had three good reasons for taking the job.
first one was, of course, that I was unemployed, and this particular
fact used to start a number of arguments with my parents every day,
to the point that I started to wonder if they would eventually get
tired of it and just kick me out.
second one was my long friendship with Jacobo, and all the years I
had known his parents, Mr. Sierra and Mrs. Echeverría. And their
house, obviously. It had been Jacobo who had come up with the idea of
volunteering me as a candidate for the job, and as I understood it,
his parents had accepted without giving it much thought.
third was that my sedentary lifestyle had started to become boring.
There were only so many things I could do at home. Even with the
power of the internet within my reach, my list of interests wasn’t
particularly extensive, so it all had come down to binge-watching
shows or learning useless trivia from long-winded articles on
had, however, one good reason for not taking the job, and that was my
granted, might be a bit of an overstatement, or so Dr. Magaña would
say. But a lifetime of panic attacks and worst-case-scenario
mentalities had led me and those who knew me to describe it as such.
Medications did help, and so did my once-a-week sessions with Dr.
Magaña, but I still disliked and avoided any situation where I was
forced out of my comfort zone.
Magaña heavily influenced the job taking decision. While talking to
my mother she said that at this point in my treatment, given my age
and my particular set of “skills”, taking this job would be very
beneficial for me. My mother immediately called Jacobo’s parents
and accepted on my behalf.
I learned this, I felt a heavy weight form in my chest, and this
reluctance also made me feel incredibly guilty. But then, the more I
thought about it, I started to see the whole situation in a more
positive light. Yeah, this might somehow be good for me. It would be
something to do, it would prepare me to move on, and it would
potentially keep me from being kicked out of my parent’s house in
the long run. Dr. Magaña would be out of the country during the
first week of my employment, since she had engaged in some sort of
spiritual retreat in the Himalayas or somewhere of the sort, and she
would not be able to answer her phone. My good mood wasn’t affected
by this fact, and she was proud of me when I told her that I would be
that’s how I ended up taking the job to house-sit the
Sierra-Echeverría household, in my old hometown of San Felipe, while
Jacobo’s family was on vacation. It would be a fifteen-day ordeal,
but my tasks didn’t seem overly complicated. At least from the
quick read I gave to the e-mail Jacobo sent me a few days prior.
I would get to drive there in my mom’s old Chevy, and driving was
one of the things that my anxiety did not interfere with, oddly
enough. So, whenever I got the chance to drive long distances, I
enjoyed it a lot.
remember the drive there, that night.
like that reminded me of the times I spent driving on the highway
with my dad. We’d be surrounded by darkness, the stars blinking
high above us, the odd light from a remote town shining in the
distance. Every now and then the radio static would give way to a
random classic 80’s rock station from up in the States, and we
would both hum to the music, until it died down again.
dad has always been a great storyteller, and when I was a kid, during
those trips through deserted highways, he would tell his scariest
stories. He would tell me about the old lady whose son chopped her
finger off after she died, just so that he could sell her ring; and
how she came back from the dead to scare the life out of him for
told me about the ghosts that haunted his aunt, and about the
shaman shape shifters who could turn into any animal they desired and
use their powers for whatever they wanted. He frightened me, telling
me that Don Pedro, the security guard at his office, was a nahual,
given his otherworldly ability to control dogs. I never looked at
that man the same after, and always tried to stay on his good side.
the stories, though, he would often be silent for several minutes
before speaking again, and when he did he would talk about deeper
topics, things that, maybe, kept him awake at night. Maybe it’s
because I am his only son, maybe the night and the quiet and the road
made him feel a need to talk about these things, and he felt he could
confide in me. He would talk about life, and death, about his family
and his relationship with his own father, who had passed away around
that time. He would get philosophical and ponder the accuracy of the
religious beliefs he had grown up with. He wondered about life’s
meaning, and about his place in the world. He would tell me about his
childhood, his fights, his victories and his every day in a town and
country so different to the ones I knew and know now.
