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“So, I’ll see you tomorrow?” She asked, nervously twisting her hands in her lap. She watched his face as he turned towards her, the distance in his eyes killing her slowly. “Tomorrow?” She repeated it because she honestly wasn’t sure if he ever listened to her the first time she said something.
He stared at her for a few more moments, his eyes focusing on her face briefly, “Right, yes.”
She felt her hope fading. Was it worth it? The moments where he was completely hers seemed to be disappearing. She could count the times he looked at her with anything in his eyes remotely related to emotion. She remembered when it felt like he was cradling her with his gaze, when she felt love. But, that was months ago. Now, anytime she held his gaze, it felt like she was looking at a rock carving of the man she used to love.
Used to? With sadness, she felt that this was true. Her love was behind her.
“Well, goodnight, then,” She whispered. And, as always, she leaned in for a hug goodnight.
The stiff, awkward back pat was what she expected. She smiled as she remembered the nights where she could hold onto him for hours, engulfed in his warmth and feeling like she was in the place she had dreamt of. The realization that she was wrong added to the earlier welling in her chest. She decided to save the conversation for another night. Perhaps she was wrong and tomorrow he will look at her like she was his angel again. Perhaps he’ll ask her about her day, or be concerned when she tells him that she was having problems sleeping at night.
She sighed, he let go of her. She missed the linger that they used to share.
Pushing open the car door, she walked through the chilly night, tears in her eyes. She thought that he was her one and only. That he’d be the only one she’d ever want to fall asleep next to at night, to wake up next to in the morning. For a time, she thought that he felt the same way.
Maybe this was the end, she thought, but they had some pretty good times along the way. She pushed open the door of her building and watched the headlights dance across the trees on the street. She saw the raindrops beginning to fall and closed the door on the night.
The drops came slowly, at first, as he began the drive home. It was a ridiculously long drive, full of winding back roads and highway construction. Driving the route was automatic, he didn’t have to think; not of the nights that used to be or the ones he used to dream of.
He remembered the night they drove hours to meet her family one Christmas Eve. She was nervous, but she held his hand the entire time. She acted embarrassed as he looked through the photos of her childhood, but they both loved sharing the part of their lives that was still a mystery.
The rain intensified, smashing into the windshield with a fervor that caused the droplets to multiply and run off of the glass. The reflective water caught his attention. But, as was often the case now, his attention was captured by something else and diverted. The rhythmic dance of the windshield wipers pounded in his head. The lights of other vehicles pierced his eyes and daggers floated through his head.
Was it really so long ago since The Night?
The trees never looked the same again. They became looming creatures with sinister intentions, reaching for you as you drove past. They were forever looking for him to join the others.
The ones you see on the television. Stories so removed from the humanity of the moment that they were able to be absorbed while one was eating supper. Facts were spewed, names weren’t given. No one wanted to know of the life behind the accident, the soccer game that was missed, the guitar that was never played again, the wife that never had a chance to say goodbye.
But he remembered. He did not find this the entertainment that it was broadcast to be.
He knew what it meant to be on the other side of that broadcast; to be the child who stayed up late for Daddy’s return, the return that occurred in a box rather than in person.
Lights in his eyes, rain drops on his windshield, the steady thump of the windshield wipers.
Red light means stop. Applying the brakes and waiting. The rain pounded on his car, a mocking reminder.
It had rained that night. Innocently, he had raced the water droplets on his bedroom window as he watched for the headlights of the familiar Ford. He was soothed by the tapping on the roof. Even the lightening was entertaining to his young mind.
Green means go. Let up on the brakes, accelerate. The winding roads were particularly lovely at this time of night. He had no sense of direction anymore. The shadows danced in front of him, across his face. The car raced with his heart.
He felt the wheels sliding, losing traction. The turn was too much.
There was no panic. He remembered what his driving instructor had said, remove your foot from the accelerator, hang onto the steering wheel, do not brake, do not turn the steering wheel.
But something inside of him stirred.
His foot, as if on its own volition, pressed down. His arms jerked to the side, as they clutched the steering wheel.
The bright lights, the rain on his face, the steady thump of frantic footsteps.
The broadcast was on early in the morning. She was drinking her coffee, a necessity now that she couldn’t sleep through the night. She rubbed her eyes as the robotic morning announcer spoke about the storm of the night before.
A report of an accident came on.
She spoke briefly of the power lines that were knocked down in the aftermath of the wreckage, the power outages that resulted in the city. An unnamed male, approximately twenty five, had crashed his vehicle into the power lines. There was no word on the condition of this man. They showed some footage of the power workers fixing the broken lines, electricity snapping around them.
Something had caught fire, smoke rose in the distance.
She turned off the television and slipped off of the kitchen chair and she went off to work.
It wasn’t until later that day that she would get the call from the police officer.
I’m sorry to inform you ma’am. Her heart stopped it’s fluttering in her chest. Her hand hovered next to her coffee as he continued. His voice was deep, rough with emotion. Couldn’t find any next of kin. They were told by the neighbors that she was seeing him.
The tears that could not come gathered in a pit deep inside of her. She hunched and whispered into the telephone. Yes, she could identify the body. Yes, this afternoon would be fine.
Who could’ve known that the story she had heard this morning was to result in her presence in a morgue as he lay on a slab of metal. The sheet seemed obscenely mocking as it was pulled back to reveal his face, finally rightfully devoid of the emotion she had sought.