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Mar 31

Hero Worship

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Ass

~ The Incident ~

As Steve approached the intersection, the tiny hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. He’d felt the presence of an oncoming vehicle–from behind. Then he’d heard it. The roar of its engine ascending on him like an oncoming freight train. As a runner, he felt vulnerable and moved a little more to the left side of the shoulder of the road. Louder. Louder the roar filled his ears. Just as he was at the crossroads, at the stop sign, a pickup truck careened–without stopping–through the intersection taking the same left turn he had planned. He noticed the truck’s speed was too great for the turn. It pitched to the right and almost rolled. Its left tires lifted off the pavement as its right tires screeched and stuttered as the truck brutally slid sideways through the intersection.

Steve looked up into the truck. He wanted to see the driver that was putting his life in danger. Just as he looked into the cab of the truck to get a look at the offending driver, he heard a girl’s scream emanate from within.

He saw the driver, a disheveled man about 40ish, holding the steering wheel with one hand and his other arm was wrapped around the shoulders of what looked to be a young girl.

What Steve didn’t see, or hear, as that pickup truck’s tires squealed and chattered through the intersection, was the girl’s body slide violently across the seat as the truck made an all too fast and sharp left hand turn. As the truck lurched and tilted to the right, as momentum and centrifugal force attempted to tip the truck on its side, the girl’s shoes slammed into the right side view mirror as her feet hurled through the window she managed to open a few miles back. The crazed driver’s hand around her shoulders slipped, but he caught the crook of her elbow. If he hadn’t, she would have exited the truck’s window with the side view mirror that she managed to kick clean off the truck. The mirror rolled to the ground by the side of the road.

The driver gunned the truck’s engine, and its tires screeched and smoked as it sped away ahead of Steve. The smell of rubber filled Steve’s lungs. Stunned, his heart raced. His legs weakened.

He noticed the truck’s license plate as the truck sped away. His internal beat told him he’d just completed running two miles. ’12:16PM,’ he said to himself.

He looked around to see if anyone else had seen this horrendous act of reckless driving. Not another car was in sight. There was nothing around, no houses, no stores, or gas stations. Simply two lonely roads crossing paths.

He’d only gotten a brief look at the driver and an even briefer look at the girl’s face. He thought she looked to be about fourteen or fifteen, but he really wasn’t good a guessing people’s age.

He couldn’t make out what the girl’s scream was about since the pickup had made such a squeal of its own sliding through the intersection. Was the young girl’s scream a cry for help. Or perhaps it was the scream of a joyous thrill ride. Was the older man her father. Was the father and daughter having an argument. Was the older man her boyfriend. She looked to be underage, but this was hill country after all; who knows what they get away with up here. Those were the thoughts that raced through his head as his mind grappled to understand what he’d just witnessed.

Still stunned, his heart pounded as he stumbled along the road in an attempt continued his run. He was not sure what to make of the situation. He replayed in his head the scenarios he had just concocted about the driver and the young girl. His first thought was to flag down the next car and ask to use their cell and call the police; the girl’s scream may have been a cry for help. But the more he ran through those possible options, the more the odds seemed to him that the scream was in reaction to the crazy driving habits of the driver. ‘A truck almost flipping in an intersection would invoke a scream from its passenger, wouldn’t it?’ he asked himself.

Steve’s penchant for not wanting to get involved, coupled with his desire to start his vacation off on the right foot (peaceful and without responsibilities to anyone) led him to decide that, yes, the reckless driving he’d just witnessed warranted a scream from the young female passenger. He decided to put it out of his mind and continue his run, his Zen.

That was the event that interrupted Steve’s run two miles and sixteen minutes into it. An event he would remember his whole life. An event that would haunt him for the next three years.

