Leave Tonight, or....

bobby bachman

 

 

 

She must've squirmed around back there for forty-five minutes straight before she finally decided it wasn't going to work. The backseat was only five feet long; the only solution would be to stick her feet out the window and sleep with her legs up, but she declined because the angle reminded her too much of the missionary position. Besides, if someone saw her feet, they'd call the cops, and any chance of a good night sleep would be permanently erased. This is private property, not a slumber party. I don't care how secluded it is. You're not the one that calls the shots. Go find a Wal-Mart and piss them off, yadda yadda yadda.

 

Having adjusted to the darkness, Skye could make out the patterns in her car's ceiling: a few bumps, scratches, and even a big tear that, in silhouette, looked to her like a tarantula that fell asleep in the middle of an impassioned escape. More power to him, she thought, realizing this was the first time in hours a full sentence had run through her head. They always slowed down at night. Good, she thought, your phone gets a better charge if you just let it be. Candy Crush will still be there tomorrow, don't worry.

 

She felt her eyelids getting heavier, and suddenly the backseat didn't seem so bad. A few scattered images ran through her mind, of last night's starry sky, or the blood red sky that sometimes appeared at dawn. Subconsciously, she held them closer as she made herself start snoring, hoping it'd help.

 

Everyone's got their bad days, just go out tomorrow, try again and everything'll be fine. God's got a plan for you. Everyone has to struggle. Show Him you can handle it.

 

She repeated it four times and pictured a few puppies before finally drifting away.

 

Skye could feel the sun beating down before she even opened her eyes. As she rubbed them, letting them adjust, she thanked herself for rolling all the windows down. The all-black interior would've turned the car into a greenhouse otherwise.

 

She picked her phone up off the floor and was surprised when it started up, especially since she'd forgotten to charge it. Looking out the window, the previously deserted parking lot was now filled with cars; one man in a suit was walking away from his Mercedes, over towards the nearest building.

 

Once her eyes were adjusted, she climbed out of the car and stretched; glancing down at her tired body, she quietly thanked the Lord above that no one was around to see the way her stomach sagged. A few of the stretch marks were beginning to recede, but faded stretch marks were stretch marks nevertheless. A teacher in high school had talked about body positivity one day, and what always stuck was the part where he said "Every stretch mark is a battle scar. You made it, and you should be proud of yourself for that." Whenever that quote came up, her mental response was always the same: "Anyone with actual stretch marks knows they're nothing to be proud of."

 

Okay, everything's stretched out. Time to take a rest. Let's sit down. Keep the window open. It's not hot enough for the air yet. Let's check out the money situation. Shit, nothing else but pennies; clerks hate counting through those. Okay, let's think, I've got...$1.40, so if I find a dime that should get me a soft pretzel. I still have half a water bottle, so I'll drink that.

 

She rubbed her temples, soaking her fingertips with sweat. She'd only been awake for five minutes and already she needed a nap. Or maybe a shower would be better. She'd adjusted to the smell long ago, but sometimes she wondered how a complete stranger would react if they leaned into Skye's old Plymouth and took a long whiff.

 

For whatever reason, she thought this was funny.

 

She ate the pretzel in the Wawa parking lot, making sure her car faced away from everyone else. She didn't want anyone getting too close a look at the living, breathing joke that sometimes said her name was Skye.

 

Each time she looked in the mirror she saw herself getting closer and closer to those delusional vagrants they showed on TV, the ones that were always strung out on 'ol Henry the Horse and willing to commit murder —both metaphorically and literally— to get their next hit. She thought about that a lot, imaging that's how most people would see her. All they had to do was take a closer look, plenty of stretch marks but no needle marks. See, it could be a lot worse, she thought, barely believing her own words. I could be spending all my time trying to get blitzed out of my mind, always looking forward to that point where you don't feel any pain, and it's nothing but bliss and floating on clouds that won't ever judge you for fucking up a couple of times...

