November

1999

Kidnapped

I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my life; why, just the other day I accidentally ripped a chunk of flesh the size of a cassette tape off ofmy inner thigh with duct tape. So I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer. But in July of 1994, I did what is hopefully the stupidest thing I will ever do.

I got myself kidnapped at the age of 17.

First, a little important background. I never learned how to drive. I took Driver’s Ed in high school, and even got an “A” in the class due to my enthusiasm about gory disaster films, but I never actually drove the car. At this point in my life, I was not wearing my contact lenses for some reason, so my vision was an unaltered 20/2000. So I couldn’t see more than a foot or so in front of my face. And I had just graduated from high school. I think that’s about it.

Oh, yeah; my mother had just bought a new Jeep. Her old Honda Civic was originally intended to be “my car,” but obviously I couldn’t do anything with it.

So I was at home one Saturday in July. My mother, her boyfriend and our dog had all gone camping, so I was home alone, sitting at the kitchen table drawing and eating a pear, when I heard a knock at the door. I opened it to find an African-American guy in his 20’s sweating like crazy on my Welcome mat. He seemed very tense, and immediately started into this speech about how he had just got a call on his pager, and his mother was in the hospital, and he wondered if he could use my phone to call the hospital.

“Sure,” I said, and let him in.

I went and got him the cordless phone and left the room while he made the call. He came out of the kitchen with the phone, no less nervous.

“Youngster,” he said, “my mom’s in the hospital in Tacoma and I’ve gotta go see her. She had a heart attack, but my car won’t start; could you jumpstart my car?”

“Uh…” I said, “there’s the Honda outside, but it hasn’t been started in almost a year; if it still runs, I can probably give you a jump.”

So I got the keys and went out to try to start the Honda.

I couldn’t get it started for some reason, so the guy (who had climbed into the passenger seat) said “Let me try, I’m a mechanic.” I climbed out of the driver’s seat and into the passenger side while he tried to start the car.

Needless to say, he got it started and we drove down the block.

“Oh, man, I just remembered – I don’t have any money for gas!” he said.

“Do you mind if I stop at the house of this lady I know and borrow some money?”

No, I didn’t mind.

So off we drove in my Mom’s car. He stopped about six blocks away from my house and ran up a flight of stairs to the door of this house. He knocked and had a brief conversation with the woman who answered, then ran back to the car.

“Oh, man – she couldn’t loan me any money. You don’t have any money, do you, youngster?”

“No,” I said, “I’m completely broke.”

“Okay, okay. I’m gonna have to ask somebody else that I know in this neighborhood. Hold tight, youngster.” And we drove farther away from my house, to some other house, where the previous routine repeated itself. We ended up stopping at a total of six houses, ending up a couple miles away from where we started. By this point, I was getting fairly nervous, tapping my fingers on my leg and looking out the window.

“It’s okay, youngster,” the guy said, “don’t worry. I just gotta make one more stop to, uh, get my keys, and then I can start my car.”

He parked in front of a small house and ran to the door. A few minutes later, he came back and started the car, but instead of driving back in the direction of my house, he began heading down Avalon Way, which heads out of West Seattle onto the freeway.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “Where are you going?”

“Oh, the lady at that last house told me I could do the paperwork at Harborview Hospital. So I don’t need to jumpstart my car – I just need to go to the hospital. Don’t you worry, youngster. I’ll have you back home soon.”

I didn’t even know what to say.

“Hey, youngster, that radio work? Get me some nice jazz on the radio.”

I turned the car radio on and tuned it to the local smooth jazz station.The guy looked at the clock on the radio display.”Oh, man, is that clock right?”

“Yeah,” I replied, “it should be.”

“Oh, no! I gotta go pick up my girlfriend!”

“Your GIRLFRIEND?!?!” I said. “What about your MOM, who’s in the HOSPITAL?”

“Now calm down, youngster,” he said, “I’ll take good care of my mom, but this whole thing just took so long that I’ve gotta go pick up my girlfriend from work or she’ll be really mad at me. Don’t you worry, youngster.”

That’s when I started to realize that I’d severely fucked up.

“How do we get to Aurora from here, youngster?”

And it got worse. Aurora Avenue North is the depressing, motels-and-hookers strip of Seattle, and now we were heading there in my Mom’s stolen car to pick up this guy’s girlfriend. Oy.

“You’re gonna want to take the tunnel by Seattle Center – turn here,” I said.

At this point I just wanted to make this as easy on myself as possible.So we started driving north on Aurora, smooth jazz on the radio, me looking out the window for police officers or anybody who might be able to help me here. We pulled into the parking lot of the Aloha Motor Lodge, and the guy hopped out.

“Oh, god,” I thought, “his girlfriend ‘works’ at a motel?”

I thought about trying to drive out of there – he had left the keys in the ignition. If I could get the car started in time, I might be able to drive home down Aurora without causing a grisly automobile accident. But probably not.

He came running out of the lobby and climbed back into the car.

“Hey, youngster – as a joke, I told my girlfriend that this is my car. So if she asks, just tell her that this is my car, OK?”

I nodded my head sadly.

“You might wanna get in the back seat.”

I climbed into the back seat as his girlfriend came walking out of the motel. All of my worries about her being a prostitute were instantly dispelled, as she was one of the ugliest women I have ever seen in my life. She climbed into the passenger seat and her boyfriend started the car.

“Jimmy,” she said, “I’m hungry. Can we stop at McDonalds and get something to eat?”

“Sure, Brenda, no problem,” he said. So now they had names, at least; Jimmy and Brenda.

Jimmy leaned over as he was pulling out of the parking lot on the busy streetand began loudly and wetly kissing Brenda. She tried to fend him off with cries of “Jimmy, watch where you’re driving! Pay attention!”

“Brenda,” he said, “don’t you tell me how to drive my new car!”

“This ain’t your car, it’s that boy in the back seat’s!”

“No way, Brenda, this is my car! I bought it today!”

“Well then what’s all that stuff on the floor?” referring to my Mom’s Boeing training manuals.

“Oh, that all came with the car. You wanna go to Burger King or what?”

So we took off down into the Ranier Valley, the closest thing Seattle has to a ghetto. Jimmy pulled the car into the drive-through and ordered some food.

“You want anything, youngster?”

“No, I’m fine…”

So we drove off with Burger King food, Jimmy eating and driving, occasionally stopping to make out with Brenda at a red light or in traffic.

“Jimmy,” Brenda said, “now I gotta go to Pay-N-Save to get my hair stuff, okay?”

And that’s when I lost it.

“PAY-N-SAVE?” I yelled. “What about your MOM, who’s in the HOSPITAL? What about the INSURANCE PAPERS? What about jumpstarting your car!?!”

“Oh my God, Jimmy,” Brenda cried, “your mom’s in the hospital?”

“Aw, no, no,” Jimmy explained, “she’s just some lady I call my mom.”

I fell back in the seat, defeated.

“Listen here, youngster. I’m gonna go to Harborview right now, and then once I drop off these papers, I’ll take you right home. You’ve done me a big favor, youngster, and my family will never forget it.”

“Sure, sure, whatever,” I said. I didn’t care.

So we drove over Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood and parked in a lot outside an apartment complex. Jimmy and Brenda got out, leaving the keys in the ignition. I waited until they were out of sight and climbed in the driver’s seat. It took me about five minutes to start the car, but eventually I drove out of the lot. I figured out how to get home without taking the freeway, driving slowly under the bridges through the Industrial district, and made it home, where I locked all the doors and collapsed on the couch.