There I was running away from the corner of South Douglas and Tenth Avenue South, the faint taste of cheap whiskey still on my tongue, running not only from the beaten up pickup truck, but also from all remnants of my innocence that remained.
Let me take you to the beginning.
It was just like any other Wednesday afternoon in Tennessee. Hot as fuck and so humid that when you breathe in you barely get any oxygen, you just get a thick gust of moisture. I had been trying to shed some of the tragic freshman fifteen I had gained so I decided to go on my daily walk around the neighborhood. My friend Rick was in town, so I felt safer and less alone during the walk.
Little did I know, I was a little too comfortable.
After about two miles, Rick couldn’t take the stress of the heat and exercise so he decided to light up a cig, something he did oh so often, we thought nothing of it. Although I myself am not a smoker, I never mind being surrounded by it because I feel like it doesn’t affect me. I had never been more wrong. We take a right off of Tenth Avenue onto a small street consisting mostly of homes, South Douglas Street. Casually walking and smoking, minding our own business, not knowing that our lives were about to change for good. I hear a CLANK CLANK CLANK BANG RUGUHRUGHUHRAGRUHRUHU in the distance. The noise grows louder and louder, it was at this moment I look to my left and see a red Chevy pick up truck that had to be from the 70’s or 80’s. The car slowly came to a stop about a foot away from me.
"Hey boy can I buy one of those cigarettes off you?" An approximately 76 year old black man leaned out the window and asked Rick.
Rick responds that he is welcome to a drag, free of charge. I swear in this moment I thought I saw the man’s eye tear up, but the absolute truth of this statement can’t be validified.
"Y’all got any other kind of smokes? You know what a mean? Been a long day. You know what I mean? Girl?"
"NOPE NO SMOKES HERE SORRY SIR YEAH I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN SUCH A LONG DAY PRETTY HOT OUT HERE WE COULD SURE USE SOME RAIN DON’T YOU THINK THE GRASS IS LOOKING A LITTLE DRY. THE GRASS ON THE GROUND LIKE IN THE YARD NOT GRASS LIKE MARIJUANA I DON’T HAVE ANY OF THAT SIR WOW IT SURE IS HOT OUT HERE I DO DECLARE," I quickly respond, doing a grand job of hiding my nervousness I think.
Nobody speaks for a few moments.
"Here take a swig of this here whiskey!" The driver kindly commands.
"Take a swig of this here whiskey! Least I could do for y’all good people giving me a cigarette."
"Come on now, take a swig! I can’t leave you unpaid for this cigarette."
Rick and I exchange glances. Telepathy must exist because we somehow convinced each other that we should do what this man tells us to do without speaking to each other aloud.
Rick steps forward first and takes a swig of the whiskey the man provides. He says thank you and walks away. I thought maybe I could get off easy considering I didn’t loan the initial cigarette that caused this strange trade, but the driver stared at me with his glossy eyes. I didn’t know what to do. My heart was saying no, but my mind was saying yes. It was like an out of body experience. One minute I’m planning on running in the opposite direction, and the next thing you know, I’m standing inches from the driver, taking a gulp of this god awful whiskey that was given to me.
"Y’all are good people. Bless you! God bless you!" The man said before he drove away. The fifteen seconds it took him to drive off of South Douglas Street was probably the longest fifteen second period of my life. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t see. For a minute I convinced myself there was anthrax in the whiskey and I was dying and I would never see my cat, Fluffy, ever again. I didn’t even get to tell her bye.
Moments later I snap back into consciousness and hear Rick screaming for me to come on, that we have to get home because we possibly could have been drugged with some sort of medication that would immobilize us, and the man would be back any second to abduct us. I’m not much of a runner, my flat feet have never permitted, but I tell you what, I think I could have qualified for the olympics with the sprint I took from South Douglas back to my home. Through the haze I managed to have 911 and my mothers number pulled up in case I were to fall. Some could say this was my own fault. That I should have run away. But I am a victim. I will not be ridiculed or judged because of this. It’s a miracle that I am alive today. I, Rachel Wilson, am a walking miracle.
The moral of the story is to never walk down South Douglas street with anyone who smokes cigs.
Taking whiskey from a stranger is completely normal and fine and you should not let anyone tell you otherwise.