Chapter 3: Waking In My Car

FrightBox-Frosted-GlassShivering, I awoke in my car. Parked in my driveway, the interior smelled of autumn forest. Sort of a rotten pine scent with overripe blackberries. So cold. Raising my seat to its nearly upright position, I realized that the steering wheel was on my left. Since it’s not an English car I began slowly to worry about what had happened since lunch. Or even at the restaurant since I couldn’t remember having eaten . . .

Outside my car window it was dark and fuzzy or foggy. I rubbed my eyes, it was foggy since I could see my hands clearly enough. Fully dressed, freezing and prickly beard, I looked like I woke up late and wasn’t going to make it to work on time.  Keys in the ignition made a tinkling as I tried opening the stuck shut door. I grabbed them. Putting them in my breast pocket, I pulled my cell phone out first and checked the time.

On the face of the phone it was 5:05 am and the app displayed a picture of the moon with no clouds around it. The door didn’t budge, but leaning into the driver’s seat, I lashed sideways with my shoulder and it burst open. In another life I must have been a fire fighter. Cool morning air rushed in, yet it was much warmer than inside the car.

I welcomed the morning, and stumbled out of the car falling to my knee. Stiff and cranky I stood up and stretched. My back cracked in 3 places which was unusual. Turning to shut the door, I noticed frost on the window, door handle and hood of the car. It was on the roof and doors and as I pulled the door open again, it was on the inside and outside of the windshield. What was that about?

I shut the door and clicked the fob. My grass wasn’t icy. My walkway was clean and dry. Passing to my neighbor’s car, it wasn’t covered with frost. Just mine. And it was hoar frost. Like my windshield was covered with short wispy baby’s hair.

Inside my little house in Camdten Gardens near San Diego State I stretched and felt rested enough. Made sense I guess since I must have slept since late afternoon yesterday. But where had I been. Thinking about it gave me a headache, but not thinking about it, made me feel at ease and free. That made me uneasy and anxious. So I set to wondering about why I didn’t care where I’d been and that gave me less of a headache than thinking where and what I’d in fact been up to since yesterday afternoon.

Placing my thoughts directly on the frosty hair that had been on my car gave me a migraine complete with swatch of plate glass window running through the upper right side of my visual field. I was going to have to find an answer in a more unconventional way. With the volume down I turned on the TV and switched over to Netflix. Perhaps an episode of Voyager would give my headache a rest. I closed my eyes and listed as Captain Proton saved the Galaxy from invasion yet again.

Suddenly I was back at Dansk, a young dark haired woman sat down in front of me as I was devouring my pancakes and those wonderful sausages. “You don’t want to raise your cholesterol like that, besides, it’s time to start your diet.” I put down my fork and finished chewing and swallowed. Wearing a Donna Karan business suit not quite à la Ally McBeal, she smiled at me. Dark wavy hair caressed her shoulders and lay across her clavicles. Golden brown eyes stared into mine. I believe she said, “I can see why Annika likes you.” But the sound of it to my mind was like it was fading away as she spoke or did her lips even move. Between my ears it echoed for a couple of moments saying “Annika likes you, Annika likes you, Annika likes you over and over.”

If I answered her I don’t remember it. If she ever said anything else I don’t remember it officer. But there were no police, I was interrogating myself. I could feel my body was running free now, like in a dream when you’re running across a field of grass just before you start to fly away. Not like the dream when you run and run but you go nowhere, but like I was running and running and there was a beautiful woman and either I was chasing her or she was chasing me. But I don’t remember what she looked like. Sandy blond mane or black and wavy, it seemed to me that there were both in my dream.

Maybe I was chasing one and the other was chasing me. I began to think it was more like running in a circle so that you are simultaneously doing both; chasing and being chased.

Door opened and I awoke. Annika walked in and laughed at me. “It’s 10 in the morning and you’ve missed half your work day?” Which was true, I usually started at 6am in order to handle east coast business.

“What?” I almost shouted at her.

“Don’t sweat it,” she said, “I called at 6:30 to see if you wanted to do breakfast and they said you weren’t in yet. So, I waited a couple of minutes, called back and said you were sick today and that you wouldn’t be in until tomorrow, so you’re cool like school.”

