Detroit, Michigan, Friday, December 23, 1994, c. 11:00 PM.
“Are you ready yet?”
“Where are we going?” I asked for the nth time that day.
“I told you. It’s a surprise. We’re going to go get your Christmas present.”
I drove for at least a half an hour on the freeway and through silent snow-covered roads from the city way out into the boonies. At least half of the buildings we passed were decorated with twinkling Christmas lights. It was lightly snowing. The trees and houses were covered with several inches of white. It was beautiful. If I hadn’t been so concerned with sliding off the road, I would have really enjoyed the drive. It reminded me of my family driving around to look at the lights on Christmas Eves past.
He told me to take a right from one desolate, snow-covered road to another. I couldn’t tell the difference between the road and not the road. If it hadn’t been for reflective markers strategically placed every so often by some brilliant and kind government worker at some point in the past, I would have been off-roading. My car was just an ordinary car, definitely not built with off-roading in mind.
It was snowing harder now or the snowflakes were getting bigger or both. The headlights were trying their best to peer into the total darkness but the snow kept blocking their view. The windshield wipers were desperately and ineffectually flipping back and forth. I couldn’t see more than ten feet. I was inadvertently leaning forward as if being able to see one extra inch in front of my hood would make any difference. My hands gripped the wheel at 10 and 2.
The road was the type, common in Michigan, that doesn’t get used much. If it was plowed or salted at all, it wasn’t high on the priority list. I couldn’t tell what the surface was made of under the snow, but I would have bet money that it was just hard packed dirt with maybe a light layer of gravel on top. It was slow going, and every so often, my car would lurch because it just fell into an impossible to see pothole.
“Where are we going?” I asked for the nth time that day.
“We’re almost there. Just after that curve, take a right into the driveway. I’ll tell you when.”
We turned into what didn’t look at all like a driveway, but he said he knew exactly where the road was. At the end of a long, invisible driveway there was a building. It had letters jutting out of the front that probably told you what the name of the business was, but they were all covered with snow and I couldn’t tell what they were. The building was one of those prefabricated concrete and steel siding numbers, common to Michigan.
We made our way down the long driveway and around to the back of the building. “Pull up there by those garage doors,” he told me. He put his gloves and hat on and grabbed a small black canvas bag stowed in the backseat. “Turn the headlights off, but leave the running lights on so I can find the car again. I’ll be right back.”
I sat there in the warm car watching the wiper blades cut back and forth. I turned them off for a minute. The snowflakes melted as soon as they touched the warmer windshield, but there were so many of them that the windshield turned completely white in no time. Suddenly, I felt claustrophobic and turned them on again. They didn’t help me see anything, but at least the blackness hinted at a world outside the car. Without my headlights, I was blind.
I panicked for a minute realizing that I had no idea where I was, and at the moment, I was alone in the middle of a blizzard. If my car decided not to work, I would be stranded somewhere with no help. I gently patted the steering wheel and told my car she was a good girl. I fiddled with the radio, but it was all Christmas music. I found a country station that was playing Waylon Jennings. I turned it up, put my head against the headrest and closed my eyes.
My forced calmness was disrupted by the sound of a very loud siren and flashing white lights. I sat straight up. What the hell? Where is he? I peered at the building, but I couldn’t see a thing. A second later, the passenger door opened. He got in and said, Go!” I didn’t go. I just looked at him, confused, like he had just woken me up from a dream and I was still half in it. “Go, dammit! Now!” He smacked me across the face. I’m awake now.
I put the car in gear and drove down the long driveway.
“I’m going as fast as I can!”
“Faster! Now!” He put his hand on my knee and pushed down. My knee was connected to my foot which was connected to the gas pedal. I was going way too fast. The car fishtailed. I couldn’t see a thing. I couldn’t take my foot off the pedal. I was helpless and it was all out of my control. All I could do was steer into the blackness.
At the end of the driveway, I fishtailed onto the road with the comforting reflective markers. When we got about a quarter mile down, he let go of my knee. He told me to pull over up ahead at a turn out and shut the car off. Why? Just do it. I pulled over and turned the car off. When I shut off the running lights, I realized that I never turned the headlights back on. I had been driving with only the running lights since we left the building. No wonder I couldn’t see anything.
Off in the distance, behind us, flashing red and blue lights appeared. They were coming fast. It was a police 4×4 vehicle. Immediately, I understood. We had just committed a burglary. I had been the getaway driver, probably the worst getaway driver in all of robbery history.
“What did you get?” was all I asked.
“Nothing. That damn alarm went off before I got in the office. It wasn’t supposed to be on.”
“You know the place?”
“It’s my dad’s company. I was going to get us a computer for Christmas.”
“Let me get this straight. You involved me in a robbery I didn’t even know about of your own father’s business in the middle of a blizzard on what is now Christmas Eve, so you could steal us a computer that you didn’t even get?”
“Shut the fuck up, bitch. It’s clear now. Go.”
I turned the key and it started right up. I clicked on the headlights and the wiper blades moved a mountain of snow from the windshield. I turned on the defroster and the heat, and changed the radio. Now, I was ready to hear some Christmas music. The classical station was playing Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring. I turned it way up; I didn’t want to hear anything else. I wasn’t scared of the blizzard anymore. I’d already been through the worst of it. We didn’t say another word to each other on the way home. Bach did all the talking.
This is a true story. It is one small part of an abusive relationship; domestic violence turns us into something we are not. Written for the weekly writing challenge.