But I could never save us from drowning in silence.
I suddenly found myself stranded on a continent of disappointment with no escape. Our palms were pressed tightly together as her hair fell between our faces, her eyes undoubtedly filled with tears. It wasn’t long before a tiny stream began to take shape, running down her cheeks and down to her chin.
I’m not exactly sure when I realized. Maybe it really happened over a span of time as opposed to a single moment. That must be it. She had opened eyes that were supposedly never closed. I’m not sure if she was even aware that you had such an ability. But she did. I learned a lot from her. I’ve learned a lot about her, and a fact that I’ll rarely ever admit is that she taught me a lot about myself. For all of which I am forever grateful.
The silhouettes on the walls might have been ours. But who can really ever say for sure? People change, but their shadows remain the same. It would be a great mistake to say that all this time had passed and I hadn’t changed at all. But is there really any certainty in anything any more? I wouldn’t be surprised if one day my own shadow decided to leave.
I said it.
She looked up at me with a strange look in her eyes. It wasn’t bewilderment, or even the look of resent. It was understanding.
“I know,” she said. “It would be foolish of me to have ever expected you to stay.”
— — —
Sometimes, I begin to think that the sweltering heat was a form of punishment for my sins. The merciless sun must have been equivalent to hell. I leaned over the open hood of the car, quite unable to do anything about the situation. Sweat burned as it drowned the surface of my skin.
“Does you car always break down?” Arya sang from the passenger seat, her feet hanging out of the window.
“Yes,” I answered truthfully. “It always does. It wouldn’t be my car if it didn’t.”
She grunted, “Why couldn’t someone with a better car have found me?”
I slammed the hood back down and grabbed her feet in the window. “Why? Is there a problem?”
“No problem,” she said coyly as I observed the playfully sinister arch of her brow.
“Any regrets?” I asked.
“Of course not,” she smiled. “So what happens now?”
“Well, I think the battery’s dead. We have no other option but to hope that someone driving by here will stop and help us out.”
“But who ever drives by these parts?” she said, point out that we were, after all, driving through a desert. “I think I’ve only seen two cars in the past few days.”
I considered her point. “Well, I guess we’ll both just die here.”
“You’re so dramatic,” she rolled her eyes.
“It’s not so bad,” I teased.
“What? Being dramatic?”
“No, dying together I mean.”
She rolled her eyes again. “You’re hopeless.”
“Isn’t everybody?” I offered.
“Yeah. People are kind of crazy.”
“Yeah, and then there’s you.”
“Well, I wasn’t always crazy. I was fine until you came along.”
“Oh? You were fine?”
“Okay, no, I was sad. But you came along and then I just became crazy. But see! I’m crazy with a purpose. It’s better to be crazy with a purpose than to be just crazy.”
“That’s true I guess.”
“Yeah, you’ve become the subject of my fascination.”
“I won’t always be.”
“I won’t mind if you always are.” And with my final remark, we both grew quiet for a little while.
“How long do you think we’ll be stranded here?” she finally asked.
“Actually,” I said, squinting in the distance, “Maybe not so long after all. I think I see a car coming.”
A look of sudden relief crossed her face and she smiled that wonderful smile I had become so accustomed to. I helped her out of the car and we both stood by the side of the road as the car in the distance inched closer toward us, leaving a thick trail of dust behind it. As the car came close, we both waved for it to stop and it slowly pulled up to the shoulder.
“Hello there. Having some car troubles?” The man driving the Mustang convertible was strangely a familiar one. As he threw off his shades, my suspicions were confirmed.
“Hey I know you!”
“Ah! It’s Mr. Philosopher from the pub! How it goes?” Who would have known that the drunk imbecile from a few days ago would later be the one to come to my aid when I most needed it.
He got out of the car and we shook hands. “I’m pleased to see you,” I admitted, as I generally was.
“Likewise, my friend,” his usual raucous laughter followed, but this time I felt as if it was a bit more comforting.
I cut to the chase. “It would mean a lot if you could give me a boost,” I said, already reaching to open the hood.
The man made a face, “I’m sorry, I can’t do that.”
