Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Prisoners

I used to teach this class at the federal prison in Beckley. Now I don’t know why I wanted to do it, but for some reason I did. I remember that first day when I called up education from the phone at the main desk. I was so nervous and about fifteen minutes later, the prison guard, Kincaid came walking towards me, all sawed off and with these big linebacker arms. He searched me and had me take off my shoes and put them back on.
And then he said: “My name’s Kincaid and I’ll give you a piece of advice--you can’t trust anybody in here.”
And so he took my keys and left them at control desk saying: “We keep your car keys so if there is ever a hostage situation, they can’t put a gun to your head and have you drive off the premises.”
And so then he took me inside the prison and it took 15 minutes just to go through 6 or 7 locked doors, which crashed like cars when they opened and closed.
And as we walked deeper inside, he reminded me, “Now again if there’s ever a riot and you’re trapped in the room, and you see SWAT coming, just flop to the ground cause they’ll come in spraying.”

And then sometimes he told me that guys will get in fights just so they can go to solitary. And if I noticed anything in my class to let him know.
He said, “I guess they pick up some morphine or heroin along the way and they like going to solitary so they can shove it up their ass and enjoy it in privacy.”
And so I finally just stood there thinking: “O shit—this ain’t no joke.”
I was already paranoid from a report I read the week before on the Columbian drug cartels sending hit lists through written code. And I was worried the guys would put these hidden messages in their essays ordering the death of someone on the outside. I imagined drug cartel guys breaking into my office to steal the essays and get the codes.
But then I stopped thinking because Kincaid gave me a radio.
He pointed to a red button on the top of it and said: “Now if anyone’s ever attacking you—just hit this red button and it’ll probably save your life.”
But then he just laughed and said: “Unfortunately this one’s broken—so the red button doesn’t work, but I’ll try to get one for ya next week. So if anybody tries to kill ya this week—we’re screwed.”
And then we both just laughed.
And we started walking.
We walked through a locked door and then another and then another.

But once I got inside the prison’s education department, which only consisted of about 100 bibles dropped off by Gideons—everything was fine.
I did make the mistake of introducing myself to the guys as Scott. So when Kincaid walked by the room and heard them calling me this, he knocked on the glass and stuck his head inside the door shouting like an asshole cop, “Hey guys you call him Mr. McClanahan or Professor McClanahan.”
I apologized, and then he left, but not before making one of the prisoners remove a fro pick from their hair.
I heard one of the guys saying: “Damn that guys wound about two wounds too tight.” And then another guy said: “You have to be a sick motherfucker to make the choice to come inside a prison.”
And then someone else said: “At least he gets paid to be here—about 65,000 dollars from what I hear.”
And then another guy said: “Yeah 65,000 dollars of hell.”
And then I reminded them I was choosing to be here and I was only a volunteer from a local community college.
And everybody laughed—like that was the sickest joke of all.

So I calmed everybody down and started taking roll by the list of prisoners provided by the prison. I read the list of students on my list of inmates (no first names), but just inmate 1118046 D. Johnson.
Inmate 1190647 E. Johnson.
Inmate 1117843. T. Johnson.
And so I tried to make a joke, saying: “Man the world’s been rough on you Johnson boys this year.”
Nobody laughed.
And so I had them go around and introduce themselves—inmate 118046 D. Johnson. “Man I just want to get my life together. I’ve made some mistakes and I just wanna get out and become a better member of society.”
Inmate 119847 E.Johnson. “Man I just want to get my life together. I’ve made some mistakes and I just want to get out and become a better member of society.”
Inmate 1117843. “Man I just want to get”…you get the point.
And it was like this story after story until all the way down at the end of the list was inmate 117486 R. Rodriguez.
And I knew before he even spoke—he was different.
He was different because there was laughter and life inside his eyes.

And he said: “Man you’re all a bunch of fools.”
And then he said: “When I get out I just want to get me some motherfucking ho’s and some motherfucking weed. And I’m not gonna do anything except sit around all day and smoke weed and fuck pussy.”
And so everybody laughed and then one of em said: “You going back to selling?”
And Rodriguez said: “Hell yes. I’ll know how much I can carry on me without it being a felony now.”
And so everybody laughed some more. And I knew he was different alright.
I knew he was different because he was telling the truth.

