The PassengerA Story by Chaz Hemsworth
A man drives to relieve stress and picks up a unique hitchhiker.
I was stressed out quite badly, so I decided to go for a drive. Driving helps calm me down. My car rode smoothly down the South Carolina coastal highway. There were no other cars around, I played classical music at a low volume. My headlights illuminated a vague shape hanging by the side of the road. It was a person, sticking out his thumb. I pulled over and unlocked the passenger side door. He got in, sitting next to me.
"What's goin' on?" he asked.
"I gotta go see my family in Georgia," I told him.
"You like it there?"
"It's a nice state. I don't go too often." This was a lie. I had no family in Georgia, and I had never seen the state. I turned and asked the passenger, "What's your name?"
"You have a last name?"
"Not one that you should know." I respected that about him. If nothing else, he had a sense of privacy. He didn't try to sell himself to me. I looked for the first time at his face. Michael's hair was dark brown, but not black. He was pale. I thought he had reached into the glove box, but he was just opening his bag. He pulled out a contact case, and pulled out the left lens. He didn't touch his right eye.
"You taking out the other one too?"
"No." He answered. I looked at his eyes. The left one was blue, like a newborn child. The right was almost grey. I could only make eye contact with one at a time. I started up the car. The headlights came on, and I drove off down the highway. I asked Michael where he was going. He said he wanted to go to a place called Southerbend. I knew the town. It was coming up in thirty minutes. I asked him what music he liked.
"My favorite piece of music is 'The Rite of Spring'. The savagery really reflects the modern world better than anything else."
"I like it too. Do you think the world is violent?"
" It's hell. People are always out to get you. No one's gonna look after you. The education I was given was outdated. I can't get a job. Might as well fall off the earth for all the economy cares about me."
I asked him how he felt about politics. His response was simple: "a waste of my time". He said: "Look, I'm one guy. I live in a state that traditionally votes Republican. It doesn't matter what party I vote for." His statement was a valid one. I asked him about his life. He become completely different. "I'm just a normal guy"-I was focused on his left eye- "who wants to get the goddamn world to notice"-I look at his right eye-"that I hurt. Okay"- I look back to his left eye-"I lived a middle class neighborhood that was full of fakes"- I make contact right eye-"everyone was superficial and empty. No one cared about me. I ran away from home once-"my eyes wander back to his blue left one-" and my parents only cared when the school said they'd be fined because I hadn't shown up." I thought I saw him rubbing his eyes. He wasn't crying, but he was close to. We rode in silence for a few more minutes.
I asked him with a bit of trepidation, "What did you want to be? When you grew up?". A single tear grew in his right eye, reflecting the gray color. "I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to help people. But now I can't even help myself," he answered.
I began to feel what Michael was feeling. We were both wayward, talking to a stranger to get something. Michael knew what he wanted. I didn't know what I was trying to find. "Look, Michael, you alright?" I asked him. "I'm fine, I'm fine," he answered. But he was so brisk about it. I looked around my car and found a napkin. I wrote my phone number on it. "Anytime," I told him.
The radio station began playing a Bartok quartet. The strands of music slowly rising and falling, twisting about amongst each other like waves in a sonic ocean. For that moment, Michael and I floated in these waves. Up ahead, the reflection of a street sign appeared. It was the Southerbend sign. Michael abruptly said, "This is fine." I let him out. Beyond the right side of the highway, there were some small hills. The lights of another town, Northshore, were visible beyond the hills. Michel thanked me and began walking up those hills.
I thought about what he said during the trip. I realized what I was on that highway for. I reached into the glove box. I had kept a pistol in it, mainly to keep me safe on the road. Now I realized, I would turn the gun on myself. I too was battling the sheer hopelessness that Michael had already come to terms with. I touched the familiar spot. The pistol was gone! My mind raced. Michael. I slid out of my car and ran up the first hill. I saw Michael looking at the Northshore city lights. He held the gun up to his head. I yelled "Michael!"
The sound nearly knocked me out. My ears rang with a high pitch drone. I became dizzy simply from hearing it. I felt the echoes ringing against my eardrums. They pulsed, chaotically, pounding in my head. The force of the reverberations caused my eyes to shake. I couldn't see for a few seconds. Eventually the sound went away. There was total silence for a moment. Then my hearing came back. My sight steadied.
Michael was dead on the ground in front of me. I looked at him. He had my phone number, still sticking out of his pocket. I didn't try to help him now, he was clearly gone. I wandered back to my car. I left the gun with Michael. I picked up my phone and called 9-1-1. I told the operator to send an ambulance out to pick him up. I drove back home in a fog of denial, regret, and a feeling of disappointment. I could have saved this kid. But I couldn't, no, I never could have convinced Michael not to do it. I couldn't sleep until I took a few sleeping pills that I had bought earlier, to attempt to go out quietly.
I woke up the next morning with the news showing the scene of his death. I was sure they would try to talk to me soon. I wandered downstairs and made breakfast. My phone rang. It was the news. They said they found my number with the body. I hung up.
The highway is the home of all kinds of dreams. Dreams of leaving, making it big, or heading home. Michael was on the highway looking for his dream. I don't know if he found it. I know mine only became more clouded. I got into my car and began to drive again. Maybe this time I'd find what I was looking for.
© 2014 Chaz Hemsworth
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AboutMy name is *Chaz Hemsworth*. It's not really, but let's go with that. I'm 16 at the moment.My favorite author is probably Poe. I also like Sci-fi and fantasy. Because of the Poe influence, I t.. more..