The Strangers

I made it to West Virginia before it started to snow, which I’d been hoping to miss since the status of my license was still complicated. I popped a few more Adderall to make sure I stayed alert and pulled over to a Sheetz to grab an iced coffee. I had driven a few more miles when I began to hear muffled talking coming from the back of the Hummer, which was packed full of boxes I’d taken from my parents basement. A check of the rearview mirror revealed what appeared to be a 10 year old black boy wearing a clear plastic mask with painted on features (like from the movie The Strangers). I screamed and fumbled with the Tylenol bottle full of Ativan. This was not happening. I swerved off the highway and popped the trunk, but  there was nothing there but my books and picture frames. I laughed at my stupidity and climbed back into the driver’s seat.


Back on the highway, I hear the noises again. A scan of the mirrors show the black boy crouching under one of the boxes. “Hey little guy you okay back there? As soon as we get home I’ll make you a sandwich would you like that?”.  He doesn’t answer me. I think if I can get him to talk to me he will stop moving around. I am still terrified, and as soon as I see the sign for a rest stop I speed off the interstate. As soon as the car is in park I fall out the door and run up to the first person I see.


“Please you have to help me…I think someone crawled into my car at the gas station and they won’t get out”. The man looks at me like I am fucking insane. Undaunted, I run up to another couple of guys in the parking lot who are closer to my age and repeat the speech. They are more sympathetic and walk over to the Hummer with me and begin opening doors. They say “there’s nothing in there man” and walk away laughing and shaking their heads. Maybe I am crazy. More likely it is just all of the amphetamines and lack of sleep. I try to breathe deeply as I get back onto the main road and even decide to throw the rest of my Adderall out the window which in hindsight was a brilliant move.


I can’t stop checking my mirrors and it isn’t long before I see an older woman in the same terrifying Halloween mask hanging on to the back of the truck with her feet on the bumper. When I check again she has made her way inside and is lying among the boxes. How is she getting in and out of the car like that? It didn’t matter because I’d had enough. I make a left onto a steep side road and aim the lifted truck at a steep ditch. The impact bounces me out of my seat, surely that had knocked the woman off the bumper. I drive further up the hill and find myself on a residential street with small tidy ranch houses. A scan of the mirrors tells me that both strangers are still in the car and now the woman is holding a knife. I jerk the wheel, throw open the door, and leave the truck idling in the front yard of a yellow bungalow. After repeatedly banging on the front door I realize that no one is going to answer the knocks of a stranger at 2 a.m. Maybe I should try the next house over. Maybe I should call Paul. I light a long Newport and side-eye the Hummer full of knife-wielding black folk as I ponder my options.


That’s when I see the police lights, which usually make me feel sick but all I feel is relief. They can get these people out of my car, and I can be on my way. I didn’t want to miss the open hours of the methadone clinic in the morning. I walk over to the first of three police cruisers and begin talking rapid fire at the first officer to exit his vehicle. The fat West Virginian cop tells me to settle down and then ask me why I kept looking behind me.


“Because they could be out here!” I yell.


The man’s partner knocks on the trunk of his Crown Vic and mockingly says “hello is anyone in there?” That’s when I start to cry.


They put me in the backseat of a cruiser while they search my only recently drug free truck. They must assume that I am just having a mental breakdown because 15 minutes later the ambulance arrives to take me to the Martinsburg Hospital.


I wake up the following morning around 10 a.m. to the nurse lying discharge papers on the foot of my bed. I grab them and flip to the second page where in red pen, someone, presumably the doctor, had written “stop doing so many drugs”. “Well that’s not very professional” I think to myself. What did I tell the doctor’s last night? At least they haven’t tried to throw me in the psych ward which if it was like the one in Pittsburgh was full of homeless people and junkies who had threatened suicide to get out of the rain.


I find my Blackberry in the pocket of my jeans on a chair next to the bed and immediately dial Paul. No answer. I am 20 minutes from Winchester so I decide to call Misty. She answers almost immediately and gives me some bullshit 12 step answer about not enabling me by bailing me out. Luckily Paul calls me back soon after I  hang up and tells me he will leave Richmond immediately. I put the rest of my clothes back on and fall back asleep.


Paul is mad. My bones feel like they have fire ants in them so I try my best not to pay attention to him. Every word he speaks is like nails on the chalkboard of my soul. We find the impound lot that holds the truck and $200 later we are on our way home. I am still petrified by the site of the Hummer and opt to drive the black diesel RAM truck back to Richmond. I figure Misty had called my parents but without methadone I was practically useless. I would deal with them tomorrow.