The combination of late night heat, humidity, and alcohol make every breath feel like my last. By the time I get to my car, I am soaked as if I have stepped out of the shower. I turn the air conditioning to full blast. Cold air makes contact with the sweat. The sensation creates a chill that moves from my toes to my forehead, like a fast-moving virus. I have a cure. Somewhere in my pocket is a baggie of snow-white, magic elixir.
A fumbled dredge through the crumpled dollar bills and loose change tears the plastic. As it reaches the threshold of freedom from my pocket, the elixir explodes like a freak, summer snowstorm. Fingernails become surgical instruments as I attempt to recapture enough to snort some lines on the back of my hand.
Thank god for the 24-hour Mickey-D drive-thru. Fifty feet from my place. Though the early morning, red-robins will soon begin their song, the line is long. It’s difficult to distinguish the snow from the other crap on my lap as I try to reconstitute another line. One eye remains on the cars in front of me. Big Macs, french fries and colas pushed out the window like a piston. An arm moving back and forth. In and out. A voice from the speaker.
“May I take your order”?
“I’ll have five Bacon Egg and Cheese McMuffins and a Diet Coke.”
An image in the rear view mirror catches my attention. A police officer waits behind me. His stare directs a lie detecting laser beam that pierces my rear window and penetrates my mind. He can see my fear. He knows.
My hands tighten the grip the steering wheel. I am sure they will leave imprints. I wait for the blue and red rotation. There is a quick “honk” instead. I had not noticed the space in front of me as another order is filled. A slight tap on the gas. Not too hard. Don’t want the card to jerk forward. He’s waiting for an excuse to hit the lights and change my future. My hand sweeps back and forth across my lap, then the passenger seat. I have to wipe away the evidence. My pupil dilated eyes stare back at me in the rearview mirror. The visible perspiration intensifies paranoia. He has to see this. The arctic blast of the air conditioner no longer stems the flow. His face is replaced by a vision. Standing outside the car drenched in sweat and handcuffed. Humiliated in the drive-through line for the other cokeheads and barflies to see. They will snicker at me as they get their food. Maybe they will think about the grace of God.
The figure in the mirror has changed again. I see my father. The stare of disappointment. His heart will break when he gets the call from jail.
I inhale until there is no room in my lungs to take in more oxygen. My heart tries to free itself from my chest with each exaggerated, pounding beat. My body is rigid and locked in place as if I have died and Rigamortis has set in. I am about to die.
Another car moves forward. The piston hand. Big Macs. French Fries. Soft Drinks. In and out. A monotone, robotic voice.
“Thank you for coming. Enjoy your meal.”
One more car and I’m home. One more…
He’s almost on my bumper. A perfect view into my vehicle. I notice how well lit the drive-through lane is. What the hell is the guy in front of me ordering? Get your fucking food so I can get out of here. I will play with the radio. If he sees me playing with the radio, that will signal normalcy. Just a person with late night munchies. A pregnant wife food run. Anything but what I am.
A crackling, amplified voice. An irritated tone.
“Please pull forward. You’re up”
It’s not the drive-through guy. The voice is from behind. A loudspeaker. It’s him. A light, staccato, double tap of the car-horn.
There is no piston hand moving from the service window. There is a teenager’s head poked out. Inviting me to advance five more feet towards escape and freedom.
My foot moves in a slow and deliberate movement to the right from brake to gas. Too hard and my car will jerk. He will know. Too soft and he may rear-end me. He will know. Breath. Relax. Inhale. Exhale. The white snowflakes on my jeans and car rug look the size of snowballs.
An odorous blast of french fry grease and Big Macs.
“That will be seven twenty-five, sir.”
My cash is on the passenger seat covered in white dust. A quick glance back. He appears to be talking into a microphone. The lights come on. Blue and Red rotation. Each rotation has a different message. Handcuffs. Jail. Loss of love. Loss of Family.
I grab the ten dollars off the seat.
‘Keep the change.”
I pull forward towards my altered future.
The lights are now next to me. They are in front of me. They are out in the street. I had not noticed the car accident. I move out into the road and creep past him. There is no acknowledgment. He’s too busy slapping handcuffs on a drunk driver. My breathing calms. My flow of sweat slows. I can see the sun rising as I pull in front of my place. I will clean the car later. Maybe a few more lines can be found. I’m hungry.