Desert Sand

by Myunique Green

Winter 1991

“Lauren, this is Mr. Brown. You do whatever he wants, okay?”

My mother smiled wickedly then left the room, slamming the door behind her.
There wasn’t much light in the basement, but I could see how relatively tall and skinny he was.

As he moved closer, the smell of smoke suffocated me and I started to back away.

He moved slowly, as if he were a lion stalking its prey. “How’re you doing,
beautiful?”

I didn’t say anything, just watched him, taking a step back for every foot he stepped forward.

Mr. Brown started removing his shirt. “Don’t be afraid, I just want to play a game, that’s all.”

“No thank you,” I stuttered.

The sound of his belt buckle hitting the ground made me jump.

“Come on, you’re gonna love this game.”

I ran madly to the door, in a quick attempt to escape. Unfortunately, it was locked from the other side.

The man lunged for me. Squeezing me tight as he dragged me towards the bed.
“No! Get off of me!” I squealed.

My face stung from the slap he gave me, but that didn’t stop me from fighting.

With one hand over my mouth and the other viciously ripping at my clothes, acid-like tears burned my eyes as he broke into me.

Present Day—New York

Rain beats down hard on the outside of the car as I stake out the mid-sized single family home.

If everything goes as smoothly as it should, he’ll be dead by morning, marking the beginning of my vengeance.

Part of the Process by Joanna Hernandez

Part of the Process by Joanna Hernandez

My pulse spikes when light appears behind the front window. A tall shadow walks in front of the window then disappears.

I am sure I’ve waited outside long enough for him to get good and comfortable.

“Just stick to the plan,” I assure myself before opening the car door and stepping out into the rain. I’ve tried not to put too many scratches on the car, but it’s been so long since I’ve driven anything. Hopefully the owners won’t be too upset when they find it.

The cold rain hardens my nipples almost instantaneously through the thin white shirt. I hadn’t known it’d rain, leaving my breast exposed.

Jogging across the street, I do little to shield myself, even as each droplet stings my skin.

I stand in front of the door and shake off some of the rain water before knocking.

A deep muffled voice answers from the other side of the wooden door. “Who is it?”

I clear my throat. “Michelle.”

The door swings open and a shirtless, blond-haired guy stares at me. “I don’t know anyone named Michelle.”

I snicker—neither do I. But maybe I should just take the name and start a new life. Go somewhere where no one knows me anyways. A place where I can be anything I want to be. Am I in that place right now?

For a moment I don’t realize I’ve paused until he clears his throat and stares at me blankly.

“I’m sorry you don’t know me, but, my car broke down a few houses down and I don’t have my cellphone. Just wondering if I could use yours?”

He looks me up and down then smiles. “Sure, come on in.”

Once I’m in the house, I look around awkwardly. “Thank you. Everyone else just slammed the door in my face.”

“Let me go get you a towel, I’m sure you’re freezing.” He looks at my nipples before walking away.

My heels clack against the hardwood floors as I move through the living room.

“Can I get you anything else? Like water or something?” he asks, placing the towel over my shoulders.

“I’ll need something stronger than that. You wouldn’t believe the kind of day I’ve had,” I answer while following him to the kitchen.

My eyes soon begin catching the sharp objects. I sit down at a circular glass table and look into the kitchen. He reaches into the cabinet and pulls down a short glass and a bottle of alcohol.

“I only have vodka,” he says, holding up a bottle of Grey Goose

I smile wildly. “That’s perfect.”

He pours a small cup of vodka. “So tell me about this day of yours.”

“I don’t want to keep you up, you’ve already done so much by letting me in.”

“It’s alright, really. I was up already, used to working long hours.”

Pointing over to the couch, he offers me a seat.

“I don’t want to get your couch all wet, I’m not completely dry”

“You’re fine,” he responds before triggering an automatic fire.

I pick up my glass and finish the rest of the vodka. “I’d rather you tell me about you. What is it that you do?”

He flops down on the couch. “I’m actually pretty boring. Studied at Harvard Law, now I work for Browne & Browne in downtown New York. What about you?”

“Why do you live so far away from the city?”

“I like it better out here,” he shrugs.

“I’m a masseuse.”

I still stand over the couch.

He smiles. “I could use one of those. Are you any good? Do you have your own parlor?”

Moving closer, I linger over him, which makes him uncomfortable.

“Turn around and I’ll show you, Mr. Brown,” I soothe.

***

I wake up with peanuts stuck to my face.

“Hey, lady. Do you need me to call someone for you?”

