A Visit to Tara

Copyright © 2008 by Tiki Kritzer Seger.  All rights reserved.


I was going through some old papers (love letters, notes, old phone books, etc.) , when I came across the telephone number and address of a girl I had lived with in a children’s home for a while; her name was Tara.  Tara and I had never been bosom buddies, but we had liked each other casually, and on an impulse, I decided to get in touch with her.

Tara was thrilled to hear from me and immediately invited me to come up and spend the weekend with her at her parent’s house in upstate New York; I agreed.  We both were pretty excited about seeing each other again – also, for me it was a chance to see something new and I always did get a kick out of going places where I hadn’t been before and taking part in new adventures.

On Friday afternoon, I caught a train to the little, country town where Tara lived and she and her mother picked me up at the station.  I was shocked at how Tara looked; she had never been a great beauty, but at 16 (she was a year older then my 15), she looked like a badly preserved 25.  She had gained a lot of weight and looked exactly like a dumpy pear; on top of that, she had freckles and dishwater brown, curly hair.  The worst of it was that she actually thought that she was attractive and she had such a sweet, naïve personality that it was impossible to tell her the truth – it would have killed her.  I felt very superior to her because I was thinner, prettier and smarter; it would probably have been very good for me if I had realized that in spite of my having those obvious advantages, Tara was a much nicer and more generous person than I was.

We drove through some lovely countryside for about 20 minutes to get to the 2 story house where Tara lived.  It was a great old house with many large, comfortably furnished rooms and a grand, elderly, benevolent feel to it.  Tara’s mother was also a good hostess and a great cook, so I settled in very easily. 

We spent the afternoon hanging around, talking about old times, and Tara showed me the nearby town which was a 10 minute walk from the house and was pretty typical for small, countrified, American towns – a miniature supermarket, hairdresser, one clothing store, one shoe store, a movie theatre, a café / bar combination and a five and dime store filled with relics from past years.  It didn’t take long for us to get bored and to start wondering how we would fill the best part of the day – the night.

Tara came up with the idea that it would be fun to visit this guy that she had a crush on and for lack of anything better to suggest, I said ok.  It turned out that the boy she liked was planning to hang out at another friend’s house and they said that we were welcome to join them there.  When we got there (it took about 30 minutes by bus from the town center), Tara’s friend (I can’t remember him at all) and another guy named Jim (tall, skinny, average looking with a friendly, open grin) were sitting around, listening to music, drinking Screwdrivers (Vodka and orange juice) and feeding raw hamburger to Jim’s pet Piranha.  I immediately got myself elected as bartender and stayed amused for the next hour or so by mixing extremely strong drinks for the others while pouring plain orange juice into my own glass (I never liked to drink alcohol – I don’t like the taste or the results).

After a while, Tara and her friend started to make out and Jim and I felt like peeping toms.  Jim suggested that we take his friend’s dirt bike (off track motorcycle – no lights, no registration, no insurance) out for a spin – as usual, I was up for anything that sounded like adventure and I immediately agreed.  I borrowed a leather jacket from Tara’s guy and Jim wore his own; there were no helmets.  We started off; in spite of Jim being halfway drunk and it being pitch black, he knew the roads really well and we drove towards the town laughing and having altogether a great time.  All of a sudden, there was a sound like a huge smack and I went flying through the air; as I came down my face slammed against something and my cheek started burning and stinging horribly.  I thought my face had been ground against the pavement, and at the thought of being scarred for life, I panicked – Jim told me later that I kept yelling “My face, my face!”.

An ambulance came with flashing lights and screaming sirens, and Jim and I were loaded into the back of it.  On the way to the hospital, he told me what had happened; a drunken man had parked his car on the side of the road and had left the driver’s side door open when he went around to the other side of the car to throw up.  We had driven right through the open door at around 100 miles per hour; Jim went flying in one direction, I went in another and the dirt bike (luckily) landed far away from both of us.

At the hospital, they examined both of us, and our right legs (which had gone through the car door) were x-rayed.  Jim’s knee was splintered and he had to have it encased in a full plaster cast; the bone was ok in mine, but the muscle was slightly ripped and I had a damaged tendon so they put about 6 layers of elastic bandages on it.  Jim was given crutches, but I was told that I should use my leg even though it was excruciating to walk on, because normal usage would help to ensure that it would heal correctly.  My face was fine; it had slammed against my arm when I hit the ground, and the pain of it hitting the sleeve of my leather jacket was what had made me think that it had exploded.

