Redmond High School
It is during times like these – in your hot, beat-up red 2006 Subaru, whose air-conditioning has been broken for almost three weeks but you haven’t gone to get it fixed yet, on the way to a random desert in Nevada, where you intend to meet someone you have never spoken to before, a complete stranger, to drop off a box, whose contents you don’t know and were told not to find out – that you try to recall back to every single event that you have experienced since birth to see what led you to this life.
And it’s not that you dislike your job (you actually enjoy it very much, more than you care to admit to yourself) and it’s not that you don’t live comfortably; you mainly became a “deliverer” for the money, let’s be honest. It’s just that there’s this small, nagging voice, buried deep underneath your layers of brick walls and barriers, and even though you try to tune it out, it’s always there. It whispers in its high-pitched, raspy voice, which travels up your spine and into your ears and seeps into your thoughts when you least expect it, like right now, on your way to the random desert in Nevada.
Was this what you wanted your life to look like right now? The voice asks. You shrug, and once your shoulders are up and by your ears, you realize the ridiculousness of it all, how this little voice now controls your movements, too, and you throw your shoulders down in a harsh motion and grip onto the steering wheel a little tighter. The voice isn’t done, though.
You firmly believe that people are influenced by the other people that surround them: nurture over nature. You ask yourself if it had to do with your parents, and feel that morally, you can’t really answer that question, but yes, it did have to do with your parents. Your father was more of an acquaintance, coming in and out of the house whenever he pleased. Your mother was the one who raised you. She was the type of person that was never supposed to be a mother, didn’t carry the ability to care for another person besides herself, let alone a child. She tried, though, and you reason that you can give her credit for trying.
She was the first person who taught you to steal. You remember the exact day. It was one of the hottest days of July, so humid that once you step outside your t-shirt soaks in sweat and the thin fabric sticks onto your body, becoming one with your skin. Your mother said she needed to run some errands and grabbed your arm and you were off, walking on the street in the heat, your worn-out blue flip flops flicking the pavement with every step. You both enter the corner store at the end of the street, refreshed by the cool mist of the air conditioners, and your mother leaves you, heading towards the clearance aisle, pretending as though you are a complete stranger and not her kid whom she entered the store with just mere seconds before.
You aren’t phased by this, though, and mindlessly head to the candy aisle, tracing your hand along the plastic wrappers until you find the chocolate bars section. Your flip flops stop in their place and you look up, staring at the Milky Way bars in awe, and they stare back, calling out to you. Your stomach growls right on cue. You look down at your dirty feet and slowly lift your head up. You think about the unthinkable. You could do it, if you wanted. No one would suspect a little kid. You would flash a sugary smile at the cashier when you exit. They wouldn’t miss one chocolate bar, would they? But something stops you. It’s the voice; it was whispering to you, even back then. It tells you that you aren’t this type of person. That you are better than this. And back then you didn’t loathe yourself, so you believe this, believe that you are worth more. You groan, stomp your flip flops dramatically, but secretly you are smiling. It was a test, and you passed.
Your mother suddenly rushes into the aisle. “Where the hell were you?” She growls, grabbing you tightly by your wrist. You stare at the Milky Way bars one last time, and she notices and stops. “Oh, I get it,” she smiles bitterly, showing her rotting yellow teeth, and the sight makes you wince, so you look away. “You think you are so smart, huh?” You keep your eyes down on the floor. “Well, come on now, don’t be a coward. See, you just take one,” she reaches out, grabbing one bar, “and then put it in your pocket.” She forcefully stuffs it into your right pocket, and then grabs your wrist, and you are out of the store, and under the sunlight again, and you melt in the furnace, and your mother laughs loudly, her awful, raspy laugh echoing in the street, which you absolutely hate, and the bar is melting in your pocket, so you take it out and rip the wrapper, taking a bite into the gooey chocolate. And you hate the taste, and now your stomach is hurting, maybe from the syrupy-sweet chocolate or maybe from the guilt, and you don’t look up from the ground the entire way home, just staring down at your flip flops, and when you get home you throw away the uneaten stolen bar in the trash.
You continued stealing ever since, because you became very good at it, and what else was there to do?
And now you are in your car, on the way to a random desert in Nevada. You try to shake away the memory you recalled, and distract yourself by turning on the radio, which does work, but barely, and it sounds too static-like and you still can’t block out the thoughts. You look into the rearview mirror, catching a glimpse of the brown box in the backseat. A small part of you wants to know what’s inside, but you don’t care, not really. You’re simply the deliverer, that’s what you tell yourself, and you can feel the guilt burying itself down a little further.
At last, you spot another car, coming from the other direction, and it switches lanes so it is driving right towards you, and you wonder what will happen if you stomp on the gas pedal as hard as you can and let go of the wheel. Will you finally feel something? But you don’t get the chance to answer that question. The black car slows down until it stops about five meters in front of you. You let yourself roll to a stop. You reach into the backseat and grab the box and put it on your lap, and then open the glove compartment, the loaded gun sinking into your palm, weighing it down.
You open the car door and step outside. They haven’t gotten out of their car yet. You walk forward until you are right in between your car and theirs, and place down the box on the road. They still don’t get out, so instead you go back to your car, the engine slowly sputtering into motion, and then you’re off. And as your drive past the black car, you swear you could see that the passenger is smiling wildly, revealing a set of rotting, yellow teeth, but your vision isn’t that good, and you probably didn’t see it right.
Intensely personal, “The Deliverer” captures everything from the desert sun to suppressed guilt in incredible detail. Did I ever deliver a mysterious package to a stranger in Nevada? No, but as I read this piece, I truly believed that I did.
Shira Zur (she/her) is a senior in high school headed to the University of Washington in the Fall. She has loved to read and write ever since she can remember and hopes to pursue writing in her ongoing education.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR