Breaking Down

Day 13 of 16: Writer’s Digest Writer’s Prompt Bootcamp

A tire blows out as you’re in the car with someone on the verge of his/her own breakdown. Stuck in a small town, you’re about to do something you haven’t done in years.

As I sit waiting for my train at the local Amtrak station, I think about how I wound up back here.  I was called on by my mother, a mother who was dying.  This God-forsaken town is where I grew up and I haven’t been back in years.  Memories of my childhood are fairly painful.  I can remember praying for the day I turned 18 so I could flee this place.  And that’s exactly what I did.  Me, a small suitcase and $2,000 in cash boarded a one-way trip out of here and never looked back.  Until now.

So, here I am waiting for my train to take me home.  The last 3 weeks have been hell on earth.  Caring for my sick and dying mother was no picnic in the park.  I know this sounds terrible, but I was relieved when she finally passed on.  For once in her life she was organized and had her funeral completely planned out, which made her burial quick and seamless.  I have left everything else to the sister I never got along with.  I don’t care much about getting anything in that house.  I just need to get out of here and get home to my husband and children.

I am deep in thought when I hear the announcer say something about a train cancellation.  I look around frantically, maybe I heard wrong?  Unfortunately, I heard right.  It seems my train has been cancelled and won’t be leaving until the next morning.  I start to panic.  I desperately need to escape this place.  I practice the breathing exercises that my therapist taught me when I find myself in this type of situation.  After I have calmed down a bit, I walk up to the rental car window and am told that the next available car isn’t for hours.  I start to hyperventilate.  I am visibly upset and I have gone past the point of no return.

It is then that I feel a tap on my shoulder.  I look behind me and there is a woman about my age standing there with a huge, friendly smile on her face.  My thought is, “what the hell are you so happy about?” when she says that she is headed in my direction and would like to offer me a ride.  At first I am skeptical but then realize I am just being uptight.  My therapist told me I need to learn how to trust people.  So that’s what I do.  I trust this woman and accept her ride.  I am overcome with a feeling of relief so powerful I almost cry.

We get into her small Ford Fusion and head out to the highway.  I realize that it’s going to be a very long drive ahead of us but remind myself that I am at least going in the right direction.  My new traveling companion introduces herself as Marcy.  During the first 2 hours there is a lot of quiet and little chit-chat, which is completely fine with me.  I’m not much of a talker, especially with strangers.

It’s at this time that Marcy decides to start speaking.  She tells me she’s going back home after being separated from her husband for 4 months.  “Oh, that’s wonderful Marcy.  I’m so happy for you.”  I can’t imagine being separated from my husband, so I am genuinely happy for her.

Marcy starts to cry.  At first, it’s a mellow cry with small, quiet tears.  I reach over and pat her shoulder, tell it’s going to be okay.  I say that I can imagine how happy she must be to be reuniting with her husband.  Then her emotion turns into outright anguish.  Sybil-type anguish.  I get a chill.

“Oh, we aren’t reuniting in the way you are thinking.  The bastard doesn’t want me.  He said he doesn’t love me anymore and wants a divorce.  Just like that, he just doesn’t love me anymore?”  She starts to scratch at her arms.  I tell her she should stop but she doesn’t.  She just keeps scratching and scratching until she starts to bleed.

She starts to scream, “I have done nothing but love him for the last 10 years of my life.  When I caught him with that other woman in that restaurant, I just got so upset.  I started throwing things, I dumped a glass of ice water over her head, and smashed their dishes on the floor.  Then he tries to tell me that I’m ruining his deal.  I’m ruining his deal?  What about our deal?”  I know it wasn’t my business but I found myself saying, “maybe it was just a business lunch?”  “No, I’m not buying it.  They were laughing like they were lovers.  I know that look.  We used to have that look.”  I’m starting to realize why her marriage failed.  This woman is a kook.  She’s absolutely out of her mind.

“So, your husband doesn’t know you’re coming then?” I ask.  She snaps her head in my direction and looks at me like I’m the one who has gone completely mad.  “NO, of course not!”  An odd smirk appears on her face, a smirk that gives me the creeps.  “I’m going to surprise him.  He is going to get the surprise of his life.”

The sky above starts to darken.  Within minutes we are in the middle of a terrific thunderstorm.  Because this is the kind of month I’ve had and I couldn’t imagine it going any other way, the evening gets better.  We get a flat tire.

I am stuck in the middle of a violent thunderstorm, with a could-be violent woman in the middle of nowhere.  I tell her I’m going to get out and try to flag someone down to help us.  She reminds me that there is the potential of getting struck by lightening.  I’m thinking there is less a chance of me getting struck by lightening than her stabbing me to death.  But I sit, practice my breathing and wait it out.  And listen to what she is planning on doing to her estranged husband.

God, I feel like I’m in a bad horror movie.  This can’t be happening to me.  All I keep thinking is I have to stay on this woman’s good side, I’m terrified of pissing her off.  And then I think that I have to warn this guy somehow.  “What did you say your husband’s name was?” I ask.  “Victor.  Victor Paulson.  His name is so ugly, isn’t it?  How could I have married a man with such a name?  Victor Paulson.  Disgusting.” she sputters with complete venom.

I wait a few minutes while I wonder how to get her cell phone from her.  Surely, his name has got to be in her contact list.  I feign trying to make a phone call with my own cell.  I pretend to be making a call to my husband to tell him I’ll be later than I thought.  “Oh, damn.  My phone has died.  Do you mind if I use yours?” I say.  “Oh, of course.”  She’s sweet as pie.  Like I said, she’s Sybil.  I casually take her cell phone from her, but feel anything but casual.  On the inside I am a crumbling mess, but I try to keep it together.  I look through her contact list as quickly as I can, locate Victor’s number and commit it to memory.

It is here and now that I am grateful that I have comfortable shoes on and am in good shape.  I reach in the back for my suitcase, open the door and make a run for it.  The weather has lightened up some so I no longer fear getting electrocuted.  Although that thought is much more welcoming than the thought of sitting in the car with that looney bin one more minute.  After I’ve gotten far enough away from her, I do what I haven’t done since I was a teen.  I stick out my thumb and start to hitchhike all while I’m making a phone call to the one and only Victor.

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