Steve had been a runner ever since his high school days on the track team. Running was his escape, his tool of choice when he needed to de-stress. He’d become particularly apt at judging when he had run a mile. No matter what the pace he was keeping, or the terrain he was running on, he was able to instinctively know when he had completed another mile. He checked himself against the gadget du jour, the pedometer, the iphone, the fitbit, he’d tried them all. Running was Zen for Steve. escort ataşehir He kept track of the distance not by counting his strides, or attempting to keep a mental clock; he kept track of his distance by the beat of his soul. He often meditated while he ran and could block out most thought–he did need to pay attention to traffic and such for his own safety, but he could block out the noise of life. He didn’t think about academia, his students, his current girlfriend and her pending expiration date, or his ailing mother. He simply ran and heard the internal beat of his soul. He had a sixth sense when those soul beats added up to a mile.

And so it was on that particular June day. He had awoken to his first day of his summer vacation in a rental cottage in a small remote town in the Adirondack mountains. Warm mottled sunlight illuminated the piny woods around the cottage. It was his thirty-third birthday. He’d spent the morning after breakfast reading. By noon he felt like he needed a run. He tightened the laces of his running shoes on the steps of the front porch to the cottage. He had checked the time, it was 12:00PM sharp as he set out running down the quiet country road in front of the cottage. He was unfamiliar with the area so he simply picked a direction; he was heading south. Steve was consistently averaging eight minute miles at that time, unless he was running in really steep terrain, but the road he was on was fairly flat, with little dips and rises, but nothing significant.

He came to that fateful intersection when his internal beat told him he just completed two miles. The time would have been 12:16PM.

~ Hero found ~

Almost three years later, Steve was sitting at his office desk staring out the window over the campus grounds. The warm sun of early May blossomed the flowerbeds, and the spring semester would soon be winding down. He was between lectures. It was the time in his schedule he allotted to see students who were compelled to meet with him. Usually, these students were struggling and they hoped a face-to-face would somehow miraculously raise their grade. He was not one to trade sex for grades. It’s not that he didn’t often fantasize about some of his young undergrads, it was that he valued his career too much to risk that sort of complication. He would perform his usual psychology number on the student; he would tell them what they already knew, that they were lazy and not putting enough effort into his class. He had just sent one young teary-eyed redhead out of his office when the department administrative assistant interrupted him: “I have a young lady here. She says it’s urgent she speaks with you. She is not one of your students. What should I tell her?”

Bewildered, and yet intrigued, he said, “Send her in.”

When Rachel walked in to Steve’s office he felt he had known her from somewhere, but he couldn’t place her. His mind raced through his thirty-six year history, but he came up blank. Before him stood a young girl, he estimated all of eighteen or nineteen. To his eyes, she had a pleasing looking face, not model gorgeous, but cute nevertheless. From his view, her body looked stunning–curvaceous in all the right places. He thought she had a farm wholesome quality about her–sexy, but ready to milk a cow if needed.

She stood there staring at him. Too long a silence had fallen on the room. He wanted to break the silence and ask her what she wanted, but he froze; there was something about her that arrested him.

“Do you know who I am?” Questioned the young girl standing in front of his desk.

“No. I mean, you look familiar, but, sorry, I can’t place you.”

“I’m Rachel Hunt.”

Steve’s sudden paled complexion gave away the shock his brain was going through. He felt the prickled heat of guilt wash over him. Beads of sweat formed on his brow and palms.

After another long awkward moment of silence, he said, “Oh, yes…sorry…I wasn’t expecting to ever meet you.”

“I’m sorry. I should have called…made an appointment or something.”

“No, no…it’s fine…I just…it’s been three years…I’ve tried to…” He wanted to say ‘put it out of his mind,’ but he had no reason to. The tragedy was not his, it was hers. He had only been a material witness.

After yet another moment of awkward silence, he said, “So what brings you to my office today? How’s your mom, by the way?”

“She’s fine. She doesn’t know I’m here.”

~ ~ ~

Three years earlier, Steve had rented a cottage in the Adirondacks for the summer. He had, just that previous academic year, secured a tenured position in a liberal New York college. He had worked tirelessly to pull himself up by is boot straps to the position of professor of history. Born to a poor family, and raised by his divorced mother, he had no hand-up in life. As a boy, Steve and his mother lived in a small tenement walk-up in a poor neighborhood of Harlem, NY. His mother had instilled a strong work ethic in him; she didn’t kadıköy escort want to raise another bum like the lout that impregnated her and then quit work so he could lay around the house and drink all day. She didn’t want to have to carry her son’s ass all of her life. She told him over and over again, “A good education is your only way out of this hell hole. Don’t disappoint me, Steven,” and then she’d cry. He hated to see his mother cry and would always try to console her. She worried about him falling in with a bad element, a gang or something, as she left their tiny apartment each evening to go to work as an office cleaner. But, she needn’t had worried, she had sufficiently laid the guilt of his father’s sins on him. He’d do anything not to burden her life any further.