was a nervous kid, probably an early indicator of what would
eventually become my anxiety, and I had been painfully aware of my
own mortality from a very early age. Therefore, whenever the
conversation would turn to our time on this earth, or to how long we
actually got to enjoy living, an uneasy feeling would creep up inside
me, like a pit of blackness growing in my stomach. I would want to
ask him to stop, please, stop talking about these things that make me
so nervous, but I could never find the words. Instead, I would
pretend to have fallen asleep. He would eventually notice my silence
and my closed eyes, with my head leaning against the window, and he
would stop talking, maybe disappointed that he couldn’t actually
confide in me, or that I could not hold a quality conversation with
then, there would just be silence, the static on the radio, the
darkness around us, and nothing else.
though these conversations still took place when I was an adult, it
was their presence in my childhood that really marked me; driving
alone on the highway always brings back those memories. As an adult
the thoughts that used to stir my dad’s philosophical side now
plagued me, made me wonder more deeply about my life, trying to find
some meaning behind choices, actions and events. It’s a peaceful
kind of pondering, on the highway, and spacing out is far too easy
when you’re alone, in a car, on a lonely road at night.
I was spaced out then, pondering a little too hard, being a little
too absorbed in my own world when I was too late in noticing the
figure running into the road. This made me too late in hitting the
brakes, too late in stopping my car before the blunt impact that
cracked my right headlight and put a dent in my hood. It was
impossibly fast. My head was thrown to the front so hard that I
bumped it against the wheel, leaving me disoriented for a couple of
seconds. Everything felt disjointed, the night’s silence pressing
hard against the buzz in my ears.
got out of the car, my whole body shaking. The mangled, still mass on
the asphalt stopped me from focusing on the damage to my car.
breathing became faster, and I felt the panic starting to take over
me. My first thought was to phone my doctor immediately, to look for
advice, but I knew that would be pointless. I thought I would throw
up, and somehow, I didn’t. I realized suddenly that I had not hit a
person, but rather some sort of big, brown and gray dog. I laughed
nervously and looked around. The highway was just as empty as before,
just as quiet, just as still. I sat on the non-dented side of the
hood and wondered what to do. The initial wave of panic was
subsiding, and I started weighing my options.
there much longer was not one of them. Highways at night are not
also felt bad leaving the corpse there on the road, where it could
get run over again, and again, and again, until it fused with the
ground and became unrecognizable, like all the roadkill on all the
highways in México.
fingers tapped uneasily on my knee, and I kept on looking around as I
thought, looking at the corpse, at my car, at the road. Would my car
jumped in again and turned the key, and to my relief there was only a
little protest, but the machine came back to life. Good old Chevy. No
point in turning it back off and risking it changing its mind. I set
the gear to reverse and started to back up. My headlights sat fully
on the dog. It was a sorry sight, macabre and upsetting, twisted as
it was in a growing pool of its own blood.
guilt came over me faster and stronger than the nausea, and I found
myself outside of the vehicle again, opening the trunk.
had a bunch of old newspapers in there, and after putting my suitcase
in the back seat, I started spreading them out until the bottom of
the trunk was covered in them. Then I walked to the front of the car,
took off my jacket and threw it on the dog. “I must be crazy”, I
muttered to myself as I bent down and grabbed the corpse. The animal
felt both mushy and rough to the touch; I grimaced, gathered my
strength and pulled up as hard as I could.
body was incredibly light. So much so that I almost fell backwards.
Surprised, but in a hurry, I gathered myself and put the dog in the
climbed back in the driver’s seat, shifted the gear to first and
stepped on the gas, and was relieved to be moving again. A pair of
headlights were coming towards me from the other side of the road,
and as the other driver passed me, I tried not to look at them.
an hour or so more until I reached San Felipe.
That meant an hour or so in which I had to figure out what to do next.
© 2019, José Emiliano Carrasco Tena
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