Chapter 4

“They say I’m your best friend, but I’m really…”

Walking past the gas station, I saw five figures in hooded HAZMAT suits in the parking lot. As I glanced at them, they waved at me, speaking words I was unable to hear, and pointing at something on the ground. I kept walking quick, not wanting to interact with these men, but still disturbed and curious as to what they were doing. A man who was not wearing a body suit and mask came up to me. He was speaking to me too… what was he saying? He was asking me if I wanted water, and pointing toward the group of five men in white, next to whom seemed to be a case of water. I said no thank you and continued on, hoping to forget the incident.

Instead of forgetting, I felt a strong need to wash my body. Whatever they had been cleaning up, if they had even indeed been cleaning up, it was all over me. I could picture the ebola particles in my hair, the toxins in my lungs, the vomit and blood blown in the wind by their industrial hoses. Of course, this was all in my mind, but the men in the white, maskless HAZMAT suits were real. What had they been doing?

I woke with a start, and took a minute to remember where I was. I looked up at three faces looking down on me, glistening in the early morning dew.

“Are you okay?” The youngest face uttered, and I got the strong sense she was looking for drama, probably wanted me dead.

“I’m fine, what are you looking at,” I barked back.

The faces jumped back a few inches, but continued to stare.

“You passed out for a few minutes, are you okay? What’s the matter?” The older one asked- though he had the face of a young child with greying hair.

“I’m fine, get off my ass,” I mumbled as I stumbled away. Had I dreamed about the men in HAZMAT suits, or was that real? I grabbed my toothbrush from my getaway bag I had brought with me when we ran- and stalked away to brush my teeth in the bushes. The others murmured to themselves, and seemed to settle down into a triangle shape in the grass — sitting cross legged by one another and sharing glances of unease.

I walked two or three minutes away from the makeshift campsite we were staying the night at, and proceeded to brush my metal teeth with my Arm and Hammer toothpaste. Deep in thought, and turning my toothbrush in the little circles above each tooth, I turned with a start to a voice behind me.

“Hello, Miss. Are you… camping out here alone?”

I turned and saw a man about my height standing right behind me, and he glanced at my toothbrush and foaming mouth as I formed my thoughts. I spit into the grass, and asked him what it was to him.

“Just a pretty lady like you, I’d hate for you to be out here all alone…I’ll watch out for you… I’m a park ranger here.”

I guffawed.

“As long as you’re not the perpetrator” I barked back, flashing my teeth as I spoke, still feeling the leftover toothpaste at the corners of my mouth. I then gave him a big smile cloaked in a sneer. “You’re trying to belittle me as far as I’m concerned. Even if you don’t mean it that’s how it comes.” I pursed my lips so he couldn’t stare at my teeth anymore, and walked away back in the direction of the camp. The three moist faced humans cheered minutes later at my arrival, and I said “shit”.

midwestern librarian, writer, activist. subscribe —

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