Love Is A Stolen Car
I’m drinking at Jeff’s Pub with a guy who enjoys my company for some strange reason. My guess, he’s entertained by my sarcasm, wit, and what he considers my humorous dialogue.
He also happens to be my barber. Every once in a while, he’ll call me over for a free trim when he sees me out on the street. His name is Rudolph, owner/operator of Rudy’s Herr Cuts, but me I just call him Cracker.
A German immigrant, he is also a racist bigot with poor hygiene and a dedicated Catholic to boot. I may disagree with his every opinion and belief, but he’s the one buying tonight, so I ignore my objections for now.
“Hey Mexican,” hollers Jeff, the owner, from down the bar. “Almost closing time. Last call!”
“Only for me?” I ask. “Or everyone present? Because I would like to object, your honor. “
“I’ll get around to everyone else, but I thought I’d better start with you first. Jenk just called and asked if you were here.”
“So, what did you tell him?”
“I told him the truth. I don’t wanna get mixed up in any bullshit with you and your dealer. Just thought I’d let’cha know, Wetback.”
“Hey Cracker,” I say to Rudolph there beside me. “Did you spill beer down the back of my shirt? Jeff just said it’s wet.”
My drinking companion breaks into uproarious laughter, along with a few of the other drunks present.
“No Santi,” Cracker informs me in his German accent. “He means you swim cross river into U.S., getting wet. Get it now, Wetback?”
Meanwhile, Jeff is drying glasses down the bar.
“Hey Jeff,” I call out to him, “Cracker checked my shirt and says it’s dry.”
He ignores me as I finish my drink and make to leave.
“I must bid you all a fond farewell,” I declare, rising from my seat. “And miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go…”
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Jeff asks, wiping the bar top. “Forget it, you fucking head case.”
“Gute nacht, Santi,” Cracker says, raising his glass as I head for the door.
Just as I open it, however, a massive shadow falls over me, its source now blocking my escape.
“Hey Jenk,” I say, trying to sound casual. “Surprise seeing you here. Was looking for you last week, actually, to let you know I won’t have your money until next Wednesday. I’m experiencing a bit of a financial inconvenience at the moment, you see.”
I owed him sixty for dope and twenty now in interest on top of that. He’d already given me my free walk two weeks ago, cornering me at our local liquor store. As a result, I knew there was a beatdown on the agenda for not paying him last Friday as promised, so I was prepared for it tonight.
“Now, I know you’ve gotta make an example out of me,” I continue. “Just one small request: please take it easy on my handsome face, as it’s the only thing I’ve got to get by on.”
“I ain’t lookin’ for ya bout dat,” Jenk says. “I should beat the shit outta ya, but dat can wait. Been lookin’ for ya cause Jess was workin’ at da Truck Stop and she OD’d. Ambulance took her away, don’t know if she made it or not.”
“Fuck…” I say. “My poor baby Jess! Damnit, I alway tell her not to go buying from dudes she doesn’t know. She’s always been so reckless…”
Meanwhile, it seems Cracker has overheard our little conversation.
“Come on, Santi,” he says, walking up from behind. “Your car is in shop, and buses not running, so I give ya ride. Come on, let’s go!”
“Get outta here,” Jenk says, stepping aside from the door. “We’ll talk mo’ later. Lemme know how she’s doing. I’ll be at the Fox Hole.”
I thank him and follow Cracker as he stumbles out into the night. The snow has really started coming down out there, like the angels are all brushing their hair at once.
“Hey Santi!” Jenk hollers out after me. “You better have dat CASH next week, or you won’t be walkin’ again for a while.”
I wave back at him, giving him a thumbs up as reassurance.
We reach Cracker’s car and he starts fumbling for his keys. He swears in German as he turns his pockets inside out, dumping their contents into the snow.
“I can’t find my DAMN KEYS,” he says. “I have them before, where in hell are they now?”
He stoops down to search the ground at his feet. I decide to try the car door. It opens and I slip inside. I check the visors, in the ashtray, even under the damn seat, and then there they are right before me.
“Cracker, get in! Your keys are right here in the ignition.”
Meanwhile, he’s still scrounging for his stuff on the ground.
“Cracker, what the fuck you doin’ cabron? C’mon, we can get that later!”
“You go head,” he says, rising unsteadily. “Lose ex-wife’s diamond ring. Just take car and bring back my place in morning. Go on now, Wetback, get outta here!”