Shaking my head, I try to force the room from spinning as I wipe the slob from the corners of my mouth. I hadn’t even realized I’ve passed out at the bar.

“Give me another Jack and Coke,” I slur while lifting myself up.

“Sorry, you’re way too messed up.”

Lightly slapping my hand against the marble, I pout. “I have money.”

My body wobbles as I try to dig into my pocket. I have no idea what time it is, or where I’m even located.

The bartender stops me. “I don’t want the money. Where do you live?”

“Chicago.”

He laughs. “You’re a long way from home, lady.”

Staring down at my hands, I notice red stains and tuck them into my pockets; though not as swiftly as I think.

“What’s that on your hands?”

I lay my head back down on the bar top. “I work with paint. I’m a traveling artist. It’s been a long day.”

So long, I could no longer remember it, in fact.

Closing my eyes, I see his face. I feel the softness of his curly blond hair in my hands as I hold onto it. The feel of the blade as it slides across his throat like butter makes me shudder.

It shouldn’t have felt that good.

I should have thrown up at the sight of all that blood and the look in his eyes as his spirit left him.

But I didn’t. I couldn’t.

“There’s a cab waiting for you outside, it’ll take you anywhere you want to go,” the bartender says, walking around and helping me to my feet.
Inside the cab, I stare mindlessly out of the window before leaning my head against the cold glass. “Have you ever wished you could just rip a page out of your memory? Just pretend it never happened?”

The driver looks up into the rearview. “All of the time. There was this one time…”

“Yeah, it’s been happening to me more and more lately,” I interject rudely.
He doesn’t finish his story, but instead becomes more interested in mine. “Got something you want to talk about? We have about ten minutes before you’re home.”

I don’t even know where to begin. So many things running through my head on an endless cycle bent on driving me insane—or maybe I’m already there.

“My name is Mike, by the way, what’s yours?”

A small grin tugs at the corner of my lips and I give in to the smile. “Samantha and I think we’ll both be better off if we keep it professional.”

A thundering outburst erupts through the car as he laughs hysterically.

“Lady, you barely climbed into this cab on your own, and you want to talk about professionalism?”

I can’t help but join him in laughter. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Speaking of which, my head is swimming right now.”

A rattling bottle of aspirin is tossed into the backseat along with a half-empty bottle of water. “Help yourself.”

My hands begin to shake nervously as I twist the cap on the bottle and down three pills. “Thank you, Mike. You have to be one of the coolest cab drivers this side of New York,” I say.

He chuckles. “That’s the alcohol talking. It always has a way of finding the good in everything and everyone.”

I smile, but inside my guilt is starting to get to me. Tears burn fresh paths down my cheek as I suffer from not only my old flashback but the new one as well.

Mike looks back up through the rearview. “Are you alright? Do I need to pull over?”

“I did something really bad,” I answer softly. “Something no one can ever forgive me for.”

The cab eases along the curb and Mike turns his body around to face me. “Look, plenty of drunks have peed back there. It’s no use crying about it,” he replies in an attempt to lighten the mood again.

I don’t understand. I’m supposed to feel better. Cured.

Maybe there’s no such cure for what I have, and at this point I’m not exactly sure what it is I have anymore—besides blood on my hands.
I cross my arms across my chest. “I’m sorry, Mike. I’ve just been through a lot tonight, you would never even believe. You probably think I’m crazy.”

“Believe me, you don’t know crazy until you’ve been driving cabs as long as I have. I’ll tell you what is crazy though, some chick broke out of an institution last night. I don’t know if you remember that story in the news back in the nineties, kid went loopy and hacked up her parents. Blamed it all on some guy named Mr. Brown.”

I stare out the window at the rain soaked streets. “Well, he’s dead now.”

“There’s no evidence that he ever existed,” he responded matter-of-factly.

Once again the car eases along the curb and I look up at the apartment building. “Oh, he exists alright.”

“Exist-ed, since you say he’s dead,” he corrects.

“Exists, existed, it’s all the same. I think they all got what they deserved—except the little girl. Locked in a basement with little to no light day in and day out, a different Mr. Brown every night sneaking down to rape her, barely enough food to survive. She liberated herself, and you call that crazy?”

There’s an awkward moment of silence before he clears his throat. “Well, it’s been a long night and I’m sure you could use the rest…”

“You’ve been so nice to me tonight and I really appreciate that. Did I mention I’m a licensed masseuse?”

He shifts and looks at me. “Are you really?”

I smile. “Turn around, I’ll show you…”

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