Cheap gasoline isn’t supposed to go in the car. I know this, but I can’t say anything. If I do, Manny will go into a wild rage and start screaming about how his father was mean to him and everything else he uses in his life that points towards him being a victim. It’s times like this I feel lost. Like I don’t understand how I ended up here with him, feeling powerless over his fits. I don’t think he is deserving for the sympathy he gets. I think I fell into his spell and gave him too much and now I’m locked in a cage, unable to escape, unable to speak. I quietly stand there and wait for him to figure it out, even though I could have told him and saved him all of this trouble.
“Fuck!” He exclaims. “I’m not supposed to put in the cheap gasoline, it hurts the engine.” He turns into an angrier person, unable of rationally putting the situation into perspective. His unreasonable rage seeps into the air, under my skin and begins to make me shake. My stomach turns and I want to be sick.
This is the moment I knew I wasn’t made for domestic life. To be in a position where I can’t speak even the most calm and basic of sentences. Where my body hurts. I dig my foot into the sand and think really hard about what to do. He makes all the money, pays for my house, controls my reputation around our friends, if I leave him, I leave everything.
There’s not many options. I have no money or car without him. The only thing I could do, is walk away.
Why wait? I think to myself. Nows as good a time as any. I can’t tell him. If I do, he’ll scream and Lord knows what else. I pull out my phone that he always checks at night and begin texting my family and friends.
You don’t know anymore than this, I’m leaving Manny. I will see you again when I have figured this out. I am okay. Manny is not well, I’m escaping.
I finish texting then I place my phone discreetly underneath the truck tire. I walk behind him as he screams. Soon I will become the target and that can never be again. So I step back slower and slower until I hear my sneaker crack a branch on the egde of the woods. Then I pivot quickly and run. I run so quick I feel super human. If he finds me in here, there is no one to see what happens. No witnesses to attest to this man truly being cruel. I run so quickly I don’t see the man I run into.
In a moment my body collides with his and I have landed on the ground. Dirt and branches dust my body. In the distance I hear Manny’s voice. Terrified, I know he must think I’m trying to run away. He cant find me, I can’t go back there. The man I collided with wears flannel, with a beard and timberland boots. He has a small pouch belly where manny had a perfectly tanned six pack. This is a man of the woods. Suddenly I feel a peace I never felt before. My panic subsides and I make a decision to trust a stranger.
I grab his collar. “You need to take me somewhere, now!” I don’t know why I trust him, he could be more harmful than Manny but I have to try something.
He hears an angry man screaming a women’s name and he looks at me with no further questions. He grabs my arm and pulls me through the woods. We run quickly like prey being chased by wolves.
In the distance, there is a log cabin. Smoke puffs from the top and I can smell smoked meat curing. We run into the house and he pulls me into the closet he has and opens a secret door for me to hide.
“Why are you trusting me?” He asks before closing the door.
“When I fell into you, I stopped falling apart.” I say. He nods and shuts the door.
Five minutes later, a knocking came to the door. I hear Manny’s voice after the door opens. He’s saying his mentally unstable sister ran away from him, that he was taking me to the hospital. Trust me I am not his sister. Manny is hispanic and I am Asian, Philippine, which I am sure the man can tell the difference between. I know this man is at a crossroads. He has to decide wether or not this person is telling the truth, or am I.
I hear two sats of footsteps creep into the house. Fuck, I thought and started to cry. He is going to kill me for this, I know it. I crawl into a ball and try to black out the pain I’m about to feel.
“… look around see if she’s here anywhere but I didn’t see any woman running through the woods. I’ve been cooking all day…”
I take a deep breath. He’s covering for me. Thank God. He’s saving me.
Manny thanks the man for his time and leave but I don’t dare get out of this closet for another twenty minutes. I sit in silence. I hear another knock on the door. Manny forgot his phone. I knew he was smart. He would come back just to double check. He leaves and this time I know its for good. The man comes to the closet and gives me a hand up.
“Are you okay?” He asks me.
For the first time I tell the truth. “No.”
He shakes his head, like an angel smiling that I finally spoke a true word. Bittersweet.
He made a cup of coffee for me and brought out meat to eat. This was a mans man. I quietly step to the table and curl up in a chair, with one foot on the seat and coffee resting on my knee. He takes a seat across from me.
“So how did you get here?” He asks.
“It wasn’t all at once. I kind of faded into it, slowly.”
“Do you hate him?”
“No, I couldn’t. He does this because he’s weak, not because he’s strong. I pity him.”
“You,” he tips his head and raises his coffee to me, “are a very smart woman.”
“Thank you. But now I have to start all over and somehow manage my friends and family and life around this fact that no one is going to want to accept.” I sigh.
“Why go back to them? Didn’t they see what he was doing? There is no way nobody noticed nothing.”
“So what are you saying?” I ask.
“Make new friends. Ones who’ve got your back. One’s that find you when your lost and don’t give you up to weak men.”
“But that’s my whole life.”
“Maybe your life hasn’t started yet. Because that didn’t look like your story to me. I see it in your eyes. Your no punching bag.”
“Said the stranger.”
“Said the man who saw you as worth saving.”
“To be clear, I saved myself, you just helped me.” I say.
He rolls his eyes and smiles. “Of course, Miss.” Then he turns his head sideways. “What is your name?”
I smile. “Abigail”
“Nice to meet you, I’m Salvador.”
“Nice to meet you. This meat is really good. What is it?”
“Smoked Islandic lamb. It’s my favorite.”