I fire up the engine and spin out of the lot, speeding off into the snowstorm.
It is then that I realize something important: Jenk never said which hospital they took Jessica to. And there’s four hospitals in this goddamn city. University Medical Center is closest to the Truck Stop, so I head in that direction, carefully now in these blizzard conditions.
I haven’t had a valid driver’s license in about two years, I’m forced to remind myself. I have numerous warrants for not appearing in court, driving on a suspended license, and various other minor infractions. Getting pulled over tonight would complete the third act of my personal Greek tragedy. Sophocles never wrote anything close to all the drama in my life. No, even better, my story is the lost third book of Homer’s Odyssey. I think of this like it’s a good thing for some reason.
Meanwhile, I’m starting to feel the withdrawals from not having a fix in about ten hours. I’d been waiting for Jess to get back with some money to score, but that hardly seemed important anymore.
Finally reaching the hospital, I attempt to ditch the car at its emergency entrance, but I am forced by a rent-a-cop to move. Instead, I repark it in Doctor Rosenberg’s designated space.
Running up to the entrance, I slip on a patch of ice the near the doors, falling face first into a concrete bench where an old lady sits smoking. Blood gushes from my nose, which is broken I can tell already.
“Are you okay dear?” the old lady asks. “That was some fall.”
I cup my hands over my nose to stop the blood. That’s when I notice the gash in my forehead as well, gushing down into my eyes.
“Ya, just fine,” I lie. “Thanks.”
“I don’t think so,” the old lady insists. “Dear you’re bleeding badly. Do you need some help?”
“Could you walk me to the desk inside?” I ask. “I’m trying to find my girlfriend. I need to know if she’s alive. Please.”
The old lady takes my arm and leads me over to the triage desk, where two nurses immediately attend to me. I’m seated in a wheelchair and rolled into an exam room, where they begin to care for my injuries.
“How did this happen hon?” the attractive nurse asks. “Were you involved in an automobile accident?”
The towel on my face is quickly soaked with blood, dripping down onto my pants.
“No, I had an unfortunate run-in with the bench outside. You should have someone take care of the ice out there, or you may have a few more patients before the night is over. Can you get the name of the woman who walked me in? She witnessed the accident and I may need her testimony.”
“Certainly,” the other nurse says, “but first we need your information.”
“Of course,” I say, “but could you please first check to see if my girlfriend was brought in for an overdose this evening?”
“Sure, what’s her name?” the attractive nurse asks.
“Jessica,” I say.
Damn, I can’t even remember her last name. In fact, I’m not sure she ever told me, and I don’t recall ever asking.
“I’m embarrassed to say, but it seems I can’t remember her last name. I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine, you obviously whacked your head pretty hard out there. What’s your name, can you tell me that?”
The other nurse goes to see if Jess is here as well.
“Of course,” I say. “My name… my name is… ahhh… Wait, I know my own name! I remember coming here to find Jess, and then…”
“Do you have any identification?”
I make a big show of searching for my nonexistent wallet, coming up empty handed.
“It’s okay, just relax,” she says soothingly. “The Doctor will be in shortly. It looks like you’re going to need some stitches, and your nose is quite possibly broken as well. Just relax and we’ll take good care of you, okay?”
The other nurse returns with a smile.
“I’ve got good news for you,” she says. “Your girlfriend is here and resting comfortably. She’ll recover from her incident just fine.”
“Can I please see her?” I ask. “I want her to know that I’m here for her. I need to see for myself that she’s okay. Do you understand?”
“You aren’t going anywhere just yet,” the nurse says. “You’re still bleeding, and I’m sure the Doctor is going to want x-rays.”
Well, I’m relieved to learn she’s alive at least. It wasn’t as though I were in love with Jess, just concerned about her is all. Wait, was I in love with her? Maybe my memory really had been affected by the fall.
“I’ll see if she’s awake and let her know. Who should I say is here to see her?”
“He’s experiencing some temporary amnesia. Just let her know it’s her boyfriend.”
The nurse leaves again as the Doctor finally makes his entrance, all chipper and smiling.
“So, how we feeling tonight fella?”
‘Fella’, nice touch. Was this guy out of some 50’s movie? He begins examining my injuries.
