The early morning was gray, dreary. Daylight was just beginning to throw shadows over Wooster. The heat and mugginess oozed onto the new day like thick syrup on a stack of pancakes. The motel door stood open. A black sports bag sat unzipped at the foot of the double bed. A black t-shirt and dark navy jeans, folded to perfection, lay on the bedspread next to the bag. Black socks were positioned atop, followed by a pair of brightly striped, boxer briefs.
A brief case rested open on top of the dresser, showing a laptop, a stack of photos, and a couple of power cords. Tucked in the pocket was an unopened packet of Wrigley’s spearmint gum, two pens, and an inexpensive journal. An iphone rested in darkness along side the case. A worn, brown, leather wallet had been tossed onto one of the pillows. It was stuffed so full that dollar bills had pushed their edges and corners out. On the small table next to the window, a box with two almond granola bars, and two bottles, one orange juice and one water, lay in wait. On the chair was a red helmet to match the red Victory Judge parked outside.
He rode into Wooster one week ago so that he would have a chance to look around, prepare himself for today. This was going to be a special day, one he’s waited years for. The excitement was almost too much, sleep was not an option last night. Turning that thought in his mind, he felt his muscles tense. No matter, it had to be done today.
Grunting, he moved to close the door, as there was no relief from the stagnancy. Taking a deep, cleansing breath, his thoughts turned to Silvia. “Dear, sweet, vile, bitch,” he said. Humming a verse from the song, ‘The Last Carnival’, he turned the shower on cold and began to undress, folding each item before placing it neatly on the counter. A quick intake of air, goose flesh instantly visible; he embraces the cold shower.
Sitting on my bed, unable to sleep, I pick up the envelope from my nightstand. I haven’t opened it yet, but I’m sure I know what’s inside. He’s sent these before, pictures of me at grocery stores, at my job, and once coming out of my house. I wonder why he watches me instead of approaching me. It’s like a game of cat and mouse. As soon as I see the photos, I pack up and leave. He taunts me, allows me to get away, just so he can chase me again. “Sick bastard,” I said, shaking my head and wondering what I ever saw in him in the first place.
I use the very sharp letter opener, that I keep in the nightstand drawer, to slice open the envelope. A picture of me walking to work, and a picture of Bruce and I sitting together at the front desk of the warehouse. I sensed his arrival, my refined intuition has been working overtime. I don’t know why I wait for confirmation. In the beginning, nearly twenty years ago, the moment I had any inkling he was near me, I would take off. Maybe I’ve grown accustomed to his ways. Maybe I’ve become too comfortable, playing his game. I’m not sure how ready I am if he decided to full on attack me. I’m tired, completely worn out from all the running, the looking over my shoulder.
I turn my alarm to off before it has the chance to ring. This is the first time that I haven’t known what to do, or instinctively done it. My brain is foggy, yet I am aware of impending doom. It feels like the end. I head to the bathroom. It looks like the top of my head is sliding off to the right, some kind of monster staring back at me.
Today is my day off. I put on my one and only summer dress, an attempt to feel a little girly and of course to assist in alleviating the heat. My hair is still damp from the shower, and I decide to wear it loose today.
On my way out the front door, the cab pulls up to the sidewalk. Once inside, I direct the driver to take me downtown. Carefree and happy, I’m not, yet the temptation to go to the mall and do some shopping has taken over. This is unlike me, but I go with it anyways. Ten minutes in and the traffic is slowing, finally coming to a halt. I’m grateful for the air conditioned vehicle. We inch forward little by little. There are flashing lights up ahead crossing to the other side of the highway. An ambulance and a couple patrol cars block oncoming traffic. I peer out the window as we gradually come up to the scene.
“Oh my god,” I whispered at the horror of it. A red motorbike and a truck pulling a trailer looked to be the vehicles involved. The paramedics were expanding an occupied stretcher in order to roll it to the ambulance. Like in a lagging video, I craned my neck to glimpse the face of the victim. Breathless moments passed, my mouth drooped, my eyes unblinking. The thunderous sound, I discovered once passed the accident, was the rapid beating of my heart. The back of the cab, once cool and welcoming, was now a barren and icy, cramped space. I was puffing out short little breaths, and I caught the cabby’s eyes in the rear view mirror. “Are you alright, miss?” he asked with a furrowed brow and a gentle tone.
“Yes,” I said. Not willing to spurt out anything incoherent, I kept silent. I let him drive me to the mall, where I unloaded myself, heavy and slow, to the sidewalk. A half turn faced me in the direction from which we came. “It couldn’t be him,” I said, suddenly aware that I needed to sit down. I was so hot, perspiring enough for it to drip from my face. One good reason for keeping kleenex in my purse; without too much thought I dab at my forehead, cheeks, and neck. “Oh god, I need a drink.” Slightly more composed with the passing of a few minutes, I retrieve a water bottle from a vending machine just inside the doors. It’s almost gone with the first guzzle. Returning to the same bench, I sat upright and stiff. Thoughts careening one another in my mind. I couldn’t seem to keep anything straight or think a complete sentence. According to my phone, I’d been sitting there for one and a half hours. Not in the mood for shopping anymore, I called another cab, and went home.
With no television, I use my laptop for updating myself on current events. It was in the local paper later that day, a description of the accident and the one dead victim. They showed his picture, his name below it. Joshua Galli; he had joked about only having two names. Catatonic would be the descriptive word used by doctors, if they were to fetch me in that three hour period. Then the floodgates opened letting loose a storm of tears, drool and snot mixing in rivers down my face, interrupted by gasps and grunts in an attempt to breath. Exhaustion finally overtook me.
Waking with a pounding headache and a bloated face is not my idea of a good time, but this was different, leaving me lighter, loosening the ring that gripped my insides for years. I am free. My family is free. Anyone I had come into contact with was free. In such a weird and wonderful twist of fate, I was free.
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