by Courtney Patkau
The truck has become a safe place, a calm place where silence doesn’t seem so loud, where tangible emotions are weaved into the fabric of the seats—boyfriends, music, the stale cigarettes lingering from previous owners and occupants who didn’t think twice about asking if they could take a drag, letting it hang out the window. A flip-flop is still wedged underneath the seat from a late night retrieval of his sister after a drunken mishap that ended in her sobbing on the phone while he sat there with the pill bottle in his hands. He remembers the sigh that escaped his lips as he shoved the bottle back into his broken glove compartment hanging at an awkward angle and threw the truck in reverse, backing out over the brown grass and back onto the gravel road. There’s even a rip in the grey seat, the foam from the cushion poking out and frays of fabric stretching across it—he doesn’t know how it got larger, but he remembers when he bought the truck Frank pointed at it and shrugged his shoulder, cigarette hanging from his lips, “just one of those nights.”
Hunter wonders what Frank means by “one of those nights,” wonders what’s happened in this truck before. “I’m charging twenty five hundred for her.” He says it while hitching his pants. Hunter knows that Frank knew it was too much to ask from some kid, but he found himself nodding quickly without hesitation, handing over the wad of cash, no fight in him. He just wanted the freedom, some sort of hum working against the silence. People ask, people give him weird looks, people tell him it is a piece of shit that belongs at the dump, but he sees nothing wrong with it that isn’t chalked up to character. That dent and chipping orange paint on the side? Bruises courtesy of life and a forked road.
There are a few nights he’s forgotten about the pills in the glove compartment and had to run back and grab two just to make it through the night and the next day. But sometimes he jumps in the truck and takes off to hold the whole bottle in his palm for a while. And sometimes it gets bad enough that he diligently picks them out, inspecting each one for the engraved ml. They aren’t doing anything anymore. The dosage is at the max and the thoughts aren’t being stopped by the wall, but he’s too tired to go through it all with his doctor again, too tired to explain the feeling that doesn’t have words. And tonight it’s “just one of those nights” where the thoughts become more than just thoughts. So they sit in the palm of his hand, the rest of the bottle that is supposed to last him until the end of the month and he shakes his hand lightly, watching them tumble over one another. It’s not even that big of a deal, the sleep biting his eyes and pinching at the back of his neck—he’s been up for forty-eight hours and counting and he hasn’t stopped for a second to take a breath.
His mind travels to his mother, her soft green eyes staring at him for the last time as she holds his hand and tells him she’ll be gone for a little while. They don’t focus on him for more than a second, but he still remembers the apologies written in them. They’re more focused on the windows and doors, as if she’s scoping the space out for the probable exit points. “She’s going away for a bit,” his father had told him, placing a hand on his shoulder and directing him back into the house. “How about some ice cream?” The bitter taste of the freezer burnt ice cream is still on his tongue.
“Flight risk,” his father mumbled one evening, as his eyes focused out the window, “she was always a flight risk.”
And Hunter picks his head up from the table where he’s sitting, working on some ridiculous English assignment about who he was, like he was really supposed to know. “What?” Meaningless comments are likely to slip out of his father’s mouth as his eyes travel across the window pane. By now, Hunter knows the schedule of his neighbors—which ones come home at 5:02pm, which ones slip out of the driveway at 10:14pm on their way to the bar, and which kids run across the street, hands open, feet hitting the hot asphalt as they chase after the ball. He doesn’t say much else; his words have no meaning now.
His father wouldn’t nod, his eyes still focused out the window. Hunter finds himself wondering if it’s because he’s waiting for her to return, waiting for a cab to magically pull up the driveway and for her to step out in her flower dress and curls, flighty eyes still for once. “Yeah,” his father says, and he never answers the real question.
Hunter knows her return won’t solve anything for him. He gave up that hope eight years ago, when suddenly a week had turned into five years of silence. But it would be nice to see his father smile again, nice to see some sort of emotion hit him. It’s not that he blames his father for letting everything become so silent; it’s not that he blames him or his mother for anything, in fact. Clockwork comments collide to create some alternate universe where no one feels anything anymore. Maybe he’s fucking with the schedule now, or simply winding up with the tape. He thinks maybe this time he’s part of it—inevitable.
The tape in the player clonks out for a few seconds and then comes back in a fuzzy tone, muffling the soft music he received from a boyfriend a few years back. It’s a mix of some mellow songs they would throw on and then sit back in his truck in silence, thinking late at night about things. Like, what they could mean to the world, if there was a God and if He created them just to hate them. Listening to the music playing softly in the background and the gravel stones bouncing off the aluminum as cars whizzed past the field, he pinpoints the song after a few seconds of fuzz. He closes his eyes placing the hand not grasping the pills over his eyes. He’s hoping it’s the song he falls asleep to, hoping that eventually he’ll get sick of staring at the pills and just fall into a slumber, letting them slip from his fingers and into his stomach. Because the thoughts are old, the feeling is getting old and it seems like something he’s done a million times before, only to wake up and find himself cold, out of gas and aching everywhere.
His head rests against the point of his index finger, drilling into his temple. He wishes he had a different reason. He wishes he had a reason that he could leave in a note; comfort his sister, comfort his father, maybe even comfort his mother if she found out or even cared. It’s just this feeling in his gut, this thing eating away at him and he doesn’t know what it is, his finger can’t press against anything to stop the tape from playing in his head and the harder he tries, the louder it gets.
19 year-old hailing from a small town in rural Manitoba, Canada, with a passion for writing that reaches right down to the soul. Currently surviving the first year of university with an imaginative mind and a handful of crazy dreams (while studying).