The Road Revisited

Follow Me Around The United States!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Scared in Seattle, Part 2

Tony and I left the bar we were at soon after his wigger friends, but not soon enough. He was beyond half-in-the-bag. He was all the way in the bag and the bag was stapled over his head. I was beginning to get really scared.

We had made plans to go to the Mariners game the next day, and before we had left the bar Tony secured me a discount ticket in the bleachers from a friend. "You'll have to give me a ride, though, in the morning, to this brunch place because I'm supposed to meet some friends. I'd invite you, but I don't think you can afford it. Anyway, then you can do your own thing until game time and meet up with us later." It had sounded like a plan, but now here I was in an unfamiliar city, in the middle of the night, driving on one-way streets, stealing a cellphone from Tony's drunk hand to talk to drunk Nick to get directions to a place I didn't know, that I didn't want to go to, and all the while Tony is in the passenger seat yelling gibberish and trying to climb out the window. When we finally reached Nick's girlfriend's neighborhood, I parked on the street a few blocks away, to make Tony walk, as punishment. I didn't like him very much at that point. That was a mistake, because he ended up falling in a bush and singing at the top of his lungs, waking several random neighbors. Nick and Friend of Nick intercepted him. "You deal with it," I said, shoving Tony's phone into Nick's hand.

I was sour. I was not a very good party guest. Then again, it wasn't really a party. It was the two thug kids from before, and their two pretty (and pretty young) girlfriends, Tony and I. "Cool lunchbox!" Nick's girlfriend said.
"Thanks." I tried my best to seem cordial.
"You want a beer?"
"Not really. Do you have water?"
"Um, tap water."
I sighed. "Gross, I'll take a beer."

Tony stumbled inside, laughing and shouting at walls, cabinets, people, and furniture. "You fucking guys! AAAAHHHHH!!!!" It made no sense. I excused myself to the bathroom. I stared at my reflection. "What the hell have you gotten yourself into now?"

When I came out, Tony was on the phone. "No, it's just north of Queen Anne. Yeah, the one with all the brick duplexes."
"What's going on?" I asked.
"Calling up a delivery," someone said.
"Oh."
"They're on they're way," Tony said, snapping the phone closed.
Figuring they meant pizza, I busied myself looking at the art on the walls and the books on the bookshelf.

Twenty minutes later there was a knock at the door.
"Sweet! 'Bout time!" Nick shouted.
Two huge, tattooed guys walked in, with a pit bull in tow. They did not look like pizza delivery men. After the dispensary hellos, they threw three bags of white stuff on the table.
"It's what we agreed on?"
"Yeah, here you go," Nick said, handing them a wad of cash.
You would have thought everyone in the room was drowning and the bags contained oxygen, that is how fast they all fell onto it. Compact mirrors flew out of pockets, razor blades seemed to materialize from thin air, and lines were cut more deftly and quickly than a barber cuts hair.
My mind said, "Oh, FUCK NO!" My jaw on the floor, my mouth managed to squeak, "I'll be right back."

I grabbed my phone and ran to the bathroom. I called Nick. Not coked-out Nick in the living room, but Nick that I had befriended earlier that night, with Shan. "Call me if you ever need anything, if you get in trouble," he had said. I was cashing in that favor.

I got his voicemail. "Hi, this is Nick, leave a message."
"Nick, hi, it's Jessica, from earlier. Listen, you said to call if I needed anything and.... I kind of... don't like where I am right now. I'm a little scared. I want to leave, and I was wondering if I could crash on your couch tonight or something? I need directions out of this neighborhood if nothing else. Anyway, call me back."

I went back out into the living room. "YOU WANT SOME?!" someone called.
"No thanks, I'm good." I went into the kitchen, planning my next move. By this time it was about three in the morning. I had no idea where I was. I paced. "Fuck, fuck, fuck...." My phone was in my hand. After about fifteen minutes, I went back to the bathroom and called Nick again. This time he picked up. "Hello?"
"Hey, Nick! Hey, it's Jessica -- I was calling to ask if--"
He cut me off. "I'm with my girlfriend right now." His tone was angry. Then he hung up.

I damn near lost it. Maybe I'm uncool, but cocaine really makes me uncomfortable. I hate it. And for a split-second I was half-tempted to call it quits and point the car back East, and just drive straight home. I closed my phone, ran out of the bathroom, through the kitchen, and out onto the sidewalk. Then I did the unthinkable. I called my dad.
"Hello?" he said, sleepily.
I was crying. "Hi, Dad." It was a squeak.
"What's wrong, honey?"
"I'm with people I don't know and they're all doing drugs."
"Where are you?"I sobbed. "Somewhere in Seattle. I don't really know where. I think I want to come home."
"Well, you can't right now. But can you find your way to a highway?"
"I can try."
"Can you find a hotel on the highway?"
"It's a Saturday night, Dad. They're all going to be full. But I know there's a Wal-Mart in Tacoma I can sleep at."
"Okay. Just get out of there. Find the highway, find Tacoma, and find the Wal-Mart. And call me when you get there."
"Okay."
"And calm down."
"Okay. I love you."
"Love you, too, honey."

But there was one problem. My lunchbox -- and my keys -- were still inside on the kitchen counter.

