Sunday, November 22, 2009

Part Two: Bodies. Chapter Twenty-Two

Alex slept.

He had seethed as he drove his car south, his hands clenched on the wheel, breathing the scent of diesel on his clothes and hands. His teeth ground against each other and his eyes burned as he drove and drove.

When he came to himself, he was almost a hundred miles south, and his jaw ached. He pulled into the first rest stop he found, walked to a quiet picnic area, and spent an hour in penance, doing pushups and crunches until his muscles burned and the smell of his sweat began to compete with the scent of the diesel.

Then he pulled himself together, finally realizing that, although it had been dark, he had been driving with blood stains all over his clothing. He mentally castigated himself as he changed his clothes into a fresh set, knowing that the diesel stench might ruin this set of clothes as well. He would have to buy more clothes, but that, at least, would not be an issue. The safe in the Wozcynski's closet had been open, simply requiring a twist of the handle to open it, and leaving Alex several thousand dollars in cash.

He kept driving south until he found a truck stop and pulled in. He entered with his head down and a pack over his shoulder, ignoring the customers and the employees, heading straight for the bathroom facilities. A fistful of quarters got him a shower and when he was done he changed into yet another set of clothes. He wrapped his previous clothes in a trash bag and crammed it into his backpack. Then, against his impulse to keep running, he took the time to shave and put his hair in place. His eyes were a little bloodshot, but otherwise, he looked like just another man from the road, perhaps dressed a little neater than some of the other long-haulers.

He took his bag back to his trunk and then returned to the truck stop to eat. He had not thought about eating since...he couldn't remember when. He had eaten the evening before, sometime. A taco salad, he remembered, on the way to his storage unit. That had been a long time ago.

He had a double order of biscuits and gravy and drank two glasses of orange juice. When he lifted his right hand to pick up his fork, he was aware of an intense ache in his right shoulder. He hadn't realized how overworked that arm was after his night's work. The food hit the bottom of his stomach, the fat and the carbohydrates congealing into a warm, thick porridge.
He paid his check in cash from that night's takings and returned once again to his car. It was now just after 8 a.m. and the sun was piercingly bright, so Alex moved the car into the shadow of a tractor trailer.

He reclined the driver's seat and closed his eyes. His shoulder throbbed and he replayed his grievous errors. He had let himself go, he knew that, and it was what he had wanted, but the consequences were now far greater than he had thought they would be. Always he had been able to cover his tracks before, to misdirect or remove that which would come back to haunt him. His lusts had traveled faster than he was able to follow and now he would have to pay for it.

But would he? he wondered, as he replayed his actions on the insides of his eyelids. He had done exactly what he had intended and when he had fantasized about kicking open the door, which could not have happened more perfectly as the woman's teeth were dislodged and her face was dented, as he had driven to her house with that thought in his mind, he had not given the least thought to what the consequences of his actions would be. The consequences, of course, were inevitable. He would leave behind something of himself. And then, because he had been unprepared to cover up his actions, as he usually was, he had fucked up and had to run, leaving behind any number of clues that might enable them to track him. He did not assign any magical power to the police, but he knew that the less you gave them, the better off you were. He lived his life leaving behind as little as possible and this was the worst transgression of that rule in his life.

Still, he thought, as he trailed away into sleep, his thoughts beginning to slow, his mind's racing revving down, it had been worth it. He reflected, drowsily, that he had broken a lot of his personal rules of late and that it certainly seemed that he would continue to do so. Would it continue to be worth it? If his days were like this one, he felt, then yes, they would be. This was what he should have been doing all along. Not masking who he was at all, but letting himself be who he had really, truly, deeply wanted to be all along. The real person that he let himself be with people like Liz and McConnell, in the moments when the facade of himself he had taken so long to build, when that false face completely fell away.

He opened his eyes for a moment, staring at the soft, gray ceiling of his car, realizing that he had just made a breakthrough. That he was becoming something different, something true. He should not be afraid. He should be proud. And grateful. People like Wozcynski had helped him find his truth. That he could no longer live in the shadow of fear, that he would no longer live under the storm cloud of what may be. He would use the time he had to be true to himself in the most complete way possible.

And if that meant that they all had to die for him to be happy, then that was just the way it would have to be, he thought, as he drifted off.

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