A Trip Upstate
A Trip Upstate
Jane didn’t like feeling weak. Killing made her feel like she wasn’t, and that was probably part of it.
It was almost dawn, or felt like it, but it was dark. The pastel sidewalk seemed to be threatening her. It felt like it was about to close up, snap shut on her like a mousetrap.
“Jane?” someone said. The pistol in her hand aimed at the voice, and her eyes followed.
“Yeah?” she said. She still wasn’t sure who’d called her name.
“Is that you?” There was a man in a big shiny car the color of Jordan almonds.
From the way the colors shifted, dancing, undulating like a bucket filled with water-color maggots, she figured the colors were probably in her head.
“Jane?” the man said again.
“Yeah?” She looked past the pistol in her hand and at the man’s face. He was skinny and pale, and oddly like a baby stretched out and molded into the shape of a man.
“Do you remember me?” he asked. He had an accent. Spanish, she thought, but that wasn’t right at all. She’d met him in Spain.
“Pyotr, but yes…. You carry your weapons out in the open. Don’t the police have questions?”
She looked at the pistol she had in one hand and the long knife she carried in the other. Maybe she’d been hunting someone. “When you’re up front about you’re intentions, people just take one look at you before they look away. It’s kinda like bein’ invisible.”
“I believe I understand,” Pyotr said. He smiled, displaying his tar-stained teeth.
“Is this your car?” Jane asked.
“Yes. I just bought it–”
“What color is it?”
“Black…. Isn’t it?”
“You gimme a ride?”
“Of course,” he said.
She started around to the passenger side. The angel on the hood seemed to do a pirouette, but it wasn’t feeling dancy anymore when she looked at it straight. The headlights reflected off her knife and felt like they were cutting a gash in her cheek. She loaded her weapons into her shoulder-bag.
He popped the door for her and she climbed in.
“Where to?” he asked.
“I’m not sure how to get there,” she said, “but it’s a ways.”
“I have nowhere to be. And I’m sure we can ask for directions.”
“I wanna see somebody in Bedford Hills,” she said.
He pulled out, and Jane sank back into the seat cushions.
She rifled in her bag. His eyes were on her. She could feel them. But when she looked over he was staring at the taillights ahead.
She found her canteen under her weapons and the change of underwear she kept in case of pregnancy-related-leakage. She took a swig before passing it over to Pyotr.
“Coke?” he asked, holding it up to his nose.
“I’m a Pepsi girl. But it’s spiked,” she said. The Canteen froze against his lip.
“Bourbon?” he asked, his eyes flashing briefly to her ever more globular stomach.
“Acid,” she said. “A girl I talked to said it’ll jus’ make the kid smarter, and it helps me get my head right.”
“Alright,” he said and took a swig. It seemed he was just being polite.
At some point she told him where they were going. After a half dozen doughnuts, a long ride through the pines, a quick stop at a filthy service station restroom, and more pines, they rolled to a stop outside a women’s penitentiary, the same red-brick nightmare that housed Clark and Boudin.
“I should stay here?” Pyotr asked.
“Yeah, I hadn’t thought about that,” she said, climbing out. “I don’t have cab-fare back. If you split, I’ll be pissed.”
“I will wait,” he said. He grabbed a fat book from the back seat. “I have been reading Garden of Lies, a very interesting drama–”
“You can tell me about it when I get back.” Jane left her shoulder bag in the car and headed in. If he did abandon her there, she’d be really pissed.
It was about eight in the morning, and the assholes-behind-glass told her visiting hours didn’t start til nine. That gave her plenty of time to fill out paper work, to have a paper-pusher-asshole tell her he couldn’t read her scrawl, and for that same asshole to make assumptions about her diminished capacity and send out a caregiver to help her make her mark.
She was still early. She spent twenty minutes sitting in the waiting room, sipping on a regular Pepsi from the vending machine, and trying not to look at the other sad people waiting there with her. With the exception of a very old man whose spine was bent like a pulled bow, the rest of the visitors were all women. She’d figured there’d be a few husbands or boyfriends, but maybe it was always like that.
