For a while in my life I lived out of my car. I was 16. My parents marriage was a decomposing thing for as long as I can remember, rotting from the inside. Violence was a norm in my house, and we all faced it in our own way. Dad was the hand of "justice" and would smack my mom and myself around at whatever real or imagined provocation that for some unknown reason flipped his switch that day. Mom would beat me as a sort of release valve, keeping her from simply dying, I think. A few times CPS was involved, when things got so far out of hand that our neighbors had no choice but to act. All of this lead to me being 16, in my car, and living in a Wal-Mart parking lot.
The town in which I grew up is small, but anymore in America, a town only needs a few thousand people to warrant a Wal-Mart to come in and become some sort of physical embodiment of lower-class turmoil. When I was 16 I was working full-time and going to school. After work I would drive to the library and do my homework and mess around on the computers until closing time, and then I would get in my old Mazda MX6 and drive to the Wal-Mart. There I would park in the side lot because it had the lowest level of lighting which helped me sleep.
I would sleep with the keys in the ignition. It was a small town, and there was little crime, but I was a sixteen year old girl, in my car, sleeping in a parking lot. Chances were not something I could afford to take. In the winter I would crawl into my sleeping bad, wearing my coat and shoes to sleep. One evening as I began to crawl into my sleeping bag a rusted passenger van pulled up the parking spot directly next to mine. In the yellow sodium lights I could make out a figure in the drivers seat, but couldn't see much detail. I slithered out of my sleeping bag, not waiting to see what this person was planning, turned my car on and drove off.
That night and the next several, I parked in the library parking lot to sleep. The problem was that the library lot was occasionally patrolled by the police, and one evening, just a few days after my strange encounter at Wal-Mart, I awoke to the flashing lights of a police car. I bullshitted an excuse about running away for the night, because my parents wouldn't let me go to a party. He made me promise to go home, and he followed me as I drove off, so I had to drive back to my house. I got out of my car, walked to my front door and opened it. It was late and my parents were asleep. I remember standing just inside the front door, eyes closed, willing my parents to not wake up. After a moment, the cop drove off, and I was back in my car headed to Wal-Mart. There are few others places in my small town where a car parked all night wouldn't arouse suspicions.
Winter had been especially bad that year, and snow fell thick and often. In my little side lot parking space, my car quickly was covered in snow. Not long after parking, and sliding into my sleeping bag, snow had collected on my car windows, screening out the sodium parking lights and my view.
I remember waking up because I was cold. The sleeping bad I used was a shittty $25 number from Wal-mart for kids to use in the living room, and not a serious winter bag. Though I was wearing my coat, and shoes, I was still cold. It took me a moment upon opening my eyes to realize that the inside of my car was too bright. The light from the parking lot lights was streaming in through my driver side window. Someone had brushed the snow off.
In a panic, I began to squirm my way out of the sleeping bag, which is like a contortionists trick in the tight confined of my car. As I struggled free, I noticed outside my window the same van that had parked too close to me last time. Again, it was parked right next to my car, invading my space. I could see footprints in the snow leading from the van to my car. I didn't see the driver or anyone else in the van, which had me wondering if they were around my car. Only my driver-side window had been brushed off. I couldn't see out of any other window. I was finally free from my sleeping bag, when a person began to wipe the snow off my passenger side window. I saw a white, long-fingered, bare hand pushing away the snow. I turned the key, still in the ignition, and my car started on the first try.
The problem was that my windshield and back window were still covered in snow. I turned the wipers on, but the weight of the snow was too much. There was an electric whine, as the wipers moved maybe a quarter of an inch and then stopped. The hand that had been wiping off the snow on my passenger window began to tap its fingernails against the glass. The snow had only been wiped from the bottom half of the window and I couldn't see anything above the man's chest. I hit the wipers again, and got no where.
The tapping fingers turned to a hammer fist. Pounding, pounding, pounding against the window.
I put the car in reverse, trying to remember the immediate layout of the parking lot, trying to see in my mind's eye where the cart corral and the cement light stands were in relation to my blindly careening Mazda.
Once free of the immediate vicinity of the, could you call it attacker, I rolled my driver's side window down and leaned my head out. I put the car in drive, and drove away from the side lot, the van and the strange man. Near the entrance to the Wal-Mart, I put the car in park, left it running, got out and cleaned off the windshield and back window in about ten seconds. I got back in the car, checking my rear-view, waiting to see the van's headlights come around the corner of the building, and drove off.
Violence seems to follow me.