humor · mental health

Smooth Criminal

I hate when people say apologizing shows weakness. I believe the ability to show empathy and acknowledge our wrong doings implies we aren’t pompous assholes. That’s not relevant to anything. but it’s been on my mind.

Without fail, every person I was close to longer than a year moved away. Anyone who didn’t move, got sick of me anyway. I thought if I could make people laugh and be useful, they would keep me around longer.

When I stayed with friends, I cleaned their house to make parents like me. It worked well. When parents were away, I sought attention by performing dangerous stunts . It had mixed results. This brings us back to Fucking Sookie.

I know it’s common for teenagers to believe they’re invincible, but I took it to the next level. I also had a terrible habit of showing off. Dangerous combination.

** Side note for aspiring stunt performers: If you tried jumping off a roof with an umbrella, it’s because that doesn’t work in real life. Not because you need a bigger a umbrella. It doesn’t work with beach umbrellas either. **

Sookie and I stayed at a slumber party with a few other girls. Complying with the Slumber Party Code of Ethics, I cleaned the house until all adults were asleep. Then the real work began.

Chat rooms on the internet were brand new and for cool kids only. We gathered around the huge, clunky screen thinking we were modern wonderkins when we realized we could pretend to be anyone from anywhere we wanted.

Holy cow! So. Much. Nostalgia.

We talked to anyone we could. I don’t understand how we made the decision to lie so quickly, yet believed every word people said. Even as teenagers, how could we assume we were the only ones who thought of that?

Eventually, we spoke to someone in a chat room claiming to be a group of 18 year old guys (after we said we were 18 year old girls). Must be fate, right? They were even in the same state! Less than an hour away! We were having a lucky night (insert eye roll).

Some of the girls were getting tired of chatting and suggested watching a movie before bed. I had just sat down for my first turn with the keyboard. I hadn’t shown off yet. I still needed to do something funny to make sure they would invite me next time.

They wanted me to end the conversation while they chose a movie. I acted quickly out of desperation. I panic when I feel like I’m on a time limit. I had it stuck in my mind the chat room was my only way to impress them. I told those guys (whoever he/they were) we were getting bored. Did they want to come pick us up? You bet they did.

Ok. I know that’s really bad already. It gets worse. They mentioned they had been mud riding earlier. Since there’s nothing to do in our town, I told them we were out in the middle of nowhere with lots of back roads good for mud riding. How am I alive today, right?

They asked for the address, but I didn’t know it. I told the girls what I had done. They had the reaction I hoped for, and we gave them very precise directions. I felt really good about myself.

We exchanged cell numbers, and agreed to walk to the end of the road to meet up. We couldn’t risk the parents waking up. We left no one behind, no note or any record of where we were going or why. We deleted the browser history before we logged off. Because the internet was something you turned off when you finished using it.

I don’t know if I was so stupid I didn’t understand bad guys exist or if I just thought I held a special immunity to them. Either way, I saw no red flags, had no bad feelings or anything to tell me this could be a bad idea.

As we left the house with only two flashlights the girls started talking about what they wanted the guys to look like and if there would be enough for all of us. This was the first thing that struck fear inside me. Of course there wouldn’t be enough. Of course, I would be left out. This was only happening because of me, yet there was no doubt who the ugly duckling was.

We were too excited to wait at the house. The guys had an hour drive so we thought it would be fun and spooky to go for a walk through the dark roads. When we made it to the crossroads where we agreed to meet, we figured the guys had at least 30 minutes before they would arrive.

It gave me time to decide Sookie should flash the guys when they get here (I couldn’t do it because I didn’t have boobs). Everyone thought it was a great idea. We imagined the guys riding along, looking for the crossroads, and seeing a girl jump into the middle of the road, boobs on display. I didn’t think she would really do it, but I should have known better.

Thankfully none of the other girls wanted to flash their boobs so I didn’t feel obligated to participate, boobs or not. Small favors. After 45 minutes passed and no guys showed up, we called them. I never heard his voice but Sookie said it sounded ‘deep and sexy.’ Probably because he was a grown man, and not a group of teenagers, but we will never know for sure.

He told her they had gotten lost so Sookie gave him more directions. When we saw headlights 20 minutes later, we knew it had to be them. There shouldn’t be anyone else on these roads this time of night.

As planned, when the truck started to slow for the stop sign, Sookie jumped into the middle of the road, shirt up. The truck was maybe 10ft away when she did. The truck switched on its brights and pulled onto the shoulder farther away from us than we expected. It just sat there, none of the guys got out.

We can never know if this person was really the one we talked to, or if the timing was coincidence. Thinking back, I find it hard to believe the random person from a chat room happened to be so close to us. I would put my money on coincidence.

I think we came across a bored old man who wanted to screw with some kids. Then this truck full of serial killers happened to be driving by after a body dump when this crazy chick jumps into the road. That has to be a good story no matter who was in there.

Reality hit me hard when the truck appeared. When Sookie flashed them, I was frozen. My fear of new people was kicking in too hard for me to be concerned with why they would park so far away.

Only one other girl hung back with me. The others went to stand in the road with Sookie. They flashed their boobs and waved for the guys to get out. When the guys still didn’t leave the truck, one of the girls yelled, “We aren’t going to keep showing you for free, where’s the booze?”

I wanted to see how many guys came and what they looked like. I was anxious to know if I would have one or be left out again. I started to make my way down the shoulder, out of sight. I didn’t want anyone to notice me before I scouted the situation.

I didn’t notice the other girl was following me until we got close enough to see inside the cab. When the high beams were no longer blinding me, it was clear the truck only had one person inside. I saw an older, creepy looking man. Holy shit that moron flashed the wrong truck.

The reality of the situation was still lost on me. I don’t know how long it would have taken me to figure out, but the girl who followed me screamed when she saw inside.

The man’s head turned our way. When he saw us, he looked outraged. He threw his truck into gear and floored it toward Sookie and the other girls. We scattered. I saw the girl next to me dive into a ditch. I ran into the tree line and stayed down when I fell into a patch of sticker bushes.

I heard girls in the road scream, and the truck tires squeal. It drove away and came back a few times. When the truck left for the last time, almost an hour passed before we came out of hiding. We were covered in bug bites and didn’t care.

None of us considered calling the police. We couldn’t explain why we were out there. The girls said they saw a second man’s head pop up from the back seat as they drove past.

They ran for the opposite tree line. He drove past and circled back twice. Sookie said they parked further down the road and walked into the trees from their side. One of the men got within a few feet of where they hid before finally giving up.

We didn’t doubt her story, she was frightened so badly, she pissed her pants. There had been enough time between sounds of the truck going by, but knowing Sookie there’s plenty of exaggeration in there. Maybe the second man, maybe how close they got. Probably both. No other vehicles ever came down the road in the time we were out there. Needless to say, we never used chat rooms that way again.

Did this teach me I was a mere mortal like the rest of the world? No. I blamed it entirely on Sookie. She flashed the wrong truck. She should have made sure it was our ride. I didn’t understand the truth until years later while thinking back on the situation with adult goggles.

I think that’s the part that bothers me most. It isn’t almost having myself and friends kidnapped (or worse). It’s the fact that even after the plan went to hell, even after I was hiding in that ditch, I was upset we were probably missing the right truck while we were hiding from the crazy man.

If the other girl wouldn’t have screamed first, would I have understood those men had ill intentions? Would I have believed whatever story they told and gotten into that truck? If he had looked normal, I have no doubt I would have made the worst choices possible. I feared nothing as a child. Now I fear everything as an adult.

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