Don’t ask me why
I pull into the gas station my radiator steaming from too many miles under too much sun.
I glance back up the highway half expecting to see police cars there.
I expect them everywhere I go because I know they are always looking for me.
Five murders in LA alone
The newspapers ask why I have killed whole families and if I am a member of a cult.
A young man with a faded blue uniform stained brown in spots asks if I want gas as well as water.
He looks too weary to be suspicious.
I ask for the toilet.
He points to the side of the stucco station where a rusted metal sign once said “restrooms.”
The inside smells of urine and hand soap, the undissolved powder of Borax spilling over the sink side and onto the tiles near the toilet.
It smells of Georgia again, lacking only the sweet scent of bubble gum I chewed non-stop to keep off the road sickness, my old man shouting at me for being a sissy each time I came close to vomiting, momma telling him to stop so I wouldn’t stink up the car with it, my old man pushing me towards places like this where – alone – I could not quite reach the sink to wash my hands.
I always felt so dirty then, always covered in road grime and undigested Borax.
Dented metal hangs above the sink instead of a mirror so I see not a reflection of my true self, but the smear of a face police must get as a description at each crime scene.
I turn on the hot water full and wait for the steam to come, thrusting both hands into the scalding flower before I rub the gritting soap over them, my fingernails scrapping the dried blood from the pores and from beneath the other fingernails – until drops of red fall into the basin and get washed away.
Like the first time when I took a knife to my father’s throat as he slept. I never meant to kill my mother or my sister, and least of all my innocent little brother.
But once my mother woke up and screamed, I had to kill them all just to keep them silent.
I could not stop; I still can’t.
I hear the screams in my head at each place I sop and need to kill until those voices go silent again.
Then, I move on, always pausing as I pause now, to wash off the guilt, hoping no one notices.
The rest room is out of paper towels so I use the crumpled brown towels other people have used before me, piled so high in the trash can they spill out like guts.
I dare not wife my hands on my jeans for fear a trace of blood remains.
To carry that to the next town will ruin me, that one clue the cops need to catch me, I think.
The gas jockey greets me at the pump asking if I need anything else.
He looks at me with a stare that says
he will remember me.
He must have seen the blood on my hands, and he deliberately avoids looking at my hands now.
He will give the police a dented metal description of me later, so I know I have to kill him, too.
But he is not my father.
So I climb into my car and drive off, hoping the voices won’t follow me to the next town when I already know they will.