I knew he was different that next week after I had them read an essay by George Orwell called, “Shooting an Elephant.”
I asked whether or not Orwell was right in shooting the elephant.
And one of the guys named Rupert, who was this big, muscular, skinhead guy with tattoos on his face said: “ I think that Orwell’s nothing but a punk ass bitch. He reminds me of some of them snitch bitches around here. I’ve been in gladiator schools and he wouldn’t last in gladiator schools.”
But by then Rodriguez just smiled at me and he started to calm Rupert down.
And then Rodriguez smiled some more and started talking about the difference between free will and whether we’re conditioned to behave in a certain way. He talked about how we really don’t know one another—especially ourselves. He talked about how Orwell’s decision was made decades before. It was his decision but he was conditioned to make a decision.
And so I said: “But isn’t that a contradiction?”
And he just smiled and said: “Exactly. That’s prison. Most people live their lives in absolutes, but not us.”
And then he quoted, “Do I contradict myself, very well then I contradict myself. I am vast. I contain multitudes.”

And then, later on, he talked about how his mother crossed rivers to sneak into this country from Mexico—and how he was the child of a black father and a mexican mother. He talked about how his father was murdered before he was born and how he grew up watching his mother smoke crack. And then he said how this had to have affected the decision he later made on the streets. And then one of the guys asked him if his mother was still alive. And he said—he didn’t know. But he was counting the days until he got out of here. He only had 5 years left. And he was going to try and find her when he got out and take care of her. And even though he had been making fun of this just a few minutes before—he was so sincere about it—and everyone grew quiet.

And so over the next couple of months I got to know the guys better and I kept thinking about Rodriguez. I kept thinking—I can’t believe this guy. I mean most of these prison guys were guys just wanting to get back in here even after they got out. Most of them had the minds of accountants. They were like most of us on the outside—the next score, moving to Amsterdam, that sort of thinking. But here was someone who was different. Here was someone whose mind went sideways instead of up and down.
And so over the next couple of classes I listened to Rodriguez quote: “Nothing human is alien to me.”
And then one night he made the argument that at the core of every technological innovation was a new mind altering chemical of some kind—whether it be Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Christian, or silicone valley.
And then I read one of his essays about finding his mother—about his hope of finding her after he got out in five years.

And so one night walking out of the prison yard after lockdown, the prison guard Kincaid looked over at me and said: “You don’t let them niggers write in Ebonics just like they speak do you?”
And I was shocked hearing it.
I didn’t know what to say.
So I just said: “Well writing is more than spelling.”
And then he said: “Yeah, well these guys are smart alright. But you can’t trust any of em. These guys all made their choices, but they just made bad choices.”
But going home that night I wanted to tell him about Rodriguez.
I wanted to tell him about Rodriguez and how beautiful he wrote.
I wanted to tell him how wrong he was.
I wanted to tell him about Rodriguez’s murdered father.
And I wanted to tell him about Rodriguez’s mother and how he didn’t know where she was—but Rodriguez was counting the days until his release.
5 years.
It wasn’t a long time when you really thought about it.
And he was going to try and find her.
But what did it matter?

I figured it was best to encourage Rodriguez because there were just a couple of weeks left of class anyway. And so one night I listened to him joke with me about it being my birthday and what kind of crazy guy chooses to spend their birthday in prison.
And then he said: “Well we should get a stripper for you.”
And so I asked: “I don’t know about you Rodriguez but it doesn’t look like to me you have much access to women in here. I don’t know what I’d end up with.”
And then he just laughed and said: “O hell McClanahan—you just close your eyes and pretend and it’s all the same. I swear to you it’s better than on the outside because it all happens between the ears. It all happens in the mind.”