 

She made herself stop after that. Being envious of a heroin addict, she decided, was when all hope was officially gone. She never thought she could imagine wanting to be high all the time, but as the sleepless nights passed and the hunger bouts dragged on, she began to see the logic in it.

 

Unfortunately, the same logic applied to being dead.

 

She had to be careful while driving; the needle on the gas gauge was right next to the E, so any second now Skye was taking the serious risk of breaking down and spending the rest of the day at the side of the road, waiting until she came across someone kind enough to fix her car in exchange for a mediocre blowjob. Even then she'd probably have to let him have his way with her if she wanted enough gas to crawl back to the parking lot, fall asleep, then repeat the same process the next day, hoping his wife doesn't walk in and catch her this time, because after a certain number of times that starts to be her fault.

 

With that in mind, she decided she really didn't need the air conditioner.

 

Skye pulled into the Burger King parking lot and took a deep breath. She'd found a crumpled dollar on the ground outside of Wawa, which could buy her a small soda. They don't let you use the free computers unless you're able to buy something, she thought. So, in other words, they aren't really free, are they? I mean, I suppose I could go the library, but...I probably blend in more here.

 

Less than three minutes later, she was sitting at one of Burger King's free computers sipping a Diet Coke, waiting for their slow connection to hurry up and load. All public computers tend to be slow, except, of course, the ones at the library. Skye was not well known for her brilliant decision making. Her iPhone was plugged into the USB port, charging; she was savoring every day she still had service, waiting for the day when Verizon would finally get sick of her mooching and cut her off. That day wasn't today and she thanked the Good Lord for every day it wasn't. She also thanked him when the bent and torn charger still pushed power into the phone. Maybe she really was blessed.

 

Finally there was the McDonald's website. She didn't hesitate to click the "Join Our Team!" button, even though the over-the-top exclamation point pissed her off; it made her think of the people on social media who ended every sentence with an exclamation point, most of whom were usually old and didn't know anything about that new fangled Internet those whippersnappers were using. At 23, still using an iPhone from 2011 and occasionally using an emoji (when she had Wi-Fi, at least), she was still young enough to understand the ways of the world's teenagers and relate to their "struggles", but she wasn't exactly camping out all night for the latest Taylor Swift album either.

 

Goddammit, I'm getting distracted. Okay, let's just try and get through this; name, Skye Harrison, age....no wait, fuck you I didn't spell my name wrong, that's how it's spelled! It's my name, that means I know how it's spelled, you stupid computer. God, they need to design these stupid things better. Anyway, age 23, address....oh, great, should've known by now I'd....I mean I'm not an idiot, I know I need that to get employment, I just....

 

Skye punched the table as she started to bury her face in her hands, holding back as hard as she could. Not wise to have a mental breakdown in the middle of Burger King. Hold it in and have it later when you're rich enough to afford a therapist. Have it then like all the rich people do. They've got money so they must be worth emulating somehow. She brushed it off and, without really thinking, typed in the address of her childhood home, which she hadn't lived in since 2007. How thorough will they be in their background checks? She wasn't a pedophile and she didn't throw dead bodies in the river (anymore), so would they really care? She decided they probably wouldn't.

 

But that didn't mean they'd hire her. She'd probably have to pay to get a pair of those non-slip shoes from Foot Locker. That was the same thing Burger King told her three weeks ago. They were too expensive; couldn't her flip flops work fine? She'd be careful; she'd make sure not to step directly on the grease. No one has any empathy anymore, do they?

 

It didn't matter anyway. They weren't going to hire her. Why would they? Who could ever possibly want a girl like Skye? No one wanted her and no one ever would want her. That was just a fact of life.

 

She looked around to make sure no one was looking directly at her screen before she switched, quickly, to Craigslist. She clicked and typed as fast as she could, and in less than a minute the ad was posted:

 

Hey there baby, you looking for some fun? Looking for generous men to have a good time. Hit me up 610-555-6347.