“My name is Doctor Rosenberg,” he says. “I’ll be your attending physician. Looks as though you’re going to need some stitches for that nasty laceration, and unless your nose has always pointed that way, I think it’s broken. We’re going to need to take some pictures. Your face is beginning to swell so we’re going to apply some ice to the area. Are you experiencing any pain or discomfort anywhere else?”
“Well, my entire body is sore and my skull and face are in excruciating pain. Also, my car is parked in your spot. I apologize, but I was in such a hurry to find my girlfriend who OD’d. Again, I’m sorry.”
“Tell security to cancel the tow,” he says to someone behind him. “Good thing you mentioned it. Now, on a scale from one to ten, ten being extreme, how much pain are you in?”
“It says here in your chart you’re experiencing some amnesia,” Doctor without a parking spot says. “You remembered where you parked your car though. Long-term memory may be temporarily effected. Okay we’ll address it later. Let’s get you some morphine for the pain and some lidocaine in that wound for stitches. Are you allergic to anything big guy?” he asks.
“Only angry women, ex-husbands and cops,” I reply. “I always seem to get dry mouth and break into a cold sweat whenever I come into contact with them.”
“You’re a comedian huh, funny guy,” he says. “Do you remember when you had your last tetanus shot? I guess probably not. We’ll get you a tetanus injection as well. Okay, sit tight, we’re going to get you stitched up in no time. Waiting on the surgeon Doctor Thompson. You didn’t obstruct his parking space too, I hope?”
“Can I get something for the pain, Doc?” I ask. “My face is killing me…”
“Your face is killing me too!” he goofs. “Damn, that was funny. The nurse will be in soon with your injection. I’ll be back in a jiffy. Sit tight big guy.”
He leaves me alone, holding the bloody towel against my face. ‘In a jiffy’, he said. Doc watched a lot of classic movies I guess? Such thoughts occupy my mind as I eagerly anticipate my morphine.
Soon the nurse returns as promised.
“Alright, I’ve got something for the pain and I’m going to introduce it through the catheter we put in earlier,” she says as she sets things up. “Now, you might get a little nauseous after the injection. If you feel like you are going to vomit, use this pan okay?”
“How many milligrams?” I inquire, trying not to sound too concerned.
“Fifteen,” she says. “It’s a strong dosage, so you should feel the effects immediately. I know you’ve probably built up a tolerance from your drug addiction. We took that into consideration.”
“Wait,” I object, “how did you come to such a conclusion? I never sssaaaiddd IIIII…”
Instantly, I’m so high I cannot speak. Slurring words, seeing double, and feeling absolutely euphoric. There is some mild nausea, yes, but nothing I can’t handle.
Next, she leans forward and starts jabbing another syringe around the cut above my eye. She’s so close to me now, I can see down the front of her loose scrubs. Full breasts cradled in pink bra.
“Find what you’re looking for down there, mister?” she asks. “How are you feeling? Has your pain subsided?”
I nod my wobbly head, my only semi-coherent mode of communication at this point.
“Hello sir,” says a new voice as it enters the room. “I’m Doctor Thompson, the surgeon that’s going to stitch up that nasty gash in your head. Are you feeling any sensation here?”
I can feel him touching the cut but trust me, there is no feeling except for the righteous high now rushing through my body.
“Nada ting, Doxzer,” I reply.
“Okay then, let me get started here and we’ll try not to leave a noticeable scar. Please lie down while I get the suture.”
He begins calling out things to the nurse as I lay back, staring up into the bright light above until it blinds me with its intensity. Someone throws something over my eyes and I drift into a realm of peacefulness.
I fade out for a while, oblivious to the carnage of my own body. Some time later, I’m awakened by the sound of the Doctor quietly singing a Rodgers and Hammerstein number from South Pacific.
“We’ve got mangos and bananas we can pick right off the trees. We’ve got volleyball and ping pong…”
“Hey Doc,” I say, trying to get his attention. “What year is this, anyway? Seriously, I feel as though I’m in an episode of the Twilight Zone…”
At least that’s what I was trying to say.
“Lie still,” he says. “Hard to understand your speech.” Then, after a moment, “Did you say the Twilight Zone? Now that’s a great television show. My singing’s not bothering you, is it? We’re putting on a production at the country club, and as you can probably tell I need the practice.”
“Ya, that’s just swell.”