Even though Steve’s mother had kicked his father out and divorced him when Steve was just three years old, and told him never to contact her or their son again, Steve always felt his father had abandoned him. He didn’t fight to stay in the marriage, nor did he try to contact Steve after the divorce, even if his mother had forbade it; it was as if he’d deliberately destroyed the marriage to unburden himself of his responsibilities.

As a teenager, Steve often fantasized about his father. Although he blamed his father for abandoning him, he desperately wanted a normal father-son relationship with him. He thought that if his father only knew him, his father would see that he wasn’t a burden, and then everything would be alright. Steve made many attempts to find his father, but each lead led to a dead end.

Steve didn’t stay in relationships long. Six months to a year and a half was his usual relationship lifespan before he’d find a way to sabotage things, usually by way of cheating on the girlfriend. He tried other methods, even honesty, but cheating was succinct, and he was by that time looking for another lover anyway, so he might as well kill two birds with one stone. He’d find a new girlfriend and then find a way to get caught in bed with her by his current one.

He had just eighty-sixed his latest year long love affair, but unlike his usual modus operandi, he didn’t take up with the instrument of its destruction. This time it was a friend of the girlfriend’s; she was simply a fuck-tool in his mind. He felt guilty using his girlfriend’s friend like that, but at the same time he felt free; for once not jumping from one relationship right into another. He had no doubt he could link up with another woman easily, at anytime. At six feet tall, an athletic build, light brown hair and a ruggedly charming face, he’d been called “tall, light, and handsome” ever since he was a teenager. This time, he was looking forward to a summer off in the mountains, free and unencumbered. He’d planned to read and perhaps start writing that book he promised himself one day he’d write.

~ ~ ~

The memory of that fateful afternoon run–the intersection, the squealing truck– flooded Steve’s mind as Rachel stood before him explaining that her mother was not aware that she had come to visit him.

“Your mother doesn’t know you’re here?”

“No. She doesn’t need to. I’m nineteen now, and I’ve been out of my mother’s charge for the past two years.”

“Yes. I see. Where are you living, then?” he asked, still unsure why she came to see him, but still willing to make small talk. He didn’t feel right cutting things to the quick with her. He was sure that she must be fragile after everything she had gone through.

“I’m still in White Pine, but I’m living in town now. I’ve got an apartment near the movie theater,” she answered.

“A job?” he inquired.

“I’m a waitress at the Pine Arms. Or at least I was. Lord knows if I’ll have a job when I get back. They didn’t want to give me this time off, so I told them I was leaving anyways. They asked me if I was quitting. I told them I’d be back as I walked out. Who knows?” she shrugged.

“How long are you here for?”

“Don’t know? A few days…maybe more?”

At this point Steve felt he had run out of small talk. “So, why did you make the five hour journey to see me?”

Rachel shrugged, and then said, “To get to know you.”

Steve grabbed the back of his neck and massaged the tension out of it as he exhaled. He then moved his hand to his face and stroked his chin as if he was stroking a goatee. He had no facial hair.

He exhaled loudly as he looked at her and pondered the situation.

Before he could speak, she said, “It’s OK. I get it. You don’t owe me anything. Perhaps this was a mistake,” as she grabbed her handbag from the chair she had deposited it on when she first walked in. She turned to leave but was interrupted by Steve’s voice.

“Rachel. Stop. It’s fine. I’d like to get to know you too.”

She turned back just before the door.

“Look…I just…I don’t know…I don’t know what to say to you. I don’t know how to act around you. I’m not good at this,” he managed to stutter, maltepe escort bayan resignedly.

