I never knew where it was. When they came, three of them, never saw them again, they gave me a stick-on, said, Put this on the inside of your wrist, I said, What’s it for? Protection, they say. Yours or mine? Both. So I put it on and we’re getting underway, they give me a prompt, or a script, they say: You’re just getting a ride. Just an ordinary day, just going wherever you’d ordinarily go. No armored whatever, just an ordinary car save that there’s full-plate where the windshield would be so no one can see one of them is driving, but even that’s not so uncommon. I put the sticker on and they’re tense and I don’t want to distract them or annoy them but I’m thinking: This is not doing anything, it’s not having any effect. But I don’t say anything, we’re driving, driving, chatting, they’re asking me about work, it’s clear they’ve been trained how to do this, how to make small talk, put you at ease, without learning anything that could put them at risk later, or you. It’s pretty remarkable, actually, all this stuff you never think about, you know, you imagine someone learning how to have a conversation and make it feel casual, get you to lower your guard, and meanwhile they’re scraping you, they have an agenda and you never realize or not until later, but what about the opposite? How to have a conversation and make it feel natural but without learning anything about the other person.
Trip takes a while, couple hours, maybe four? Six? They’re passing around, like, energy bars, but good ones, handing out bottles of tea, like it’s a road trip, nothing that requires a lot of planning, just stuff you might pick up at the Z-Mart on your way out to the mountains. They ask me if I need to stop, to stretch, relieve my bladder, whatever, and I say no, and it’s the truth, I don’t feel the need for any of that. Finally they say, We’re here, you can take the thing off, and I say, Wait, what? It had been just getting light when we left and now the sun is going down, the sky’s all pink, we get out and I hear dogs barking, a fucking rooster, and I have no idea where we are and no memory of the route, no memory of any of the country we passed through to get there.