And so one night, the day before the last class, I read his essay about waiting for his transfer from Oklahoma City to Beckley FCI 3 years before. And it was this story about how his cell mate was waiting on a supreme court decision which could knock up to three years off his sentence. And his cellmate knew it wasn’t going to happen. He knew the conservative court would find against his side, but he waited anyway. So his friend was waiting and Rodriguez was waiting too.
And I sat in my living room and I told my wife: “I feel like I need to say something to this guy. I know it sounds stupid but I feel like I need to say something.”
I felt like I needed to encourage him somehow—so that when he got out in a couple of years—he really could do this. I needed to tell him when he got out I would help him in any way I could—write to anyone he needed me too.

And so I went back on the final night of our class and I gave back the essays. I told them it seemed like just a couple of days ago, but three months had already passed. And I shook all of their hands and told them good luck. And they shook my hand and told me good luck. And just as they were leaving, I stopped Rodriguez and I told him how great his essays were, and how he could do this.
And I told him how much his stories had meant to me.
And I told him he really could find his mother if he wanted too.
5 years.
It was only 5 years.
And Rodriguez just looked at me like he couldn’t believe what I was saying.
He looked at me like I was messing with him.
And then he said: “O I’m not getting out of here McClanahan. I’m a fucking lifer—murder one. I just made all of that shit up for you to have something to talk about in this stupid class.”
I didn’t know what to say.
And then he went out into the yard and started talking to a couple of guys and they started laughing too.
It was stupid, wasn’t it?
And I looked at Rodriguez’s face and I didn’t want it to be true. And it was like no matter how long he tried he was never going to be able to teach me anything.
So I thought about his mother—gone.
I thought about his murdered father—gone.
I thought about his hope and his stories—all gone.

And so later that night, waiting for Kincaid to walk me out, Kincaid looked out of the barred glass of education and pointed to Rodriguez who was standing beneath a flickering light, all alone, smoking a cigarette.
Kincaid, the prison guard, said: “You see that guy there. That guys smarter than shit—probably the smartest fucking guy in here. He goes around like a fucking gang banger, but the truth is, he’s just a spoiled ass rich kid from the suburbs. Look—doesn’t even have any tats on him. From what I hear he ended up killing somebody.”
And so I just stood there looking at Rodriguez and I thought about waiting and loving mothers and crossing far away rivers.
And then I heard Kincaid say: “You can’t trust any of these guys. Everybody has a choice in this life. You remember what I told you the first day we met.”
And it was like Kincaid wasn’t even talking to me anymore, but was repeating a mantra of some kind, known only to him.
And I looked at Rodriguez and wondered who he killed: a girlfriend, a dealer, or maybe even someone else?
His mother?

And so that night after lockdown Kincaid gathered up his radio and his prison keys and we made small talk. And then he took out a picture of this little girl and showed it to me. It was a picture of Kincaid’s little girl about two years old with blonde hair, and she was wearing a hat that had a little cartoon kitten on it. And so Kincaid put it back into his pocket and his face shined so full of love.
And so I went home that night feeling like I was going to be sick.
I listened in my head as Kindcaid’s words twirled about how proud he was and how he loved little girl.
And then I thought about her face.
And maybe he was right. We all make choices in this world and that was the scary part. Kincaids little girl was so far away from this place. Kincaid’s little girl was so far away from the talk of lockdowns, TB outbreaks, prison riots, drug convictions, and lying men.

So I was surprised a year or two later, after I stopped teaching a class at the federal prison because it was just too much. I just awoke one morning and there was snow on the ground. And so I turned on the television and saw a picture of a little girl on the local television newscast. And there was something about the picture of this little girl that looked familiar. She was about 2 years old and she had blonde hair and was wearing this little hat with a Hello Kitty on it. And I felt like I knew this girl. And then I saw a man being escorted into court wearing an orange jumpsuit and he looked familiar too. And then I saw who it was. I saw who it was before the reporter even said his name: “Kincaid.” And he worked as a prison guard for the past ten years at the federal prison in Beckley.
Then the reporter said Kincaid was being arraigned that morning for the murder of his 3 year old daughter who was found beaten to death the day before.
Now it was the little girl in the picture—gone.

