a fast friend to us all. He was goofy, in a tall gangly way, and his clothing choices came across as a conglomeration of different messes dumped together onto one body. Though the day was warm and I was wearing basketball shorts and a sleeveless T, he was in long johns, under cut-off shorts, with a large jacket over his ripped band t-shirt. He had a sketch pad and was drawing furiously some weirdly technical dreamscape that captured the sights and sounds of our most recent experience. I could see faces made of flame across the top of the page—like a ceiling of fire with small dark forms huddled beneath it. He looked up at James as well, and we both just sat there, momentarily torn from our individual dreams as we acknowledged our friend. James laughed again and shook his head while Aaron and I met eyes and smiled. It was hard not to smile when James was around. He filled the world with laughter.
Aaron went back to his sketch, pushing his long bangs out of his eyes as he focused again on his work. His scribbling was all he needed at that moment. I was lucky that he was not talking while he sketched. Sometimes he did. Long rambling loops of thought about odd facts he likely dreamed up the night before. Sometimes the conversations were hilarious, sometimes thoughtful, and other times just an obstacle. I looked back at the sky, smelling it as I languished in its beauty. It smelled like dandelions and dried grass, with a hint of leaves and wild abandon. It was peaceful. The smell of grass and wild abandon usually made me feel centered and at peace. I breathed deeply and enjoyed the quiet of my friends and the day.
The wind picked up and brushed my long blonde hair over my face and tickled my mind as it closed my eyes. I thought of stars and drowning in darkness, as I realized my worth. I heard the loud braying of the younger man behind me, still in the house. He was yelling about something, and we all took a breath before looking out at the world.
“Fucking Pedro,” Aaron intoned with a smirk and a shake of the head that he always did when speaking of his brother. A brother with the same father, but not the same mother.
“Fucking Pedro, ain’t it?” echoed from my own lips. I ran my fingers through my hair to pull it back out of my face as I realized my peace was about to slip away.
“Ha-ha. Fucking Pedro? Look at you two, sitting on a step like you aren’t as ridiculous.” James said it with a laugh, and we all smiled at the thought of how we must all look. Three teens looking deeply into the world and wondering what it saw when it looked back. The sounds of Pedro inside became a steady stream of burbling and laughter, and we assumed he was either arguing or entertaining our host. Though likely, regardless of his goal, he was accomplishing both.
Pedro was the most emotional man I had ever met in my life. Perhaps the most emotional human I had met. I was young; I had not paid attention to many. In our group, we were the two extremes. He was unabashedly emotional, while I had little or no emotion. Sure, I felt things, but emotions were not things I really understood internally. Pedro and I were both cut loose from humanity and its control, even though we were opposites. James and Aaron fell between us on the spectrum. Luckily, all of us were crazy and loud in our own ways. We created a symphony of noise when we were together, like multiple instruments playing one atop the other. As a group, we fit. As a group, I fit. It was a comfortable feeling to fit. I do not mean any of us were alike or even that we thought the same, but we were like puzzle pieces that snapped together in a riot of collage and color.
“What’s the weather going to be like, Tomtom? Are we headed soon?”
I closed my eyes and smelled the air. I felt the cool breeze of the day on my face and looked back at the clouds. “It feels like the day is enjoying the laughter of children, so it should be nice. But let’s face it: those clouds look sorrowful, in the pit of their lethargy, and their sorrow will bring the mists. I hate driving in the mist. I just wanna leave before it gets too dark.”
Aaron shook his head. “Your goofy white ass.” And we all laughed, but still, they set their internal clocks to get going so I would not have to drive in the mist. They knew I was correct, no matter if they did not understand my reasoning; they had come to trust it, just as I had learned to trust that nobody could understand what I saw when I looked out into the world.