With some time away from her medicine, the ceiling was starting to feel like a ceiling and the floor like the floor. The walls were standing up straight, and they weren’t even saying anything.
There was a loud buzz, and Jane only half-thought there was a wasp in her ear.
A big woman in a guard-suit stepped through a barred door on one side of the room. She had a body like a giant midget, and a face that made Jane think of the Queen of Hearts in the Disney rendition. Her beady eyes scanned the room, pausing for an uncomfortable time on Jane.
“Single file,” the woman said.
Jane queued up. A blue eye-shadowed hussy in front of her smelled like the hind quarters of a deer, while the walking egg behind her smelled not unpleasantly of spice drops.
By the time Jane single-filed through the door and the halls beyond, she’d grown tired of the spice drops and felt like vomiting. That might just have been nerves.
They entered a big room that reminded Jane of a thousand high-school lunches and all the high-school heartbreak that came with them.
The hairs raised on the back of her neck. She scanned the room, winnowed people with hollow eyes sitting at long steel tables. A pregnant woman in orange soon to lose her kid. Jane wondered if they’d let her see it first.
“Toneequa,” a voice said.
The broken old man was sitting with a girl who looked like she should have been in kiddy-prison.
“Toneequa,” the familiar voice said again.
“Miss.” It was the Queen of Hearts talking to her. Her voice was oddly soothing. “That one’s waving at you.”
Jane’s eyes followed the guard’s finger to a wiry black chick seated at one of the lunch room tables. Abi had stopped waving by the time Jane saw her. The orange looked good on her.
“Thanks,” Jane said. She strolled over and flopped down on the bench.
“Hey,” Abi said. “I didn’t think I knew any Toneequa Carmarthens— You pick that name?”
“…Jus’ what the papers-guy sold me,” Jane said.
“…Are you high?” Abi asked.
Jane thought at first it must have shown in her eyes, but then she realized Abi was sitting upright and it was her that was leaning.
“It’s waning,” Jane said.
“I would’a kept up with NA if I wanted to get preached at– And it’s just acid,” Jane added.
“Oh… I guess that’s different…. Your boyfriend waiting for you outside?”
“What— Pyotr’s not my boyfriend!”
“…Who?” Abi said.
“…I dunno. I brought twenty bucks in ones with me, for candy, or somethin’.” Jane pulled out the envelope the front-desk-guy had packed up and sealed. She slid it across the table.
“I don’t need your money–”
“Don’t be a cunt.”
“Jane. Why’d you come see me— And, did you drop acid and then decide to come see me? Or you needed somethin’ to see you through once you’d decided to come see me?” She seemed to be smiling under her jaded convict death mask.
“It’s not all about you, Abi. I just haven’t been right lately.”
“Since when?” Abi asked, really smiling now.
“Did Olena tell you…? My boyfriend dumped me.”
“You shoot him?”
“I’m not that petty,” Jane said. She tried to indignantly cross her arms, but she found her belly got in the way. She settled for resting her elbows on the steel table.
“I meant, did you shoot him and that’s why he left you,” Abi said.
“…I don’t think he would’a left over something like that.”
“Maybe not,” Abi said. “Why’d he leave then?”
“Dunno,” Jane said. She felt tears welling and dug her nails into her palms. “…How you finding the convict lifestyle?”
“I ever tell you about Hilaria?”
“Not so much,” Jane said. “She one of your crew?”
“I guess you split town just after I met her. We wrote letters back and forth for a while.”
“She your pen-pal?” It was Jane’s turn to smile, but Abi was smiling too and in an oddly friendly way.
“Sorta. She’d write long letters, and I’d write back a few words. I don’t think I’d held a pen in years before we started writing.”
“The past-tense mean she’s dead?” Jane asked.
“No. Jesus, Jane…. She’s getting transferred. She’ll be here next week.”