 

Once it was done, she thought for a moment about what she was doing. She wondered what had brought her to a moment as empty and desperate as this. She went through it in her head every single time, thinking about the first time she had to post one of those ads. She'd barely gotten through it, and by now she figured she'd be more adjusted, but she wasn't, and she supposed she never would be.

 

There was a certain angle to it that could be considered positive, depending on her mood. There are men out there who are willing to pay for the opportunity to be with you. Isn't that great? That's how hot you are! The third or fourth cheating husband had thoroughly convinced her of its falsity.

 

She relaxed for a moment. The restaurant's radio had started playing "Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman; Skye loved this song because it seemed like one of the few to really understand what it's like to be in a desperate, depressing situation. The situations can be different, and maybe she didn't ever get this low, but either way, you have to have that deeper understanding, or else it just comes off as fake. Skye had gotten good at spotting phonies and separating them from what was really real, and she knew Tracy Chapman was really real.

 

After the song had finished (two minutes early, because, screw radio editing), she gave it a good two minutes before she stepped away from the computer, slipped her phone back in her pocket, went for a refill, and quietly walked out.

 

47 minutes after leaving the Burger King, she finally got a text. He said he was 18 and looking for the fun she'd been advertising. She sent a photo of herself and made the terms of agreement as clear as day. He wouldn't tell her his address, but instead said to meet him near the entrance of an apartment complex near the highway; she apparently had to drive him to an ATM because he didn't have cash on hand. She was confused, but then her stomach rumbled and she agreed to his shady conditions.

 

Halfway through the drive, thinking about a clean hotel room and a shower, the boy called, asking to hear Skye's voice. He was clearly trying to be sweet, but it sounded like he was shaking. This motherfucker better not be backing out, not now....but he didn't. She found him 10 minutes later, standing exactly where he said he'd be.

 

He got in and she started driving. His name was Eddie. He insisted he wasn't lying about his age and he gave her directions to the nearest Wawa. Then he started asking questions in the same shaky voice she'd heard over the phone. "So, you do this a lot?"

 

"Yeah, sometimes," Skye responded. No guy would pay to fuck a homeless chick.

 

"What's your name?"

 

"Skye."


"How old are you?"


"23."

 

"Oh, you're older than me. That's....I'm not sure how I feel about that...."


"I'm sorry about this. I just....I don't really do stuff like this a whole lot."


"What are you a virgin or something?"

"I know it's terrible, believe me I already know...."

"Well, you're 18, so it's not that bad." Skye took a moment to clear her throat. "You're kinda cute, I can picture there being girls that wouldn't mind getting with you."

 

A sea of red flooded Eddie's face. "Thank you. I appreciate it. I just always thought it was supposed to be special, y'know?"

 

"I remember that. It's not really that special either way." Looking right at him, she smiled for the first time all day and told him, "Might as well have a little bit of fun, right?"

 

Once he got to the ATM, he handed Skye a 20 so she could buy a pack of cigarettes. When she flashed the clerk her I.D., she thought about asking the boy without a driver's license if he was really 18 and had any way of proving it, but by then, she'd seen the money with her own eyes, and....unfortunately ethics and morals were only important when there was a choice. On the way out Eddie looked down as a few other teen boys walked in, probably no older than 16. Skye didn't bat an eye.

 

They were back in the car. Skye was smoking. Eddie was still shaking as he slipped the rest of the money into his wallet. "So, if it's 100, does that mean you'll get totally naked?"

 

Skye blew some smoke out the window. "Sure. Whatever you want. Just make sure you use the front door, if you know what I mean."

 

He didn't, of course, but she didn't stop for his response. She pulled out of the parking lot and followed his directions back to the apartments. When they got out of the car he walked a little too far ahead; he had to type a code into the electronic door in the lobby, and she didn't get a look at it. She'd done this too many times for that to offend her.

 

Thirty-seven minutes later she emerged from the building, still readjusting her tank top so it wouldn't look wrinkled. This was customary; the first few times she'd attracted condescending stares from people who knew what she'd been doing, and even though she constantly reminded herself that she shouldn't care what they thought, it didn't change the way it made her feel.

