I went up North as far as North would go. I drove North unti even I could afford to turn off the AC, and then I went further. I wanted to go all the way. I figured if I drove till the road ran out and then made more road till my car couldn’t manage and walked, maybe I could keep people safe. Leave me alone at the top of the map to melt the icecaps.
But I couldn’t drive forever. Cars don’t work like that, and neither do people.
Most girls wouldn’t have stopped at the place that I stopped at. Too far from the main roads, too much rough, too much tumble. But there was a gas station and a restaurant/bar type place and I’m not the one you should be worried about.
“Get you something warm to eat?” asked the waitress.
I ordered a salad.
“You sure, hon? Want some coffee?”
“Water. Extra ice.”
She seemed concerned, but was trained well enough, I guess, not to question.
I noticed people looking at me. They’d been looking since I first came in, but I’d busied myself at taking in my new surroundings. Now the Gaze was deafening. I tried not to meet it. I tried to look out the window or play with my thumbs, but there was a loud noise and I turned and I caught his eyes on me.
Please don’t flirt with me, I wanted to tell him, but I knew it wouldn’t do me any good. I could tell. I knew his type. So I watched him walk towards me like watching a train speed towards a broken bridge without even blowing the horn in acknowledgement of impending doom.
“Hey,” he said.
Really, it was all he had to say. “Hey,” I said back.
He took it as an invitation, sat down, asked routine questions. Where you from? Where you headed? What’s a girl like you doing in a place like this all by your lonesome? I can take care of myself, I insist, but I keep telling myself that and then having the same conversations with this exact guy.
“You wanna get out of here?” That’s the question, isn’t it? What do I want? But that question is game over. Which makes it that much more embarrassing that this time, I was the one asking it. What was I thinking? Why was I giving in? What kind of girl was I?
Was I giving in, or was I giving up? Fine, some part of me thought on the way out to his truck after he’d paid for my food. Fine, if this is the person I’m going to be, maybe I should just be her.
Or maybe I thought that only feeling lukewarm in the cold here would make some kind of difference. Not having any real feelings for him, not being excited—what if there was a cure and this was it?
But I knew it was a fool’s hope, so I tried to justify it to myself.
“No,” I told him after he’d lifted me into the back seat. “Keep the door open.”
From the glint of his eye, he must’ve thought it was kinky, and I filed that glint away under lechery as an excuse for what awaited him. If he’d closed the door behind him once I’d said that, that would’ve been reason enough, I told myself. Disrespect. Right? But I was still cool when he kissed me.
I couldn’t stay cool for long. Think of every place he could have touched me in those first, like, thirty seconds, as touching a lit match to a piece of paper. Waves of heat rippling out under my skin. Forget the AC, I needed arctic waters for this. And then the moment of consummation—that would have to be like pulling the trigger on a flame thrower. I made sure I was on top for that, cold night air brushing over my bare back, keeping my temperature low.
He seemed to be enjoying it. Nothing wrong with that. Maybe that could be enough for me, to live vicariously through his enjoyment of my flesh—hadn’t that been the way for millions of Victorian women? But that’s not how things work for me.
“Stop,” I whispered in his ear when I felt the cold winds start to fail, then louder,” slow down. “I needed to ease up. Maybe if I just stayed at a simmer…
But he didn’t slow down and he didn’t stop. I tried to pull away. “Please,” I said—not for my sake, but for his, and it took every ounce of wilpower because it’s not what I wanted. “Please—“
He didn’t listen—instead he did my all-time favorite thing: he flipped me on my back, never disengaging. He pinned me down and breathed hot air into my cheek as he pounded away.
It was not what I wanted—no, it was exactly what I wanted—no…
My arm shot out above me, reached for the window over my head, for the cold glass, but if there was any cold left on the window, it could no longer reach me.
How could he stand it? How could he not notice what was happening to me? Pushing him away had netted me nothing, so I pulled him close and kissed him goodbye on the collarbone. He had brought this on himself, I justified it. He should’ve stopped when I told him. Did I really believe that? Do I believe it now? I try to take comfort in the fact that the next girl he tried that on would not have enjoyed it, rather than the fact that I did. Because the fact that I did had consequences.
By the time I’d cooled off, there was nothing left of him. Charred and twisted bits of metal and plastic turned the snow black for twenty feet in any direction from where I lay naked in the parking lot. I covered myself with my hands, not against the cold but under the delusion that by keeping myself from being seen, I could prevent this from happening again.