We began to muse and smoke while the sun freckled us in thoughts and dreams. Pedro eventually joined us on the steps. He was a few years younger than I was, and at our age, that youth became apparent. He had long straight black hair and a willow-thin frame. He liked to cock his head to the side and look at you like he was a human bird trying to get a better view. He could say more with the angle of his head than anyone I had ever met. He often punctuated his points with a choice of different head shakes. From the sound of the indoor conversation, he had cycled through laughter to explosive anger and back into a level of careless waiting. He was a joker and a clown, but then, so were we all. He was shaking his head now, before any of us had even spoken, likely still arguing his points in his head, from whatever they had talked about inside.
“Dude, what’s up? Gonna rain?” Pedro looked expectantly at me, and yet with a sparkle of derisive laughter in his eyes. Not everyone had faith in my weather knowledge.
“The world’s fucking sad; it’s gonna be misty at nighttime,” James got out before I could speak, and I looked at him, eyes tightening as I contemplated correcting his assessment.
Pedro returned, “Misty? Not rain? Sad seems like rain.”
I sighed and swatted at the wasp that was always present. “Those clouds south of us are full of sorrow--no sadness. The day is quite pleasant; it’s just the clouds. And a sad world is not rain. Sad clouds are not even rain. Well, not necessarily.”
“Fuck that. Sad seems like rain.”
“You’re being fucking obtuse; stop it. The world is a clear place. It is not simple, but it is clear. Sad and rain are not connected.”
“Do you even know what ‘obtuse’ means?”
“I know it means you need to shut the fuck up and open your mind.”
“Dude, my mind is open. It is open as fuck.”
“Like your ass,” Aaron chimed in from his sketch pad, and we all laughed, even Pedro. We often spoke through a list of insults and random fights. It really was the best way to communicate. We were free to say anything if it was funny. If it lacked humor, you might get punched in the face, but if it was funny, everyone laughed—though sometimes you still got punched in the face. This was our friendship. This was our pack.
“Dude, if we wanna get past the fog in the dark, we need to go get the stuff and head.”
The correction slipped from my lips without thought. “Mist.”
“Mist, not fog, and where is this guy?”
“Mist. Yeah, it’s over there.” James pointed his chin and lips up toward the sun. This could mean the guy was across the street or across the country, but we now knew the basic direction, and we were all comfortable with the information. We knew where to go, assuming we could get there.
Pedro chimed in with a glint in his eyes, “Same guy from the last few? That first night was cray-cray.”
“Yeah, same guy, same shit.”
“Does that mean Tomtom gonna flip his car and disappear into the mists, man?”
I felt the memory of painful awakening and shook my head. “Fuck you, Aaron.”
“Let’s load this shit up.” James spoke with stern control in his voice, underlined by his stock humor. We had no de facto leader, but he kept us on track. The rest of us were here and there—all over the scope, but he kept a strong focus on the next step.
The car we were in was my powder-blue 1976 Volkswagen Rabbit. The dirty square frame of a mini rez runner covered an engine that had, on multiple occasions, outrun much nicer cars. I had, just two nights before, outrun a white 1992 Thunderbird on a long straight stretch, in a successful attempt to get my beer bought for me. I had reached a speed that made the car float upon the air, literally. A strong gust had pushed us gently to the other side of the line before we touched back down and I let her tires dig back into pavement. Red had been sitting next to me, and she had freaked and hammered my arm in a desire to get me to slow down. I had not slowed, and my baby had protected me across the finish line.
The Rabbit was ugly and compact, but she was the wind. She ran faster than any other car I had ever seen. You had to reach through cuts in the door and push against a wire to open the doors, as her handles had broken off. I had yanked her heater to fix a leak and cut out 80% of her electrical to fix a short, but she was mine. I had bought the car roughly a year before, after crashing Father’s car on a crazy night, and I had needed something to drive around.
I had found her in an old barn, under stacks of hay and a ripped tarp. Her tires had needed changing and the dust needed washing off of her. The door handle pulled off when I tried to open the door, but she started as soon as I figured out how to get in. She had always started for me ever since, and she drove like a dream after I put some work into her. Some things were always there for you, and some were not. I loved her, even if my friends laughed at her “beauty.” Red hated riding in her, but I did not give a shit.