And so I just sat there watching the television and I saw Kincaid’s sad and shocked face. And I just thought back to the class and I heard Rodriuguez saying: “Nothing human is alien to me.”
And so I whispered to myself: “Nothing human is alien to me. Nothing human is alien to me.”
That was the scary part.
And so I sat and wondered if this is the way the world works. I knew you couldn’t trust anyone, not even yourself. And I wondered what murder was waiting inside of me to commit.

And so now I lay me down to sleep and sometimes I dream this strange dream. I dream that we’re all back at the federal prison except we’re outside the prison walls now. And we’re all there, all the people I’ve ever known and all the people in the world are there. And you’re there too. And we’re all cold and scared and Kincaid and Rodriguez are there as well. And they’re arguing over this life and whether our actions are guided by chance or free will. And no one can figure it out. No one can figure it out who the prisoners are and who the guards are even, and who even the guilty are. And so we’re all standing outside the prison walls and we’re all arguing over this. And it’s night. And there’s lightning—a black and white night.
And we’re all fighting.
We’re all fighting to get back inside.

Phone Numbers

I don’t know if you’ve ever been a telemarketer before, but I know I have. See I used to make call after call, working at this telemarketing place in Huntington W.V.
Hello my name is Scott McClanahan for the West Virginia Fraternal Order of police.
Hello my name is Scott McClanahan for the Fraternal Order of police.
Hello my name is Scott McClanahan for the Fraternal Order of Police.
Hello my name is.
And you always had to do it in this deep voice so you could fool people into thinking you were a real state trooper, and not just some punk ass kid.

And it was a strange place to work and it was full of all these strange people. Like I remember the first day I worked there, I sat next to this guy named Matt. And he was this old guy probably about 45-50 years old, and he had a family of four. He supported them on his seven dollars an hour. And he was just this aww shucks guy, but once he got on the phone he was like a bulldog. I remember sitting beside him as he shouted at this poor old woman: “You will give. My best friend was killed in the line of duty last year. You WILL GIVE!”
Of course, we were just pretending to be police officers.
And she finally ended up giving 150 dollars.
And he had all kinds of tricks like shouting—“Hey Sarge. I’ll see you out at the range in about 15 minutes.”
And then the next phone call he even started talking in this strange accent and the person gave him 75 dollars.
And then he looked over and said: “That’s why they call me the best.”
Then B-Dawg, the manager, shouted “And tonight’s top caller and winner of 100 dollars is you know who? Matt.”
And then later that evening on our break, he said: “Yeah I always take the family to a nice restaurant each week on this. We always go to Denny’s on Saturday night and have a good time.”
And he meant this with no irony whatsoever.
Denny’s was a nice restaurant to him.

And so back from break I kept on calling…”Hello my name is Scott McClanahan with the West Virginia Fraternal order of police.”
And all of the sudden there was this asshole on the phone from a rich neighborhood in California shouting: “Hey you shit ass. What are you making, like minimum wage? I want to know how much of this goes to the police.”
And so I started my rebuttal, “Well sir because of the high costs of production.”
And he cut me off.
“Yeah only about 5 percent goes,” He said like he read it in a paper somewhere. “This is nothing but a scam.”
Matt just smiled like a kind father, pointed to my keyboard, and said, “Hit that button.” That button was F-4.
So I hit F-4 and I asked what that would do.
And he said: “It’ll call him back every five minutes for the next five hours.”
And that’s just what happened.
And the dumb fucker didn’t even take the phone off the hook, but answered each time cussing and carrying on and getting ready to have a heart attack as his number bounced from caller to caller throughout the office.

And so over the next couple of weeks I tried telling people about how wonderful it was being a telemarketer. I tried telling people how strange it was to sit calling somebody all the way across the country even though here I was in little piss ant WV. And when they picked up the phone—I was always taught to say the first name. This was so they’d think I was someone who knew them.
So I said: “Hey Jerry” and a little girls voice said: “NO—do you want to talk with him?”
“May I ask who’s calling?”
”It’s Scott McClanahan.”
And then on the other end I heard this little girl voice that said: “DAAADDD? Scott McClanahan’s calling.”
And here I was having my name shouted a thousand miles away.

