Close Call by Colette Vidal

A Saturday evening in June… warm. In white flare pants, flower print t-shirt,
jeans jacket and sandals, the light breeze in my hair, I’m on my way to meet my
new boyfriend at the Boiler Room, a popular student haunt on Crescent street. I
live with a roommate in a cheap apartment on Davidson Street in east end
Montreal, too far from the centre for my taste, but can’t afford better. I’m a new
immigrant.

The bus left seconds before I got to my stop, and I’m late for my date. I could
hitch a ride. After all, I thumbed across Canada all the way from Vancouver
some eight months ago … just in time for the October crisis.

A large, pale-blue Pontiac stops. Two young guys invite me in.

“Going downtown?” I ask.

“Yep, get in.” I hesitate. Two of them, and a two-door car. You can get stuck
in these. But, in the city… people everywhere. Should be OK. The driver gets out.
He’s tall and slim, with long, dirty-blond hair and piercing blue eyes. He wears
Bell-bottom jeans and a loose tie-dyed T-shirt. He pulls his seat forward, I get in
the back, and we drive westward along Sherbrooke Street. There’s still some
light but the red blurry line stretching across the western sky is already turning
grey. The two of them are chatting, ignoring me, which is fine. The driver must be
in his early twenties; the other, barely twenty, has dark, longish straight hair, a
narrow face, and hooked nose. He wears jeans and a yellow T-shirt with a large
black peace sign printed on the back.

When we get to Papineau Street, they turn left, taking us off course.
“Hey,” I say, “this is not the way to downtown.”
“We’re taking a short cut,” the driver says. I don’t like the laughter in his voice.
Minutes later, we’re on the Jacques Cartier Bridge heading toward highway 132.
And it’s getting dark. Butterflies in my stomach. My heart’s thumping so loud, I
hear it.
Breathe… breathe… stay cool. There must be a way out of this.
I’m stuck in a trap on wheels. I flouted my own rules: never get in a car with
two guys, and certainly not a car with only two doors.
They’re silent. We’re off the bridge, the car veers onto a small road that soon
becomes a gravel lane. A thin moon hangs in the sky, but there’s no light, no
houses in sight. We come to a dead end. In the sweep of the car beams I see
open country, and the dark mass of trees. Woods.
The car stops. Darkness all around. They both get out of the car. The
younger one sits on the hood his back turned to me. The driver pushes his front
seat down but my exit is blocked. He leans over and says,
“Take off your clothes,” his tone as if asking for a glass of water. My body
stiffens. There’s a dead weight on my chest. l can’t breathe. My hands are cold,
sweat drips from my armpits. I sit there frozen. The driver sits awkwardly on the
pushed-down seat, waiting. I can’t see his eyes, just the sharp features of his
face in profile, a very straight nose and high forehead. Then he leans over again,
and presses a metal object (a knife?) against my chest just below the rib cage.
“Take them off,” he repeats in the same matter-of-fact tone. He removes his
weapon.
This isn’t Peace and Love, this is serious shit. Can’t fight, can’t run. Nowhere
to run anyway. His partner is off somewhere. Waiting for it to be over? Don’t
know…
I unzip my jean jacket and slowly take it off. My hands are trembling.
Stay cool, don’t bawl. Would only make it worse.
The driver has pulled his seat back up so he can be comfortable, l guess, but
he’s pushed the passenger seat down. Ready for action… Not looking at me
directly, but watching and waiting. I pull my T-shirt over my head and drape it
across my chest… I can feel the backseat vinyl sticking to my bare skin.
I manage to control the trembling that has taken over my whole body, and say,
in as calm a voice as I can muster,
“Why… why are you doing this?”
Silence.
“I mean… you’re young, you’re not ugly you know… you don’t need to do this.”
Silence. My words seem to hang in the dim light of the moon. Somewhere in
the woods a bird’s cry pierces the night.
Maybe if I keep talking, just maybe… He’s looking away, perfectly still.
“There’s no reason for you to act like this. You know… we could get together
the usual way, like… like two human beings…”
“Stop. OK”, he finally says, pulling the passenger seat up. “Put your shirt on.
Come out of there.”
I can’t think. I pull my T-shirt back on, grab my jacket, and step out of the car.
He takes a cigarette pack from his pocket, hands me a cigarette, and takes one
for himself. He lights both, looks away, and says,
“I’m sorry, I was stoned… I went crazy… Come in the front, I’ll drive you back.”
The other guy’s sauntering a few yards away from the car. He’s looking at the
ground, hands in his pockets. The driver gestures to him, and in no time, I’m
ensconced in the large seat between the two of them, sharing the right side with
the younger guy who’s holding his skinny body as far away as he can from me.

He’s biting his nails and looking out of the window.
At that point, I know in my bones that I’m safe, and just like that, I dissolve in
tears. Idiot! The driver grabs a box of Kleenex and hands it to me. His friend
looks away. I feel stupid and grateful, blow my nose, and calm down after a
while.
Soon, we’re over the bridge, and I can see the lights of the city beckoning
ahead of us. Back on Sherbrooke Street, with the traffic, people strolling in the
cool night, the whole episode feels like a bad dream. The rules, I think—never
break the rules. At the corner of St Hubert and Sherbrooke, the younger guy asks
the driver to stop.
“Do you want me to drop you off at your house?” the driver asks him.
“No, thanks, I’ll walk.” He quickly gets out of the car and disappears around the
corner. I get the idea he doesn’t want me to see where he lives.
As soon as we’re alone, the driver says,
“My name’s Peter. What’s yours?”
“Corinne,” I lie.
“Will you give me your phone number? I’d like to make it up to you.”
Yeah, right…
He pulls a small writing pad out of the glove compartment, and I scribble a
number on it. Before he puts it back, I notice a thin metal comb with a pointed
handle lying in there……..

I have a BA (honours English) from the University of Calgary, and an MA in English from the University of Toronto. I’ve had poetry and essays published in many literary magazines and newspapers. I maintain a semi-parodic blog translating Marcus Aurelieus’s Meditations into “housewife”. A member of the Writer’s Guild of Canada since 2002, I’ve also written for film and TV. I live with my husband and sons in Hudson, Quebec.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s