“Really?” I was gradually remembering the prior day and my head ached less for having slept through half a season of Captain Janeway’s trek through the Delta Quadrant. I wanted to ask about the stethoscope but thought the better of it. Perhaps the preferred mode of inquiry would be to help with the wedding planning and see how much of had in fact been done.  Were we really going to the Wedding Chapel by the Sea, was there really an Italian string quartet coming to play her processional music down the little chapel’s aisle?

But she was so beautiful and she was here and smiling in scrubs with little . . . were those flecks of blood on her shirt? She caught me staring, “Oh that, I was visiting with a friend in the E.R. and got blood sprayed by the gsw victim of the day.”

“It’s not ketchup?” I asked.

She let out a maniacal laugh continuing, “you got me, dang I thought you might fall for it, yes of course it’s ketchup and I’m sure I’ve sat on mustard too.”  As she turned and showed me her butt there was in fact a yellow spot not unlike what you might expect if you had sat on mustard. Pulling her light cotton pants tight, I couldn’t help smiling. I felt a bit more relaxed, and embarrassed, and those didn’t usually go together but just then for the first time, they did.

“Listen, I’m going to go and change, then we’re going to go have breakfast.” Peeling as she walked away, I clicked off the TV and watched her reflection disappear down the hallway.

“I’ve got your back!” I yelled out.

“What?” she answered walking back into the hall wearing a tan sweater.

“I’ve got your back,” and I thought curses foiled again.

“Oh, great, I guess.” She headed back into the bedroom. No, she hadn’t yet moved in, but as a fiancée she’d taken drawer privileges even though she was a traditional girl and when she visited, I was appointed to my slumber on the couch. My friend Scott gave me the book called, She’s Just Not That Into You, but I haven’t read it yet. I was pretty sure he was wrong anyway, women who aren’t into you don’t make wedding and honeymoon plans.

“Dude, she is, she totally is, but she’s a traditional girl.” I’d handed the book back but he wouldn’t have it, he just shoved it into my briefcase instead.

“If she doesn’t want you before the wedding, she won’t want you after either. She’s up to something.” He’d said. But what? I’d wondered. I’m not rich, not famous, not going to be. I’m lumpy dumpy and kinda funny, so maybe just maybe she was really in love.

Momentarily the dim and distant memory of seeing her kissing the used Vampire Insurance salesman was edging in on my good feelings. And there she was leaning over my shoulder from the back of the couch pressing the bell of the stethoscope on my chest. “You’re alive!” She cried out.

“Where did you get that?”

“From my boyfriend.” Smiling she continued, “there was this young doctor that washed out of the program and he gave all of his gear away before he left.”

“What?” I asked, well that was an interesting and odd coincidence.

“I heard you met with my cousin Martin about the insurance,” she answered.

I felt such a relief. Then I felt a creeping anxiety coming up my spine. Why should I feel relieved that this set of coincidences should come together all at once? And I still couldn’t think about my car without the swatch of glassiness spilling across my vision like spraying and freezing water on a windshield. Damn, there it went again.

My right eye squinted shut, “your cousin is our used vampire insurance salesman?” I asked. My head began to feel better.

“Yup.” Annika furrowed her eyebrows at me, “he thinks you’re paranoid and told me to marry someone else. He’s an ass but he’s family. How did you find him bytheway? That’s an odd coincidence.”

“I couldn’t have said that better myself,” I said. “He’s like, I don’t know, cagey about everything, he even said that he didn’t know you.”

“Oh, what? How did you get to ask him about me? That’s even weirder . . .”

“Well I heard him saying on the phone that he’d just gotten a referral from Annika his best referrer. So, I asked how he knew you and he said that he didn’t and claimed he’d said Anita. But I know better, he plainly said Annika.”

“But how did you end up in his office in the first place?”  She asked.

“I was I don’ know, embarrassed. So I was looking for an insurance agency out of the way, you know, off the beaten path and found him.” Yawning I stretched, and saw that she was still waiting for a more comprehensive explanation. “That’s it, I mean, that’s it.”

Annika tied her hair in a pony tail and asked, “Well, did I tell you to go to him?”

“No, I found him on my phone.”

She crinkled and sniffed hard, “well, he’s an a-hole, and I think he’s been in sales for too long. Come on, I know this great little restaurant.”

And I still couldn’t think about that car anymore.

Til Next Time . . . 

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