He hadn’t thought of her in weeks. Well, maybe wasn’t not entirely true. He caught glimpses of her sporadically throughout his mind. When he saw a piece of her hair – just the tip sticking out of his blanket, the rest woven in the material – or a commercial for her firm. But he hadn’t thought of her, just her on his own accord, in weeks.
And yet, here she was on Route 3, eastbound and still one of the worst drivers on the road. Her countenance was the same. Her expressive hand gestures and animated posture hadn’t changed in the least. Her hair was longer than ever, the skin of her hands tanner. Her taillight was fixed. Not that she was aware that he knew it was broken, or that months ago, almost immediately after his fist smashed through the red plastic, that he was planning on a midnight repair. At least not to the best of his knowledge. She was so intelligent. It wouldn’t have surprised him to find out that she knew it was him. What did surprise him though, was to find that he had passed his exit. Her taillights still in sight up ahead were glowing like red eyes, compelling him forward. He would get off at the next one. When your town is as long as it is shitty you could pass three exits, and still be within town borders on the fourth or fifth exit.
The last time he thought of her – just of her and not the essence of her that life forced into his life – was Labor Day. He knew that she had started the summer down at the shore, with her new boyfriend and their friends. He knew in the days leading up to the Fourth of July, before she returned home and before she knew, that her taillight was broken. He knew that she was spending his favorite holiday, watching fireworks, wrapped up in someone else’s arms. He knew that she wouldn’t think of him. He knew how she started her summer – he could only fantasize how she was ending it. Labor Day was the last weekend before school started. A shitty holiday for a shitty time of year. He had thought about her, maybe with some provocation from the powers that be, when he opened his son’s reading list for school. He thought of her bundled in his favorite work shirt in the morning sun with a book and a cup of tea – because scary books and green tea could be consumed at any hour with imagination and warmth – on his back porch. He thought of her in her own backyard, cozied up on a rock in an oversized sweatshirt holding a cigarette she wouldn’t dare to smoke as to not ruin her book. He thought of her taillights still up ahead, and which exit he would have to take to back around home, since he had passed the six ones for his town. They seemed to be near his favorite takeout place. He hadn’t been there since before… before the night his dinner was ruined, and since he was up this way, he thought, he would stop on his way home.
Two of everything, he had told the waitress. Two of everything on the menu, and make it to go. He was particularly cheery, maybe not by normal standards, but by his own. She was coming over for dinner, and he wanted to share with her something important to him. His father and him had come here when he was a kid to pick up Friday night dinner for the family. He and his own son continued the tradition, even though it was just the two of them. That night had been the that night he had chosen to share it with her. At least he thought he would. She had parked her car just as he had been coming down the stairs – he had come home, left the bags of food on the table, and ran upstairs for a quick shower. He had just finished pulling his “I hate you” t-shirt over his head when he saw her car park in front. He plopped down on the couch, and waited for her to come through the door. He was not prepared for her to have a whole cooler with her, or for her to have brought things over to cook for dinner.
His eyes refocused on the road leaving the chill of the cooler in his mind. Passing the exit for the restaurant, he glanced ahead at her car. He wondered what she was going to eat for dinner. He wondered if she had ever made stuffed peppers three ways again. Probably, she was colder than any cooler or freezer he had touched. She didn’t have a conscious or feelings. Not the way he did. He had put so much thought into dinner for them. She faked her way through being surprised and even happy that he had gone through so much trouble. “I’ll just put this stuff in the fridge, and I can cook it another time,” she had said with a smile. “It’s no big deal.” It was a big deal though. It was a big fucking deal. When people appreciated something they said thank you. They told you how thoughtful and kind you were… they’re supposed to tell you that you are amazing or wonderful. They do not plan their next meal. They do not immediately start unpacking things and put them in the “fridge.” They do not make you wait to eat when you timed everything perfectly. When you went through the trouble of getting them dinner. They did not fucking ruin everything. But she did, because she was a liar. And that was her lot in life – to poorly fake happiness and gratitude, and to ruin everything. She only stopped putting her groceries in his “fridge” when one of the containers with soup bounced off the dishwasher exploding, and spraying her with the still hot broth. Even then as she stood there holding her leg, her skirt caught in her bracelet, her one shoe left on the floor as she held her leg up she only looked smug. So perfectly still. If she cared what had happened she didn’t say anything. He hadn’t realized how loud he was shouting until he stopped. She would be making him dinner – her special peppers three ways. She didn’t even bother to thank him as he threw her the paper towels to clean the soup on herself and the floor on his way out to smoke. She was ungrateful. And there she was, still a few cars ahead. Still bouncing her head around like nothing in the world mattered but her.
He hadn’t thought about what would happen as he pulled his car closer to to her’s. His thoughts were lost in blackness of her shutout. When she had left his life and took all the light with her. Her attorney sent him a letter threatening a restraining order – as if anything he had ever done to her had warranted that. The last time he had seen her, they were in love. At least he had been. They were happy. At least he had been. She had given herself to him. She had vowed to be his and his alone. So they had gone on a date to his favorite park to watch his favorite band play. They had held hands on the car ride home. He had forgiven her for hurting his feelings, for making him hurt and lose his temper. She knew he couldn’t cry, he could only yell. Men didn’t cry, and she knew he was a man. He didn’t think about the fight she started with him as he inched ahead of her car. Instead he thought about their drive home. He thought about them making up. Her looking over as he took his cock out. Her taking off her pants and fingering herself for him. He thought about how she asked if she could stop until they got home – he knew she couldn’t wait for him. But she had to. They had argued. She had been forgiven. Now they had makeup sex. It’s what couples did. His vision blurred as he thought about what her attorney had called their makeup sex. She was a fucking liar. She wanted it, she wanted him. And he gave himself to her. The next day she was gone. It was harder for him to force himself to pull out of her than it was for her to leave him. But she did. She left him, and she took all of the light with her. He hadn’t thought about forcing her car over, pushing her off the road into the divider. He hadn’t thought about his son, or what might happen to either of them in the midst or in the fallout. He thought about loving her so fiercely and her taking it all away. Taking herself away. He hadn’t thought of it. He hadn’t thought that she would ever leave him or that she would call his making love to her rape. He hadn’t thought of anything in that moment as his truck inserted its cab door into her car pushing her further and further away from him. He hadn’t thought he had called 911, or that it could be anyone but her. He hadn’t thought.
Now sitting with his attorney, looking across the table at her’s, he thought back. He didn’t remember much, just that he had seen her a few cars ahead, on his way home. He didn’t remember getting into the accident or causing it, as they said. He didn’t remember calling her office phone or screaming at her about the light she took from him. He didn’t remember the woman’s name – the woman he almost killed in that accident. The accident they were telling him could be manslaughter, and that if she died in the next few days they would blame him. That’s what his attorney said. He hadn’t thought any of this had or could have happened. He hadn’t thought she loved him, but now he knew it was true. . “Concerned.” “Afraid.” “Needs help.” Those were the words her attorney used. She worried about him – wanted to help him, to bring the light back. That’s what people who care do – she cared. She loved him more than ever now. He hadn’t thought dreams could come true.