“How about we start from the beginning? Hi, my name is Rachel, pleased to make your acquaintance.”

Professor Steve suddenly felt like the student in front of this obviously mature nineteen year old.

“Yes…of course. Steve here. Likewise…pleased…,” he said as he extended his hand to her.

Their handshake was more tender than he expected, and he felt a warmth emanate from her hand. He pulled away first after feeling the connection had gone on too long. She smiled.

“Do you have some time? Can we get some coffee and talk?” Rachel asked.

“I have a class in twenty minutes. Can we meet for lunch?”

“Yes. Of course.”

“There’s a quiet cafe just off campus. The Little Hen. I’ll see you there at 12:20,” he instructed her.

As Rachel left his office, Steve couldn’t keep the memories of the events three years ago from flooding his mind.

~ Guilt comes a calling ~

One week after the pickup truck had careened through that intersection two miles and 16 minutes into Steve’s first run, on his first day, of his first full summer vacation as a sitting professor, he just happened to pick up the newspaper at the local grocery store while buying groceries. The Pine Bark was one of those weekly local rags, the ones that cover cow births and missing cats. There was a section for God; God’s Corner, and what roads were closing, and when, for construction in and around the town of White Pine. The paper was filled with a lot of used car ads and the like. It wasn’t the kind of paper he usually read. He couldn’t even remember what possessed him to add it to his cart amongst the steak, broccoli, beer, and ice cream. If pressed, he might have said he was looking for a hint of local entertainment. Someplace he might find female companionship. He hadn’t spent a week alone in quite a while, and he was already getting tired of masturbating; he was getting hungry for the real thing.

During dinner, he grabbed the paper and flipped through it. He saw a few ads for pubs, and he thought he might make his way to one later that night and see what kind of local action there might be in White Pine. He was just about to toss the paper onto the heap of newspapers next to the wood stove, when he noticed the back page, in large print the words: MISSING PERSON. Normally he would not have given much thought about a missing person in an area he was only vacationing in. He wouldn’t have given the article another look. But, there was a picture of a young girl under those big letters. The face of the young girl looked familiar to him for some reason, so he read the article.

“HAVE YOU SEEN HER?” The brief article asked the readership. If so call the police at this number. The article went on to say that the police were investigating a missing teen from White Pine. No foul play was suspected at this time, and that they were not releasing her name, due to that fact that she was underage, and she might have run away, perhaps to one of her relatives. The police were still investigating and it was too early give any more details. Steve thought it strange that the paper would print a picture of the girl’s face, but no name. Surely, in this small town, many people would know who she was. Maybe they were afraid that some nut-job would pray on her family’s grief if her name got out. Some nut-job from away, because surely many in the town must know the family, the whole town being of only about one thousand permanent residents, not counting the weekenders and the summer tourist.

The more he looked at the picture, the more he remembered the events during his run a week ago: the speeding truck and crazy looking driver holding on to a young girl with one hand while driving with the other. A pit formed in his stomach. He suddenly felt flush with guilt. One thought gripped his mind: ‘Was the girl in that truck this same young girl pictured in the paper?’

One other thought flooded his mind: ‘I may have witnessed an abduction.’

He suddenly felt then that he should have done something right away, a week ago right after that incident during his run. He chastised himself; he should have flagged down the next car, or truck, and told them about the apparent abduction, and asked, no, demanded, to use their phone to call the police. But, then again, maybe this paper girl wasn’t that truck girl. Maybe he was jumping to conclusions, again.

He decided not to go out that night looking to get laid. His mind kept going back to that incident in the intersection the week before. He retired to bed early instead, but he had a terrible night’s sleep. He kept waking up and asking himself: ‘what if the paper girl is the truck girl? What if there’s still hope? What if she is still alive?’ He vowed that night to go to the police the very next morning.

~ ~ ~

When Steve arrived at the Little Hen, Rachel was already there. She was sitting at a table and motioned to him as he walked through the door.

“So, you’ve come all this way just to get to know me?” Steve asked, as he settled into his chair.

Rachel looked at him coldly without answering. By her expression, he guessed that his patronizing tone had cut her.

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