Jim’s parents were furious when they arrived at the hospital and Tara’s weren’t very happy either.  After Jim and I had been poked, prodded, bandaged, etc., we all went back to Jim’s house.  Tara’s father and I waited in the car while her mother went inside to collect her; then we drove back in silence to her home.  As soon as we got there, we went to Tara’s room and I told her what had happened; she thought it was pretty stupid of us, but wasn’t all that concerned because we were ok and she was euphoric because of being able to mess around with the other guy for hours while we were gone.  Since the night was almost over, and the shock had started to catch up with me, we went to sleep pretty quickly.

The next morning, although Tara’s and Jim’s parents had both forbidden them to go out, we all snuck out of our respective houses and met in town.  We decided to go to a house that was famous for having been the home of a mass murderer – it had been deserted for about 3 years and no one would buy it or live in it.  The house was on the side of a mountain, and we had to hike there; since neither Jim nor I could walk very well, we improvised by sharing his crutches and leaning on each other; we very quickly developed a kind of crablike, crippled gait which kept Tara and her friend in stitches laughing every time they looked at us.

When we got to the house (it was more like a large, overgrown cabin) it was starting to get dark.  Because Jim and I were handicapped, it had taken much longer for us to go up the mountain then we originally thought it would.  Tara and I went into the house to look around while Jim and Tara’s boyfriend checked out the surrounding grounds.  Inside, the house was pretty normal, and since no one had been back after the murderer was taken away, it was still furnished – if rather sparsely.  It was an old house, and we kept hearing sounds like moaning and groaning because of the wind and the settling of wooden boards; also, we had flashlights, but it was almost night outside and there was a creepy, spooky atmosphere in the deep shadows on the periphery of the flashlight beams.

We were standing in the middle of the large living area, when something starting tapping on the roof; Tara screamed.  My heart leapt into my throat and I could feel the blood pounding in my ears as I got ready to confront whatever was coming; next to me Tara was breathing in little, frightened pants – like a trapped animal.  Then we heard a very distinct giggle and the boys collapsed into the room through one of the windows; they were laughing so hard that they could hardly speak.  They had crept onto the roof and tapped in it with a stick; when Tara screamed they couldn’t stop themselves from snickering so the gag was over.  Tara and I were so relieved that it was just them that it was impossible to stay mad; we just laughed weakly and asked them what the plan for the night was.

It was too dark for us to find our way back down the mountain, especially with Jim’s and my injuries, so we decided to spend the night there.  Unfortunately, we had nothing to eat or drink and there were no beds or blankets; we all snuggled up together on some old benches and although uncomfortable, we figured one night wouldn’t kill us.  At least we had plenty of cigarettes and we weren’t alone – we had each other.  The guys kept trying to scare us, and with Tara they succeeded almost every time until I got sick of the game and told her to get a grip on it.  After several hours of whispering and bullshitting around – Tara and her friend kept kissing and cuddling each other and Jim would have liked to do the same with me, but I was only interested in him as a friend – we finally fell into a restless sleep.

As soon as it started to get light, we all woke up.  We got up immediately, immensely relieved that we had survived the night although none of us would have ever admitted to having been scared.  We agreed to take a look in the cellar and then to go back down the mountain and face the music for having snuck out and for having spent the night away from home without permission.

We climbed a flight of old, concrete steps down to the cellar and ran our flashlight beams over the damp walls and floors and a group of stained, concrete tables that were arranged almost ritually in the middle of the available space.  On each side of the tables, two iron rings were embedded in the floor and one of the rings had a length of chain attached to it.  There was nothing else except a faint, metallic scent overriding the smell of damp, mouldy concrete.  Almost simultaneously, it occurred to us just what the tables had been used for and what the stains must have been – they were still slightly brown and there were splatters and spray patterns around each of the tables.  We didn’t say a word, just turned around and ran (as fast and Jim and I could) up the stairs, out of the house and were halfway down the mountain before we stopped.  We stood there and looked at each other in the bright morning sunshine; it was warm, there was a lovely light breeze and the leaves made interesting patterns on our faces – it was all perfectly normal and we started to laugh and joke around as though nothing unusual had happened.

When we got back to Jim’s house (it was nearest), his mother was waiting for us with a newspaper in her hand.  She was so angry that she spluttered as she informed us that because Jim was 16 and I was 15, he was being charged with endangering the life of a minor and that he would have to go to court because of it.  The newspapers had somehow gotten hold of the story and it was in the Sunday edition of the local paper; our names were not mentioned because we were underage, but Jim’s mother said that everyone would know who it was anyway.  She told me that I was a really bad influence on her son, and that I was forbidden to come to her house or to have any contact with him in the future; she said that he didn’t need any sluts like me as friends.

I went back home with Tara, and her parents told me pretty much the same thing in somewhat milder terms; they then drove me to the train station and I went home to Manhattan.