And sometimes I wondered if I’d even come across another Scott McClanahan aged 21 in another part of the country. And maybe we were the same person, but we were living different realities. And if I ever met myself I wondered…
What would he say?
What would I say?
Would he give me money?

And these were the type of things I thought about walking home at night through the dark alleys of Huntington, even though friends told me it was a bad idea and I should walk the main road. I walked slow through the evening dark and passed women standing around smoking cigarettes.
“Hey,” one said all sexy like she knew me.
“Hey,” I said thinking what a nice woman.
I never had such a pretty woman dressed in sexy clothes come right out and said to me.
Maybe she thought I was cute.
It made me feel good about myself.

And so after a couple of months of calling people it started wearing on me. See we had to meet quotas each week at the telemarketing place and even though I was a top level caller I was running into some bad luck.
Hello my name is...
Hello my name is Scott McClanahan.
And there were other things too—like the name of the company changed every other week, paychecks were late a week at a time, and one guy was constantly listening to a scanner. I guess if the cops were coming they could get the massive call computers out the door and down the freight elevators before the coppers showed up.
I was having such bad luck calling one night I even told one of the managers that I was sorry, but my girlfriends’ mother had died a day before and I just wasn’t myself.
I mean I was lying now.
I was a liar.

So when I came home that night Kim was all over me.
“I mean why would you say my Mom died?”
“I know. I know. I panicked. I thought they were going to fire me.”
“Fire you? Scott, it’s a telemarketer job that pays $7.00 dollars an hour. Most people are there to earn money so they can get high. I mean they have work release prisoners working there. Besides that--you hate it. So why don’t you just quit?”

And I was thinking about it. I was tired of walking home through the dark and beating people out of money and them not knowing where it was going. I was tired of waving at the women in the pretty clothes and not having them wave back. So I made a plan to leave, but then the next night my luck started changing.

I mean I started going “hello” and before I could even get it out they gave me 75 dollars.
“Hello my name is…”and the caller gave me 150.
“Hello my name is…” and they gave me 25.
And so I sent out at least 3 or 4 info packets for future donations.
I mean I was in the zone.
Matt even gave me a high five.
And then B-Dawg threw me a t-shirt because I was the top caller for the night—“hell yeah.”
Maybe I wasn’t quitting.

But then it happened. The phone clicked and the info popped into my computer screen—65 year old. White male. Georgia. He gave 30 dollars last year.
“Hello,” he said real quiet on the other end. And so I went through my whole spiel.
I told him about the FOP.
I told him thanks for his past support.
I asked him if the FOP could count on him again this year.
It was quiet again.
And then he finally said: “Well sir, I’m sorry. I’d really like too. But I just don’t know if I can.”
So I immediately went into my first rebuttal.
“Well sir we appreciate your past support of 30 dollars but please realize…”
And then he said: “No no. I understand what you’re saying. I always love to help out the troopers, but I don’t know if I can.”

And then there was silence.
Then I heard crying.

Then he said, “I lost my daughter… three days ago… in a car crash.”

And so I started looking through my rebuttals but I didn’t have one for a guy who had lost his daughter.
So I just said: “O I’m sorry sir. “
And he started talking so that I couldn’t even say anything else. “From what we can tell the road was wet and she was going too fast and hit a ditch.”
And then he was quiet again and said: “They said she lost control and wrecked. And my little girl died.”
And then it was quiet and I could hear him crying harder on the other end.

So I improvised: “Well sir I’m sorry to hear about your loss but maybe our 25 dollar level would make you feel better as a donation to the FOP in your daughters’ memory.”

And he said: “But that’s just the thing. I don’t know if I can.”

And so I looked over at the manager B-dawg and he was running his finger across his throat—in a throat slash motion which meant: “Cut the phone call. Cut it.”

So I said quick: “Well sir why don’t I just send you an info packet and you can make the decision yourself? OK?”