I could sneak in and grab it, and they'd never know, too busy putting things in their nose in the living room. I tried. But they saw me. "Where'd you go? Oh, my god, what's wrong?!" My face was a mess of tears. Tony all but pushed me up against a wall, grabbing my shoulders and bending down to look me in the eye. "Jess, what is it?! Oh my god! Are you okay?!" The two pretty girls watched in horror as I tried to speak.
What could I say? "Um, well, I hate all of you and I want to leave immediately."? "You all are losers and I want to be as far away from you as possible."? I don't think those would go over well.
I lied. "I'm just a little homesick," I squeaked.
The two girls melted. "Awwwwww!" They fawned over me, herding me onto the back porch, shoving more beer in my hand, hugging me and saying things like, "Don't think about that right now. Just look at this view. Here, sit here. Isn't the view nice? Just concentrate on that, 'kay? It sucks being homesick, but you'll be fine."
I obliged, but I really did want to leave. At one point I managed to get back into the house to use the bathroom and tried to escape again. This time Tony intercepted me. "Where are you going?"
"I'm leaving." I walked out the front door and he followed.
"Where are you going?"
"I don't know. Tacoma."
He was making more sense than he had been an hour earlier, speaking clearly and focusing on things with his eyes. He grabbed my hand and focused on me. "Jess, wait. Look, I'm sorry, okay? I'm really sorry I got you into this. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable. I'm so sorry. But please don't go. Listen -- it's really late and you don't know where you are. You could leave here and end up in a really bad part of town, and then you'd really be in trouble. Or you could stay here -- no one is trying to hurt you, remember -- and just go fall asleep. I promise no one will bother you."
I leveled his gaze, apprehensive.
"Trust me, Jess -- you're not in any danger here. You're better off staying here than trying to find your way somewhere now."
He was right. It made me so angry, but he was right.
"Okay."

I went back inside and claimed a futon in a corner of the living room. One of the pretty girls came over to give me a blanket. She was Japanese, and struggled with the language. "Here is blanket. You... okay?"
I managed a weak smile. "Yes, thank you. I'm fine."
She was adorably sweet, and tried her best to cheer me up in broken English. "Homesick is... hurting. My family.... very far away. I hurting too."
"When was the last time you saw your family?"
"Six year."
I felt like an asshole, even though the whole homesick thing was a lie. "Wow. That's.... that's tough."

Tony somehow convinced the others to party in the bedroom and on the back porch, leaving me with some semblance of peace. He stayed with me for a little while, until I fell asleep. He told me a bedtime story -- his life story. "Like I said, I'm from New York. But my wife lives in Virginia."
"Your wife?"
"Yeah. My wife and daughter."
"Daughter?"
His eyes fell. "Yeah. I met my wife while I was opening up a Ruby Tuesday in the Shenandoah Valley. It was love at first sight, y'know? Anyway, we were married for a little bit, she got pregnant, and I got out of the restaurant business for a little while and became a teacher. I taught middle school. I was planning on getting my masters. But then one night I got drunk. I got in a bar fight. Some cops broke it up, and one of them hit me really hard, so I hit him back. I ended up in jail for five months. Somehow she stayed with me. I guess for our daughter. So Elizabeth was born and about a year later, my wife and I were walking down the street. I was drunk. I saw the cop that had hit me, but he didn't see me. I went up behind him and cold-cocked him from behind. Then I ran. I ran.... heh. I ran all the way here. I haven't been back to Virginia since. I haven't seen my daughter since. That's why I move so often -- I don't want to be found."
"Why don't you just go back and turn yourself in?"
"Are you kidding? Second-time offense for assaulting an officer? That's at least five years in federal prison. I wouldn't last. I'd go crazy."
I couldn't think of anything to say.
He spoke slowly, quietly, almost in a fatherly way. "Why do you think I drink? Why do you think I snort? I don't do it because I like it. It's not that fun. I just do it to forget."
"That's crazy."
"That's life."

Soon I was asleep. Like Tony said, no one bothered me. From what I heard later, the sweet Japanese girl wasn't so lucky. "Oh, yeah," Tony told me the next morning. "She was asleep on the bed and one of the guys woke her up by shoving a line up her nose. She took it, though."

I couldn't think of anything to say.

I had to think of something to say, though, when I called my father back. I didn't want him to worry that I had stayed where I was, so I lied the biggest lie I’d ever told him. "Yeah, hey, I'm at the Wal-Mart in Tacoma."
"Okay, what are you going to do today?"
"I don't know. I think I'm going to the Mariners game."
"Okay, well just be careful, okay?"
"Yes, Dad. I love you."

I closed the phone and turned to Tony, who had fallen asleep on the floor next to my futon. Shaking his shoulder, I asked, "What time did you need me to bring you to that brunch place?"
He woke with a crazed start. "Huh?! Wha?!"
"What time did you need me to bring you to that place? For Bloody Marys?"
His face fell. He sat up, rubbed his eyes, and buried his face in his hands, elbows on knees. "Oh, God.... I don't even want to go. But they'll be mad... uh... now? Can we leave now? Can you take me to my place and then I'll take a shower, then you bring me back down to this area, then you can drive back up to my place and take a shower too?"
It sounded complicated, but I had already promised and bought a ticket to the game. I was still a little mad from the previous night's events, but made a wager. "Okay. We can leave now, and I can take you anywhere you need to go. But no more coke. I don't want to see it, I don't want to be around it, and I don't want to be around you if you're doing it."
"Deal! That's fine! I was going to say the same anyway -- no more while you're here."
"Okay. Let's go."