Taking the Girl out of Humboldt:Part IV
The silence of the empty subdivision seemed loud. I became intensely aware of how alone we were. I grasped the thought of my aunt like a lifeline and then felt the hope slip through my fingers as I remembered that I hadn’t told anyone she was there. How could I bring her up? I didn’t want to be rude and look as if they frightened me. Though now, I was afraid.
At moments of extreme stress, I have found that I worry about small things–like not appearing rude. I remember once fighting off a would-be rapist–grasping his ear in my teeth, grinding until I made him cry out in pain but stopping there. Drawing blood, I feared would be too large of a reaction. It wouldn’t be nice…
Similarly, I didn’t want Sheila and Don to think I believed them to be…What did I believe them to be? I wasn’t exactly sure but I thought maybe pimp or madam might cover their job. Interestingly, I became frightened before I allowed myself to consider that the job opening wasn’t what I had hoped. My animal interior screamed what my civilized exterior wouldn’t let me acknowledge.
Also, they no longer were comfortable with me. Our mutual disquiet ripped our mutual, though dissimilar illusions, from our eyes. Like mirrors on opposite walls repeat reflections into infinity, their fears echoed mine and amplified it. Sheila redialed the phone.
In the days before cellular calls, privacy was dictated by where your phone jack entered the wall. Sheila needed to convey some information to John but I was in the room. Cupping her hand around the mouthpiece, she tried to express her difficulty in quiet words and discreet sentences. Apparently John wasn’t any quicker on the uptake than the rest of us because Sheila’s voice kept raising and once I heard her hiss heatedly, “Dammit, I’m not doing this.” Finally, she hung up and looked at Don. He had raised his head from the table but his face still conveyed dumbstruck dismay. For a long moment they just stared at each other. Then Sheila turned back to me.
“Um, you’ll need to go see John.”
She scrawled some directions on the margin of Don’s newspaper and handed me the whole thing as if by doing so she was expunging the whole experience.
My aunt was standing with the car door open looking concerned but, as I headed towards her, she casually slid into the seat as if she had just been stretching her legs. As we drove off, I saw my two counterparts hiking up the deserted road. They stared straight ahead, their backs stiff, and their legs moving jerkily—as if afraid to look behind them. It was coming up on dark but they seemed more afraid of where they’d been then the empty shadowed streets ahead.
The story should end here… but it doesn’t.
I should have told my aunt what had happened and we‘d have talked and all would have been well. But I didn’t, I gave her the directions and, after giving me a long look, she clamped her lips into a thin line, set her jaw, and drove.
Two streets intersected like the point of an arrow. And at the tip was a dilapidated two story house. The peeling white paint and half dead garden showed in shadowy patches only under the sickly glitter of a flickering porch light.
At that moment I almost asked my aunt to take us away. But I didn’t. I told myself that I had already gone this far and maybe the job was legitimate; maybe I had misread Sheila and Don. Besides John was waiting for me, wouldn’t it be rude not to go? Part of me wondered, though, if maybe John would be a killer. That like a lamb trotting willingly to the farmer, I was going to be slaughtered. Maybe they couldn’t risk my telling the police.
A man met me at the door. Stooped, balding, and tired looking, he guided me to his office.
“Honey,” he said kindly. “Do you know what job you are applying for?”
I tried to sound sure of myself as I insisted, “Masseuse, why?”
“You’re exactly what we want but I don’t think we’re what you want.” He looked significantly at me, “We do more.” He paused meaningfully, “A lot more than massage.”
Most people trust their instincts, follow the little niggling nudges in the corners of their mind, but I…I have to have the dark edges detailed. It makes for some interesting experiences but it also has let me see into some places where I’d normally never get to go.
“Well, thank you,” I said politely, “But I’m not interested in that kind of work at the moment.”
We chatted for a few awhile about the prospects of my school’s football team. He gently guided me to the door and as I walked under the flickering light, he said, “Well, if you ever change your mind….” We both laughed and he waited politely until I got in the car before… he closed the door.