Angela lived on the opposite side of town; the bank was between us. Rather than drive through, I liked to get out of town as quickly as I could and then take the back roads. I drove with my windows all the way up. The air from the vents was just as fresh as the air from outside. I caught a lucky string of traffic lights. All three glowed green and I slowly built my speed, catching the last two just as they turned yellow, seeing them shine red in my rearview mirror as I passed. The traffic thinned and the neon lights from the gas stations and stores, the dimmer lights from the windows of homes, faded in my rearview mirror. In the sky ahead, the clouds had nearly disappeared in the darkness, but still loomed there, hung low, in bulky shapes. Between the street lights, the stretches of darkness swallowed me. My headlights strained to light the road ahead for just a moment before it passed beneath. A short stretch of road before I was lost in the dark. My headlights drowning, illuminating the path ahead like the lid of a coffin.
I smelled a hint of Virginia Slims cigarette smoke and I cracked the passenger window. She knew I didn’t like her smoking in the car, but I only smiled and watched the road. My hands were light on the steering wheel, but I hugged the yellow lines. I eased my foot down on the accelerator and I could hear her breathing. She exhaled and it sounded like a giggle. I was giggling myself as bugs pinged off the windshield, their last thoughts of comfort in the car’s glow. I let go of the wheel with my right hand and rested it on the soft seat between us, my fingers crawling towards her. She giggled louder, the way women did, in movies, or on TV, when they were nervous and in love. I wanted to look over at her, but I didn’t dare. I leaned my head back against the seat and breathed deeply, watching the road between heavy eyelids. I felt her looking my way. She leaned against the passenger window in a flirtatious posture. I could nearly see the cigarette loose in her hand.
The tires caught in the shoulder, and the rocks along the side of the road exploded. I grabbed the wheel tight and yanked left, but the car kept right and I felt it tilting beneath me. A shudder and the car righted itself, climbing back up and finding the road.
A blaring commercial between songs filled the car. Wind whistled through the cracked open window. I closed the window. The shadows of trees and the void of black, flat fields loomed in the windshield.
When would I learn to not do that while I was driving?
But I’d been so happy. I tried to reach back and catch it like trying to crawl back into a dream. I could remember. I was with Angela, or she was here with me, and we were just driving like I was doing then, but I wasn’t alone. She was there.
It wasn’t enough to remember.
The road felt dry underneath me. The stars were like dots of white crayon on black construction paper.
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