 

She wasn't ashamed this time, like she usually was. She was accustomed to spending the car ride after trying to forget about it, but this one was different. Eddie had been a kind boy, a gentle soul she almost felt bad about soiling. What they did wasn't good enough for him, she thought; he had been untouched by the world, a single spec of light, and now she'd dragged him into the dark. There was a strange responsibility she felt, because he'd remember her for the rest of his life, as his very first. She almost felt insecure, like she hadn't been good enough for him, but then she remembered the way he'd been smiling, the way he'd, at one point, kissed her, not because he was horny but because he'd made a connection. It made her feel comfortable in her skin, almost beautiful. He genuinely cared about her; what they had was special.

 

Nah, she thought. He just needed a good screw, just like the rest of them.

 

Skye made herself wait until 6 o'clock before she bought dinner, and even though she had $100 she ordered from the dollar menu. She'd, by this point, trained herself to be able to wait as long as was necessary.

 

When she took the bag from the drive thru teller, she imagined herself in the same position, wearing one of their stupid shirts and handing people their processed dinners. A few years ago she would've balked at the thought, but she was more humble now, and all she thought about was the paycheck.

 

So, here we go again, she thought as she adjusted herself and tried to get comfortable. She was in the same position as the previous night, only this time she decided no one would see her sticking her feet out the window.

 

She decided she wanted to be responsible with her money for once. There were $84 dollars left; after eating dinner and putting some more gas in her tank, she paid her entry to the public pool, took a quick swim, then locked herself in the bathroom and took a sink shower. The chlorine smell was still glued to her skin, but she'd gotten used to it. Anyone else would've spent the remaining money on a hotel room, where they'd be able to sleep in a bed, take a real shower, and maybe even have enough left for room service. She'd done it before, and each time she'd wake up in the morning to a series of angry phone calls saying you should've checked out an hour ago, and there she was back in the car.

 

Not this time. A studio apartment required first and last month's rent, which, even in the cheapest place would be about $1500, and if she could manage to save that up she'd be set for an entire month with a place to live, and more importantly a legal address, and eventually, some place would be desperate enough to hire her. She was determined now, and if that meant a few more sleepless nights, well then it's not like she didn't do it enough already.

 

Her dumb ass had left the cigarettes at Eddie's house, and the McDonald's didn't really fill her stomach that much, but that backseat somehow felt different this time. For weeks she'd been begging for loose change, posting ads and hoping for enough money to eat a good dinner, and now she'd gotten it. Sure, she was still in the car, but at least it was comfortable this time. Her stomach was actually digesting something. Not every guy that paid for her was as nice and gentle as Eddie.

 

She started thinking about "Fast Car" again; Tracy Chapman escaped her hard life by running away to the city and starting over fresh. Skye had enough money to do that. She could find a neighborhood where nobody had ever met her, where nobody glared condescendingly at her when she walked into a restaurant, where nobody laughed about that girl they'd known in High School and seriously guys, you'll never guess what she's doing now.

 

The thought pleased her. Maybe I should do it. Maybe that's what needs to happen. Maybe I just need to start all over. I've got nothing to lose, nobody's gonna miss me, I don't have anyone to hold me back, so why the hell not? I'm better than this. Let's go make something of myself in the big city, the American Dream!

 

But she never even moved. She stayed there, thinking about it and smiling at the mental image of her riding a horse in the farmland somewhere out West, or surfing in California, or catching Lobsters in Maine, where she could change her name and be a new person and make an imprint on the world.


Eh, maybe tomorrow.



Robert "Bobby" Bachman is a sophomore at Cabrini. An English Major with a Concentration in Film & Media Studies, he aspires towards being a filmmaker with the fame of Steven Spielberg and the emotional, avant-garde instincts of Paul Thomas Anderson. Or maybe just having a few slices of pizza and writing a story would be all right