But he wouldn’t have any of it.
He whispered: “No don’t go. Please don’t go. It’s good to talk to someone. I’ve just been stuck in this house and I’m so lonely. Please don’t go. I’m so lonely.”

And I didn’t say anything
and then I heard CLICK.
The call was cut.

I looked over at Brian, the manager, and he had cut the call himself. He walked over to me and said, “I’m sorry you had one of those fucking criers. Like we care. And shit sometimes those old fuckers just talk and talk and talk for hours about how this happened to this person and how that happened to this person.”
And then he said how sometimes you can talk for 10 minutes and they won’t give ya a nickel. “Lonely people babbling.”
And then the next call started ringing into my computer and I went back to work saying, “Hello my name is.”
“Hello my name is.”
“Hello my name is.”

And so that night I walked home passing the sexy girl in the alley who was smoking cigarettes. And for some reason this time she didn’t look pretty anymore. She looked cut up and scared and her eyes looked like werewolf eyes. And I still tried waving Hi at her like a big dork. I still thought it was strange you didn’t say hello to people in a city when you passed them.
Why is that?
And the woman didn’t even look at me but just kept her head down and turned away from me and just shook her head like I was a werewolf too. And so I walked all the way back to my apartment watching the lights from the cars zipping down 3rd avenue like stars. And so I unlocked the door, and locked it behind me and I sat down beside the telephone in my tiny apartment, hoping the phone would ring—just like hopefully somebody will call 252-0430 right now, and then maybe I won’t be so lonely anymore.

The Firestarter

I went through this weird period about ten years ago where every time I went outside, I saw somebody get hit by a car. Now I know the first time it ever happened I was just sitting around my apartment and listening to the drunks shouting from the bar next door. It was Labor Day weekend and I was sitting on the couch watching television. And I was just about ready to go to bed when all the sudden—BAM—I heard this big thud outside. So I looked out the window and opened the door, but I didn’t see anything. There were just the cars in the bar parking lot and this flashing light.
But then my girlfriend Kim woke up and walked into the room and said, “What the hell was that?”
“I don’t know,” I said.
So she pushed me out the door and said all disgusted, “Well go outside and see.”

So I did.
I went outside to see, and as soon as I did, I realized it was a mistake.
There was this white van in the middle of the road with its blinkers on and there was a guy sitting on his knees over in the grass. He was dressed in painter pants and he was crying. So I walked slow out into the street and saw this dead looking girl just sprawled there in the middle of the street.
Her mouth was open and her eyes were too.
She didn’t even look like she was breathing and there was this dead look on her face.
And the guy who hit her was sitting there, looking up at me and crying like, “What are you going to do?”

So I looked down at the girl and guess what? She still looked dead to me. Her mouth was still open and there was blood coming out of the corner of her mouth.
And since I’d never taken a CPR class before, I just looked down at her and thought to myself, “What the hell am I going to do?”
So I just started backing up, real slow like, so I wouldn’t have to help her.
Back. Back. Back.
And then I turned around and started walking away even faster like I didn’t even know who she was.

But then here came her boyfriend and another guy running back from across the bar. They were these big, J-Crew catalogue looking guys-- so I didn’t get away (they were with her when she was hit and went to call for help). They bent down on their knees and started giving her CPR.
1 one thousand…2 one thousand….3 one thousand.
Then they just looked up at me and gave me a look like—“Were you trying to sneak away from helping a person?”
I walked back and acted like I was directing traffic around the girl.
I took my arm and waved the traffic on Route 60-to the left and to the left.
Then the ambulance came and I slowly backed away to the sidewalk and watched them take over the CPR. They put her onto a stretcher and put her into the back of the ambulance and drove away.
Was I wrong?

Of course, a couple of weeks went by and I didn’t hear anything about whether she died or not. And then one day I was walking down the street with Kim when I asked, “I wonder what happened to that girl who got hit by the car? I wonder if she’s alright? You know I haven’t heard anything about what happened and I kind of wonder if she died or not.”
So we just walked on down the street and Kim was holding a newspaper and then she opened it up.
And then I heard her shout, “O shit. Here it is. She’s alive. She’s alive.” She showed it to me. There was a picture of the girl and a headline that said, WOMAN HIT BY VAN RECOVERS.
And as I checked it out, there were a couple Gideon’s standing around and they were trying to pass out Bibles to people who were walking down the street.
Want a bible?
Want a bible?