Wait, did I just say ‘swell’? What the hell was happening here? Okay Santi, get ahold of yourself, it’s just the drugs talking.
“You meant the Twilight Zone was a great show,” I say. “But really, what year is this?”
“You don’t know what year it is?” he asked. “Relax, we have a neurologist is on hand to evaluate your memory loss. Almost done here. Then we have you scheduled for an x-ray. We need to get some pictures of your cranium, see what type of damage the fall may have caused.”
While the Doctor finishes up, I’m thinking to myself how this whole amnesia thing would make the perfect setup for a story. Bump on the head, memory loss, beautiful nurse, time warp with everything gone black and white. Sure, I’m embellishing that last part, but still.
“Okay buddy there we go,” he says. “That’s some of my finest work. Four stitches on the inside and seven on the outside, small and close together so the scar will be less noticeable. I decided to stitch up the bridge of your nose as well. I’m sure it’s going to have to be reset. It definitely appears to be broken but we’ll get an x-ray just to be sure.”
“How are we getting along, Skipper?” Doctor with no parking space comments from out of nowhere. “You’re looking better than I assume you feel. We need some x-rays so they’ll be coming for you shortly. Are you regaining any memory? Also I notice your pupils are still quite dilated, so you most likely sustained a concussion.”
“I’m still a bit confused at the moment,” I say. “I can’t seem to collect my thoughts or grasp all the questions you’ve been asking. I need to see Jessica so I know she’s alright. Please, indulge my concern and allow me to at least see her.”
“Just relax for now,” says Dr. South Pacific. “We’ll have you all patched up in no time!”
A few moments pass before a long-haired guy with a pocked face and tattooed arms comes breezing into the room.
“Transportation for one Mr. Jessica,” he says. “Need to get you down to x-ray town!”
He looks at the plastic bracelet on my wrist. I notice it actually identifies me as ‘MR. JESSICA’.
“Very cute,” I say. “Who came up with that? Was it you, Nurse Beauty Queen?”
“See you later, Mr. Jessica,” she giggles as I’m wheeled away.
“I’m Brandon, your designated driver,” says the long-haired guy now behind me.
“Outta the way, coming through!” he hollers, passing others in the hallway like a NASCAR driver on speed.
“So what happened to you guy?” he asks. “Somebody beat you up? Car accident? What’s your story?”
“There I was,” I begin, “just minding my own business, not bothering anyone, when this woman at the bar asks if I could score her some cocaine. Well, I figured it was possible to score her some, pinch a little for myself, and make a few bucks on top of it. She wanted a teener (1\16th of an ounce) and gave me $150.00. So it takes me ten minutes to score the shit. It only cost $120. I pocket $30 and head back. Only, what I didn’t know was that she was an undercover cop.”
“No shit man, what happened?”
“I get back to the bar and hand her the dope and she flashes her badge in my face. Two other guys come after me and I hit one of them in the head with a beer bottle, smashing beer all over the place. The other cop slips in the mess before he can get me. I turn to run and she fires a warning shot. ‘FREEZE’, she screams. So I pull out my own gun as well.”
“What the hell did you do? What happened next? Come on, man!”
“She arrested me for indecent exposure.”
“Haha, funny! You really had me going for a minute there. So you don’t want to tell me what really happened?”
“Slipped on some ice and kissed a bench.”
“Ouch! Your other story was far more entertaining…”
Finally, we arrive at our destination.
“Okay,” Brandon says. “Here we are, Mr. Jessica. Not sure I wanna hear that story…”
“I’ll tell ya if you do me a favor..?”
He bites, and after I relate the tale, he agrees to go find Jess and bring her to me. No one will suspect him, seeing he’s hospital transportation and all. And no harm visiting while we wait.
After what feels like an hour (must’ve been five minutes), a Latina nurse walks past, informing me in Spanish that the x-ray tech is on his way. She also asks if I’m an illegal because, if so, they’ll have to call ‘La Migra’. I tell her I’m not sure because I have amnesia. She pats me on the shoulder and gives me a wink.
“Bueno historia. Suerte,” (Good story. Luck,) she offers before leaving.
Suddenly it comes echoing from down the hall like birdsong. The sound of Jessica’s voice. As Brandon comes wheeling her around the corner, she doesn’t even look so bad, but I’m just glad to see her alive.
“What the hell happened to you, Santi?”
“Mrs. Jessica, I presume?” Brandon says.