Aaron and Pedro struggled into the back while James took shotgun and I drove. It was odd that we had taken my car, as we usually took James’. He was a much better driver and just loved to drive. I liked to go fast and feel the old girl slide. After the accident a year before, I was not a popular driver, but for some reason, we had taken my darling and I had driven. Sometimes the reasoning of youth is lost to time.
I pulled out and started towards our destination, a small town on the outskirts of Moscow called Viola. As I cleared the Moscow city center, I sped up, and once on Highway 95, I opened her up to let the feel of the air open around us. I could relax as I drove. It was beautiful that day, and the sun caressed the pavement as we sped north. The hypnotic feel of that day sank into my bones like a hot bath, and I slipped my hands down the wheel to a single-hand hold at the bottom of the wheel. This freed my other hand to hold my smoke. The voices of my friends were a tick-tock of conversation around me while I danced along the open road. It was relaxing.
The green pines and open fields were all around us as we sped north along the highway. It was beautiful—these greens and browns that hung over us and closed us in. I looked at my hand on the wheel and resisted the urge to lift it before my eyes. I was so enraptured by the view that I almost did not see the kid. He was about five—maybe six, and he ran out from the trees into the road before me. His orange ball cap and white t-shirt gleamed against the sun as he looked me in the eyes from feet before my car.
I slammed on the brakes—fuck, I promise I slammed on the brakes. My car slid into a deep turn and rolled right through the boy. There was no splatter of blood, no body flying. I just slid right through him until my car skidded to a sharp halt, yards past where I had to have hit him. I sat there shaking and cursing. In my heart, I knew I had hit him. I had to have hit him.
I jumped from the car, leaving the door open, and as I sprinted back towards where the boy was, my friends where in pursuit, likewise cursing.
“Where did he go?”
“Dude, why didn’t you stop?”
“Fuck that, man. I stopped. I fucking stopped. He ran out in front of us.”
The breathless exclamations filled the air as we searched up and down the highway. But we found nothing but open road and dried grass. No blood, no body, no sign of the child we had run through like he was a wisp upon the wind. We spent a few hours searching, until we finally agreed that this had likely been some kind of group hallucination. It hurt my brain and dug into my heart, but the sky assured me it had been both real and a figment. I relied on the figment part as we settled back into the car, all of us freaked out.
“What the fuck?” came from the back seat and summed up the entire experience.
A tap on my shoulder caused me to look out the passenger window. An old man, semi-Asian-looking though likely Native, stood on the side of the road. He smiled and waved, with his long coat and heavy pack. It looked to me like he was a professional traveler, but something was off about him. James, in the front passenger seat, opened the window, and the old man nodded his head, lips up, at us. I thought of blue light in a darkened night.
“Hey, bradas, you get me ride?” The old man’s voice crackled with the thick rasp of a smoker long past his time on this earth. It sang to my ears and danced through the air, in the way that only old Native voices can do.
“Fuck, no.” James started to roll up his window. We were all shocked. First, most of us had hitched and had no issue with giving anyone a ride. Second, James had never in all our lives been anything but solicitous to elders. This was a huge break from his normal behavior. I mean, the dude had forced me, on multiple occasions, to pull over and help people. He was a teddy bear, but the look he gave me as he told me to drive was fierce and unflinching.
“What the fuck, man? That old dude needs help.”
“Dude has goat feet. Fucking drive.”
I was in shock. I mean, we all knew the goat man. We all had heard of him, even knew people who had seen him, but this was too much.
“So what, man? Dude has goat feet. Why that mean he don’t need a ride?”
“Shut up, Aaron. We are talking.” I was angry in my statement to Aaron but not in the look I gave James. We just stared at each other for several moments before I put it in first gear and drove. The look he had given me was… Well, it was not humorous James; it was a serious moment we had shared, and I had not questioned it. How much of our freak-out over the old man was due to the hallucinated young boy, I could not say. How much of it revolved around shadows and blue lights, I also could not say. But it did not require effort to try and put it out of our minds. Such fears and inconsistencies are easy to misplace under a bright sun.