Then Kim read this newspaper article to me about the girl who got hit.
She read the—who—what—when--where and why—opening of the story: “Last Sunday night a 23 year old woman, trying to cross the street was hit by a car on Route 60.”
And then she read about how the girl had been in a coma in intensive care for the past week and had almost died, and how her family had kept a prayer vigil beside her bed.
And then one day.
She woke up.
Then the article explained how that the poor guy who hit her was drunk too.
“Ah shit,” I said and chuckled. “Poor bastard got busted and he wasn’t even the one who was jaywalking.”
And then there was this quote where she said, “I just want to thank everybody for their prayers and cards. There wasn’t anything I could have done. It wasn’t my fault.”
And then I laughed out loud because it was absolutely, positively her fault.

And then all of the sudden I heard the brakes shriek eeek.
I looked into the street and then-- BAM—I saw another girl get hit by a car.
She was knocked to the ground and then she popped back up and took off like she was embarrassed or something.
Now let me tell you, I’m sure you may have been embarrassed before, but you haven’t ever been embarrassed until you get hit by a car in front of a bunch of people.
What was funny though was the guy in the car didn’t even get out of the car, but tried helping her up by putting his arm out the window.
But she was already gone and didn’t want help.
And what’s even funnier is that the Gideon’s didn’t even go over and help her out, but they just kept passing out bibles like nothing had ever happened.
Want a bible?
Want a bible.

So I kept walking up the street and I started thinking to myself—this is the second time this month I’ve been around when somebody was hit by a car.
What if I’m the one who caused it?
I even started telling my friends halfway joking, “Yeah I might be like Drew Barrymore in that movie Firestarter. You know the one where all she has to do is think about it and starts a fire? And maybe that’s me. All I have to do is be around and it happens. See if there’s one thing that connect these people getting hit by cars—it’s me.”
And then everyone just laughed at me thinking I was joking and then they told me nobody can change things like that.
And then they laughed again and told me that the world was just chance and didn’t work that way.

Everybody just laughed at me but I didn’t.
I didn’t laugh at all because I knew what I could do.
I didn’t laugh at all because just a month later, I was walking down the street.
And I saw it all.
I saw this red looking car zipping down the street with these old people inside.
I saw this tall, lanky guy walking across the street as the stoplight turned red. He was carrying some books in his arms and he was trying to get where he was going.
I saw the red looking car keep going and not even notice that that the light was turning.
It went GREEN and then it went YELLOW and then it went RED. And instead of screaming STOP-STOP, I didn’t do anything.
I just stood and watched it all, knowing what I could do.
I just stood and saw how everything would happen. And then I said—BAM.

And BAM it was. The car plowed though the intersection and didn’t even hit the brakes. And I saw it all.
I saw the red looking car.
And the guy getting hit by the car…
The windshield shattering from a big leg busting against it…
The body flying through the air like an old sock…
And then
back down onto the hood of the red looking car.
And then there were people running around.
They were screaming.
The headline in the newspaper a couple of days later: MAN NEAR DEATH CROSSING THE STREET.
And I didn’t even stop because I was the one who probably caused it. I didn’t even stop and just kept walking beneath the sound of the people screaming for help.

I went right back to my apartment and shut the door. I locked the lock and closed the blinds and told myself I would never go outside again. I turned on the television and turned the volume up real loud so I wouldn’t have to listen to the sounds of the girl having sex upstairs. I just sat and listened to the sound of the television drowning out everything and for a second it didn’t even seem like daytime anymore, but night. And then I told myself that I’d never even tell anyone about it because I was the one who caused it. I tried shaking away the images of my friends and cars and telling them about the fires I started.
I told myself I’d tell no one, because if I did then I was probably putting their lives in danger.
And now after reading this who knows what car is coming for you tomorrow.