“Why not?” I asked over my shoulder.
“Because you two are now under arrest.” I stopped in my tracks and spun around to see his gun pointed in my general direction. He flashed his official badge and cautioned for us not to move. “Don’t make me shoot. Either way if I do, nobody will ever know out here.”
I froze. I couldn’t believe it. “You’re an officer?”
“Yeah,” he snarled. “I was a bit drunk during our last encounter, but I’ve got you now.”
But I thought I’d call his bluff and see if he would actually fire his weapon. In an attempt to save Arya and myself, I decided to move to grab my own weapon stashed in the glove compartment. I launched off my heel and dove for the ground closer to the car. Just as I did, he shot and missed. I could hear Arya scream.
That’s when I knew. It was over.
“I heard you’ve been evading law enforcement for quite some time,” said Regi, as we learned was the officer’s name. “This car, it’s prime evidence in an on-going case. And you’re a wanted criminal on multiple charges related to several counts of murder and drug trafficking, as well as breaking and entering and robbery.”
Arya and I sat leaning against our piece of shit car, Regi sat leaning against his convertible just across from us. “Several counts of murder? Drug trafficking? That doesn’t make sense!” I sputtered.
“That’s what they all say, kid, believe me,” he chuckled, seeming proud of himself.
“No, there must be some sort of mistake if that’s the case!”
“You can save all that for the courts.”
“And you mean to say you really believe in the justice system?” Regi remained silent. “I’m being framed for things I haven’t even done.”
He heaved a sigh and looked at me with a serious expression on his face. I had already marked him different from most people, and even most police officers. I believed that anyone else in his place would have been quick to put us in cuffs and drive away, but here was this man sitting and having a somewhat civil conversation with us. He opened his mouth to speak, and what he said startled the both of us. He asked us to share our stories with him.
After considering our position, I realized that it couldn’t actually hurt. I motioned for Arya to speak first, for she had been silent for the entire time. As she told him what she had told me before, I observed as Regi listened intently. He actually barely blinked through most of it.
When she was done, she sounded shaken up again. I wrapped an arm around her and pulled her closer as Regi gestured for me to tell him everything next. I took a breath, and began to tell him of the events that still haunted me every night. The story I had actually failed to tell Arya all this time, although she had told me hers. I just never found a way to do it.
After I finished, I realized Arya still had her head rested on my shoulder, but she was breathing much slower. I glanced up at Regi and he had a perplexed look on his face.
“You know,” he said. “I had no idea I’d find two run-aways. I was only after you,” he said pointing at me. “But when I saw you two from the distance and recognized her from the descriptions, I realized how big of a catch this really was.”
“Let me get my cables, and what do you say we give your car a boost and be on our own ways?”
I didn’t understand. He must have understood from the look on my face. “W-what?”
“I’m letting you go,” he smiled. “You can either take it or leave it. It’s up to you. Now pop open the hood, let’s get going.”
After hesitating for a brief moment, I did as instructed and opened the hood. While boosting the car, he spoke to me quietly out of Arya’s earshot as she remained seated on the ground.
“I’ll be honest with you,” he smiled. “I’m not a cop anymore. I got cancer and my wife left, I flipped out and acted up on the job and got my badge revoked. I showed you a fake. You know, I just thought that I might not be able to get my wife back but I could try and get my job and my dignity back. So once I sobered up and realized who I met at the pub in that town, I thought that I couldn’t be too far behind you if I started to chase you right away. So I did.”
I understood. We were his means to a respectable end.
“But I realize now that it’s not worth that. I realize how human you are. And it shows in the way you look at her.” I was right about him being different. “Sometimes, circumstances get the best of us. In any case, you’re right about justice being a load of crap. I got some people that still owe me favours. I’ll see to it that you two don’t run into any more problems.”
“Why are you doing this?” I asked. “Why are you helping us?”
He then returned to me what I remembered telling him during our first encounter. He said, “If that’s a question of one’s integrity, I would prefer to leave it unanswered.” With that, he winked. And we shook hands and parted ways for the last time.
We were free.