The road was calming and soothed me as we slowly went along our path. It was odd to be able to discount something so real, yet we could find no proof of its reality. Little kid ghosts and the goat man. We had to eventually accept that it was all just a hallucination.
Aaron was horrid at directions, which was a pain in my ass as I drove through the streets of Viola trying to find his guy, but finally we found the house. I parked on the street, and our debates began.
“This dude selling is crazy. The half-breed needs to stay in the car.”
“Who you fucking calling a half-breed? You’re half Mexican.” I hated to be reminded of my pale features.
“Dude, I’m just saying. Half-dark, half-dark just makes it better.”
“Shut up, Pedro. Goddamn racist. You can wait in the fucking car. I’m going in.”
James let our argument peter out before he chimed in. “It is my guy. Both of you wait in the damn car.” He and Aaron clambered out to head into the house and see what was up. Pedro climbed into the front seat and relaxed back into the chair.
“Fucking half-breed,” Pedro said under his breath.
I had a girl I saw on the regular—Red—who said my friends and I were passive-aggressive to each other in every breath. I proved her wrong with my overtly aggressive response. I slammed Pedro’s head against the window and held it there. “What did you say, racist?” I followed this with a torrent of racially insensitive insults that he returned in kind.
He proved Red even further wrong with a hard elbow to my face, forcing me to let him go.
“Fuck, man, that hurt.”
We both began to laugh. The laughter calmed us, and we sat in silence while we waited. The sun was crossing over, and we began to smoke as we waited. It was a comfortable silence, interrupted periodically with either him or me exclaiming over the length of time our friends had been inside, and a long debate on if we should check on them. But for all our talk, we sat and waited. And waited, and waited. It was a pain in my ass to wait, so I rolled my window down and looked out at the trees on the street.
It was a nice neighborhood, though in need of repair. The trees were beautiful hanging sculptures along the sides, covering the sidewalks in dappled shadows. They were ceilings of green and yellow, dispersed here and there along the lines. I laughed quietly to myself.
“What the fuck you laughing at?”
“Dude, look at this neighborhood. The houses are all in disrepair and broken down in dirty insults to the land. The trees, though—they are so young and free in their beauty. The grass and flowers are on point, and the gardens sparkle in the world. But the houses are ugly.”
“Yeah, man. The human hand is a blight on the natural order.” Pedro stated firmly.
“Fuck, yeah, it is. It’s all so grimy, yet contained by the beauty of nature.”
“I love it.”
“The wild should just overtake the tamed.”
We both laughed and looked around us at the beauty mixed with grime, an analogy for our world. A hodgepodge of moments was contained in a single tangled clump. The world was a simple, complex system of life. We could not help but recount over and over the story of the kid we had seen and the possibility of the old dude being the goat man.
Pedro and I had shared a similar childhood, though he had been lucky to move out of his version of it by escaping into Aaron’s house as a young man; I had escaped mine into a tent. We never spoke of our childhoods, but we could talk around the subject all day long, and talk we did, as we sat and waited. We talked until we had nothing to say. Then I began to muse. I was pulled from my silence as Pedro tapped my arm, and I looked out to see our friends coming from the house, a jaunty jumble of limbs and joints rolling down the yard.
“What the fuck took so long?” The jarring creak of the door filled my ears as it opened out of the safe cocoon of the car into a cold world of wild happenings and flying leaves.
“Dude, nothing. Let’s go.” Aaron clambered over Pedro to get into the back seat. James kicked the seat, and Pedro climbed back with Aaron, and James took shotgun. They were red-eyed and smiling. We were all smiling, despite the irritation of having waited for them. I pulled away slowly and found my way out of town and onto Highway 95. The road was open, and the sun was dipping. I hated driving in mist, and mist was coming.
The dark sun beat down in that end-of-day way that kills visibility and cures all of us of the belief that we can see the whole world. I drove until we saw a figure in the front window, standing on the side of the road in the dying light of the sun. The figure turned from black dot into brown splotch, before finally forming into the little old man we had denied a ride to. I sped past him, not stopping as Pedro hooted out the window at him and I pretended not to see him.
“Fuck, old dude can move fast.”
