Investistalked

Posted: 2011 in Post 8.1
Tags: , , , , , ,

Friday, March 30, 5:39 p.m.

Jack pulls into my office parking lot precisely 21 minutes after sending his last text. It has started to rain. The evening darkness is gathering in the black puddles, making me glad I don’t have to bus myself home. Nevertheless, I’m confused and annoyed at his insistence on picking me up.

Jack’s car is a beat up yellow Saab: the perfect car for a Ballard dweller.

1989 Saab

I scurry through the chilling drizzle to the passenger door. He leans across the seat and thrusts it open.

“Thanks,” I say, settling on the ripped cloth seat and yanking the door closed. The car smells exactly like the couch on Jack’s front porch: mildew mingled with cigarette smoke.

“Let’s go get a drink,” he says.

His voice is tight. He sounds pissed off. At me?

“So what’s going on, Jack?” I say. “What happened to you today?”

His face is white in the street lights refracting through the rain spattered windshield. His knuckles are white on the steering wheel. His eyes are wide, the whites showing. He pulls out of the parking lot, squealing the tires and jouncing me against the door.

“You scared the hell out of your boss, going AWOL this morning like you did,” I say. “And what’s the deal with those obituaries you left on his desk? Jack?”

To my surprise, Jack explodes.

“Why didn’t you stay home like I told you?” he shouts. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

I shrink against the cold passenger door. His voice is so loud, so angry. I instinctively make myself small, cringing away from him.

“It was so simple—stay home! Lock your door! Why didn’t you listen to me?”

He’s breathing hard. He jerks the steering wheel too hard. He’s speeding, ignoring red lights and the ticket-issuing traffic cameras attached to them. We’re going to get into an accident.

“You never listen,” he says. “You’re the most stubborn woman I know.”

“You don’t know me, Jack,” I retort. “We met eight days ago—you don’t know me at all! Screw this, let me out. Stop the car! You let me the hell out!”

I am stubborn.
I don’t listen.
He does know me.

He swerves across traffic, setting off a chorus of horns, and pulls onto the freeway. He cuts across four lanes to the carpool lane, where he can speed with relative impunity. I continue to rail at him.

“You have no right to talk to me like this! You do not ever yell at me, Jack, you hear me? I have no interest in being shouted at by some man I don’t even know. You let me out of this car!”

Jack proves himself to have been a husband for over 10 years and the father of a teenage girl as he masterfully tunes me out.

He pulls off the freeway abruptly, taking the exit that leads to my house. Just off Interstate 5 is the world’s nastiest Irish pub. The one and only time I ate there, I found a hair in my daughter’s French fries. Not the kind of hair that comes from a head.

Ew!

Jack cuts into the parking lot at 45 miles an hour. The Saab bottoms out and the undercarriage scrapes shrilly against the wet cement. He slams on the brakes, sending us careening into a parking space at a wild angle. He kills the engine.

He turns on me, pale, panting and wild eyed. The fire goes out of me, replaced by the cowering coward.

“Calm down,” I say.

“You are so damned stubborn!” he hisses.

For a moment, I’m certain that he wants with all his heart to do something bad.

Grab my shoulders and shake me?
Slap me?
Crush me in his arms, smothering me against his wrinkled Member’s Only jacket?

He’s not seeing me right now. Have I been replaced by his endangered daughter? Or maybe his raped and murdered wife?

“Lucy’s safe,” I say. “I got her. Jack? I got her like you asked me. Jack…say something.”

He blinks. He blinks again, then takes a deep breath. He exhales shakily. His hand comes up to scrub across his mouth. He turns away from me. He stares at the raindrops making snail trails down his window.

I know for certain that it’s his dead wife he sees when he looks at me. Three minutes pass, according to the digital clock in the battered dashboard. The only sound in the car is Jack’s unsteady breathing.

“I need a drink,” he says at last.

“Not here. Trust me,” I say.

Another minute passes, according to the clock.

“You know where I live, don’t you?” I say.

Jack nods, not looking at me.

“How?” I say. “Did you investigate me?”

He nods again.

It took me barely seven minutes to find out The Seattle Crimeologist blogger’s real name and phone number. It probably took Jack all of thirty seconds to discover my home address, social security number and legal name.

“Why?” I say.

Jack doesn’t answer me. He doesn’t look at me.

“Jack?”

I’ve never touched him. Our fingers appeared to meet in that unfortunate photo of us on the moldy couch on his front porch, but we’ve never actually touched.

Hopper Painting

I reach for his shoulder. He flinches away before my hand can make contact. His eyes meet mine instead.

“Can we go to your place?” he says.

“No.”

I’m not about to take Jack home, introduce him to my husband and kid, and complicate things further. There’s no way I’m setting foot inside the pubic pub, either. But I’ll sit out here in his dank, smelly car for as long as it takes.

“Tell me what happened today,” I say.

He deflates. His neck bows until his forehead touches the steering wheel. His hands grip the wheel like a shield.

It must have been very, very bad.

 

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