“…I’m glad for you. You know if she’s gonna be in your cell-block, or whatever?”
“Don’t know yet, but we’ll get to chat in the yard anyway.”
“Jane. Why’d you come here?”
“I thought, we’re friends,” Jane said. “We are right?”
“I guess so… yeah. We are,” Abi said. “That’s it?”
“You’re still religious, yeah?”
“I’ve been thinking. A few years ago, my boyfriend and me were riding in a little wooden box on a hop over to Tangiers—”
“This is when you blew town?”
“Yeah,” Jane said. “So, it was a long flight, and I found out I get plane sick, and I was thinking about what I was doing with my life. I was thinking about all the people I’d killed. And right then I was able to count them down, one by one. I remember every little bit, how their blood felt on my face, the warm empty feeling in my belly. I remembered everything.”
“I’m not a priest, but, sometimes talking about what you’ve done makes you feel better.”
“You’re not hearing me!” Jane yelled. The giant-midget-guard-woman glared at her. “You’re not hearing me,” Jane whispered.
“Then say what you’re saying!” Abi yelled. The guard glared harder.
“I can’t remember anymore.”
“…What you were saying?”
“The dead people,” Jane said. “I can’t count ’em anymore.”
“I don’t think that has much to do with religion,” Abi said. Jane watched her shifting in her seat. Though that was amusing, she hadn’t meant to make her squirm.
“…It’s nice seeing you, Abi.”
“Yeah,” Abi said.
“You ever wanna bust out, gimme a call.”
Abi looked back and forth, but anybody in ear-shot was involved in their own drama. “I’m better off here.”
Jane stood up. There was a fraction of a moment that seemed to last forever. Jane hung there, half off her seat. She watched alien flowers growing from Abi’s eyes.
“Jane.” Abi was staring at her.
“Yeah,” Jane said.
“It was actually fun seeing you…. If you find yourself in these parts, drop by. I’ll try’n be nicer next time.”
“Fuck that,” Jane said, giving her a wave.
“I meant, you don’t gotta be nicer on my account. I’ll drop by again sometime.”
“Jane,” Abi said.
“Bein’ a mom’s really nice…. Jus’ seeing the kid’s face can make you really, really happy.”
“I’m not gonna name it after you,” Jane said. Abi’s face went slack, and it was that stunned, dumb expression that stuck in Jane’s head as she headed out.
She traversed another bureaucratic hedge-maze on her way back to the parking lot.
Pyotr was still there, and his Rolls looked the black he’d claimed it to be.
“Hey,” she said, hopping in.
It seemed he’d dozed off, and he woke up hard. “Chto yebut!?” he said. He stared at her for about a second before he seemed to realize where he was. “Jane. You know, the police cast swords at me with their eyes, many times while you were inside. I have international warrants.” He didn’t seem peeved, really, more like he was bragging.
“Well. I’m back now,” she said. She rifled in her bag and found her canteen. The Pepsi was warm. She passed it to Pyotr again.
This time he didn’t hesitate. She watched his Adam’s apple bounce. This time it wasn’t politeness. It seemed like he was saying fuck it with every swig.
He handed it back to her. “I’m sorry, for complaining.”
“It’s your car, you can bitch all you want,” she said.
Pyotr stared at her. Then he smiled, displaying a set of gleaming green teeth. His laugh sounded like the torn wrapping paper her mom used to ball up on Christmas morning. “Have you had waffles?” he asked.
“I had waffles once in Finland. The Finnish variety are crispy, but the American waffle is so soft and tender, and very good topped with butter and syrup.”
“Yeah, waffles are okay.”
“I am suggesting we might get breakfast, on the way home.”
“If you’re paying,” Jane said. “I gave all my cash to the girl inside.”
“You are strangely kind.”
“I’m not gonna fuck you.”
As he turned the key, and the engine purred, his smile turned slightly more businesslike. “Of course,” he said.