“Shut up, Pedro.” James was clear and precise as we left the old man in the mirror. It was a moment of clear and comfortable understanding for me that James had been correct. No way a non-hallucination, non-supernatural human could move that fast down the road. When dealing with the supernatural, it is always best to knowingly ignore it until it goes away. Paying it too much attention is like getting out of the car when shit is going down. It never ends well and usually makes things worse. I met James’ eyes, in the way one does when you are trying to convey your support, and then turned back to driving as the sun sank and night took us.
The stars shone in the sky and through the windows. They were sparkling diamonds burning white in the sky, bright on a dark night. The faded paint on the road reflected the headlights in a sea of dark pavement and hurt my eyes. I could hear the subtle snoring of Aaron and Pedro in the back. The brothers snored so similarly, I had to laugh. They would hate that; they always thought of themselves as so different.
The old blue Volkswagen rattled and shifted as we tore up the dark road and the tires ate the miles down. It all created an undercoating of noise that filled the drive. James and I talked slowly and fully through the many immediate thoughts that dripped from our brains into our mouths.
In the darkness before us, we could see a figure standing solemnly alongside the road. The long stick in one hand and the dark bag that hung from one shoulder created the appearance of a longtime traveler. I slowed the car and looked out the window.
“How the fuck?” The worry in James’s voice made me glance directly at the man as we passed him, and I saw the face of the same old man we’d already refused earlier, looking back at me. I hit the gas, and we spun ahead upon the road. I could feel the weight of the car’s tires digging in and dragging us forward. The lights flickered against the hiker and then past him, into the trees and down the long lonely pavement pathway.
“Did you see that?” I had to ask.
“Yeah, man, I saw that. How did he get ahead of us?” I had no answer to that, so I kept my mouth shut. We shook our heads and glanced back and forth with worried eyes. James turned to check on the sleeping occupants of the back seat. The night had turned suddenly cold, and the vents fumbled and shook as I turned up the hot air to compensate.
The mist had begun to rise, making the world whiter and darker. Like colonialism taking over the world, things only grew darker as they grew whiter. The mist crawled up from the ground and clawed along the road, long tendrils of cloudy night sky coating the trees and fields around us. Its deep wet cold could be felt through the glass of the windows, even as the heat blew out upon our faces and hands. The warmth of the car made the strangeness of the day feel far away, even while the eerie billowing mist made the world alien and strange. The thick glass and metal around us kept the strange at bay, and kept us safe from the creeping night.
A pale moon shone through the mist from the back window. It was cold and strange and reddish-yellow, instead of the grey and white I was used to. It kept catching my eyes in the rearview mirror and pulling them from the road ahead. It was metal filings to the magnets of my perception. My eyes were drawn back and back again.
James tapped me and pointed back at the moon. The moon slowly resolved itself into the face of an old man standing on the side of the road just behind the car. He did not move; he did not run; he did nothing but stand there and look in through the window from the side of the road. I looked down at my speedometer and saw that I was doing sixty miles an hour. I looked back, and the face of the old hitchhiker stared in at me. James made a strangled noise from the passenger seat. I looked quickly ahead, unable to make eye contact with the impossible.
I glanced back, and the moon had moved to the back-passenger window, with steely black eyes in a brown face. Warm breath fogged the cold window as he looked in at my sleeping passengers. James started to tap my arm and I tapped back, neither of us willing to make much noise beyond low quiet breaths.
The white motes of mist and bugs sprinkled the road with white dots that drew my eyes ahead. I could see the white moon out of the corner of my eye, no matter how much I did not wish to see it. It shone until it stopped. I looked back, and the face was gone; the moon no longer reflected the light. The car’s tires breathed a sigh of relief and spun under the dark shadows of the pines hovering over the highway. I relaxed a bit and let the unbelievability of it all embrace me, now that I could no longer see what could not be there.
The mist turned and the dark twisted around in the headlights. I hit a bit more speed to just find distance between the world I knew and the world currently outside.