“Jenk found you, didn’t he?” Jessica asks. “I ran into him earlier and he asked if I knew where you were. That bastard can’t wait a couple days for his money?”
She leans in to embrace me, tits falling out of her hospital gown in the process. I take her in my shaky arms, weaving my fingers through her long, unkempt hair. We share a kiss and she pulls back to take a closer look at me.
“Oh baby, just look at your beautiful face… Wait, are you high?” she suddenly asks. “Your eyes look like pin holes… Are you holding, Santi? Answer me!”
“Hey Brandon,” I say, “Can we get a little privacy here?”
Without a word, he heads off for the vending machines down the hall, searching his pockets for change.
“Ya only got ten minutes,” he hollers back over his shoulder. “Gotta get her back before they notice she’s gone.”
“Jess,” I say, “they shot me up with some morphine, so yes, I’m high. But no, I’m not holding. And Jenk didn’t do this to me. I slipped on ice running in here to find you and fell right into a bench. Are you okay? You scared the shit out of me, baby. Ya never listen to me about scoring from assholes you don’t know.”
“Are you Mr. Jessica?” the x-ray tech interrupts. “We need some pictures of your head.”
“Mr. Jessica?” Jess snickers. “That’s cute, how did you come up with that?”
“I’m having some memory issues at the moment. I can’t even remember my last name, let alone yours.”
The tech begins to wheel me away from her.
“My last name is Jameson,” she calls out after us. “I’m in room 714. Come see me when you’re finished? In case you can’t remember, we got married last Saturday and I still haven’t had my honeymoon!”
Damn, I hoped she was only kidding. She had to have been, I was… wait, what was I doing last Saturday? Fuck if I could remember.
I finish with the x-rays, confirming my broken nose and intact skull, and they diagnose me with a concussion as well. My nose gets crunched back into place, and they finally clean the blood off my face.
“It looks as though you’ll be spending the night with us,” Nurse Beauty Queen informs me. “We’ve got you in a room right next to Jessica. And don’t worry about the pain, Doctor Rosenberg has ordered two more morphine injections then pills. You’ll be here twenty four hours for observation. How’s that sound?”
“Do I have a choice?” I ask. “I would prefer to be released as I’m not sure I have insurance to cover it. Also, I borrowed a car to get here, and I need to return it soon.”
“No need to worry about the cost,” she continues. “Your stay is on us. Security reviewed the video and your description of the incident checks out. And the woman who witnessed the event gave a statement. So you are in the clear.”
‘Will you be keeping me company?” I ask.
“Now Mr. Jessica, what would your girlfriend say?”
Brandon appears with a grin, ready to whisk me away.
“Are you ready, Santiago?” he asks. Let’s go and get you tucked in.”
“Santiago?” Nurse Beauty Queen says. “How did you find out his name?”
“His girlfriend told me.”
“She refused to tell staff anything when we asked her for info…”
That’s my girl. She’s got my back, wouldn’t tell them a thing. Makes me proud of her, a shrewd and loyal friend.
I get settled into my room with pajamas, the TV remote and a bowl of Jell-O.
Jessica comes by before too long, looking like a vision of loveliness. She crawls up onto the bed and snuggles in with her head on my chest, one leg draped over mine.
“You came for me,” she whispers. “You searched to find out where they brought me. You care about me. You love me, Santi, I know it.”
It is then that a nurse I don’t recognize enters, followed by two policemen.
“Mr. Jessica,” she says, “these officers are here to arrest you. We had your plates checked to find out your name, and the car came back as stolen.”
Jessica crawls off as the cops move in, immediately cuffing me to the bed.
“Handcuffs,” she comments, “how sexy!”
“Jess, stop! I can’t think about sex at a time like this.”
“What a shame,” she says. “I’m not wearing anything under this gown. Look.”
She lifts to prove her statement. She drops and I turn to the cops, prepared to fully explain.
One of them starts reading my my rights, the other suggests I listen.
Cracker is either pissed I haven’t returned his car yet or he’s just too drunk to remember even lending it to me. Either that, or he lent me a stolen car and said abso-fucking-lutley nothing about it? I’d most likely go down for this, goddamnit.
“Oh Santi, you stole a car for me!” Jess says. “How romantic… You really do love me!”
“Nurse, nurse!” I cry. “Morphine please!”