A soft, deep yelp from beside me caused me to turn my head. James’ face was white as a sheet, and he was staring straight ahead, refusing to turn his head. I kept glancing at him to see if he was ok. From the corner of my eye, I saw the moon-faced elder once again. The man sat peacefully in the back seat, between the brothers, highlighted only by the light of the instrument panel. I could feel the steering wheel grip tighter to my hands as I steeled myself to look ahead in an attempt to ignore what could not be there. James began mumbling under his breath, and the urge to shush him came on strong and fast. I did not shush him, though, and I did not comment. My entire body tightened and quivered as my muscles contracted in a need for flight or fight.
The silence of the car screamed out at us; even the sounds of the tires on the road dissipated to nothing, and Black Lodge on the radio dropped from a stereo echo to a muted roar that beat against me. I wanted to be the one roaring. I wanted to scream out, but the mouse does not scream at the coyote; it hides, and my body scrunched down in tension.
I wanted to check the back seat. What was he doing to my friends? Was he still there? Was he real; was I real? What the hell was going on? The darkness choked me, my breath strangled in the too-hot heater air. The beating of the fans filled my face with unpleasant air that was impossible to breathe. I hated it; I hated the fans upon my face; I couldn’t breathe that fan-blown air. Fans would kill me; they would steal my very breath and choke me with memories. I took in a choking breath and turned to glance into the back seat.
My head barely made it to the side before I found myself staring into the dark black eyes of the moon. His face filled my vision, and all thoughts of the road ahead were gone. The car and all its occupants were gone. My world was that face, and that face was my world. There was not a single breath to be had, and those eyes drank me in to blackness. The pale grey mouth opened, revealing yellow and brown teeth, sharp as broken bottles shoved into a slavering mouth.
“You should have given me a ride.” The voice rasped against the air and scratched my ears until they bled.
I hit the steering wheel as I slammed onto the brakes. The stereo screeched back into life as sound and motion returned to the world, filling my world with the rapid beat of drums and powwow songs. I could feel the car squealing along the pavement as it turned into the hard stop and spun around in a dazzling display of bad driving and poor choices. I heard a scream and was unclear if it was James or myself. But the world screamed, and I was unsure how it could, when there was no air to breathe. The mist spun around us and circled the car in a thick, wet dance, like smoke that dripped from a corpse’s mouth.
I could feel the tires on the passenger side come off the ground as the car slid sideways along the road, and for one slowed second, I thought we would tip over. But instead, we came to rest facing the fields of mist and wheat that stretched out from the side of the road. My head was on the steering wheel, and I could hear the commotion of my friends squawking as Aaron and Pedro were waking up.
I lifted my head and lifted a shaking hand to pull and light a smoke. The lighter clicked and clicked as I leaned over the wheel. It finally struck, and I took a smooth, sweet drag of burning life. I was staring out the front window like a zombie waiting for the signal to start the next wave of attacks. James pointed past me out the driver’s side window and down the road. I began to unroll my window, and in so doing, I turned to look where he was pointing.
A yellow-brown Subaru sat dead in the road not inches from my car. It was in the middle of the lane, jacked up, as a man stood, tire iron in hand, staring open-mouthed at me. The man was unmoving and unimportant as I looked past him at the wide-eyed stare that pressed up against the back window of the yellow beast before me. I reached out and touched the Subaru’s window, looking at the person within. His orange ball cap and white t-shirt gleamed in the night. The boy could not have been more than five or six, and I could not stop replaying what could have happened if I had slammed into the back of that car on this cold and misty night. A child sitting in the hatchback playing: it would have been death. He stared out the window at me; I stared out my window back; we stared in frozen wonder at each other.
My mind screamed at me. It screamed at me about rolling and crashing and mud on a dark, cold night. It screamed of blue lights revolving around and around my vision as I lay amongst glass and grass. It screamed of metal on metal. My mind knew what I needed to know, and it knew nothing. I stared at the boy, and he stared back. I looked at my fingers gripping the wheel. A giggle crawled from my mouth.
I needed to piss and vomit. And as my car door creaked and crackled open, slamming into the back of the Subaru, I realized there was no time like the present.