“Honey,” she says. “Honey, are you almost done in there? I have to leave soon.”
He is in the bathroom.
“Honey,” she says. “Honey, I thought we could lay down for a little before I have to leave.”
She rests one hand on the door, one hand on her hip. She leans her head against her arm and closes her eyes.
If only I got a little more sleep, she thinks. If only I could sleep straight through.
“Yes,” he says. “Yes, I think that would be nice,” he says. “I’ll be right out.”
“Do you think my car is ok?” she says. “Should I just take yours, then take mine by Bobby’s in the morning?”
Inside the bathroom he sits on the bench next to the sink. Behind him is the window. He has the window open to let the night air in. He has the window open to be more comfortable. He is reading a survival magazine. It is mostly advertisements and pictures. But sometimes there is a good How-to article. That’s what he’s reading now. How to Survive Civil War.
She hears him inside the bathroom. She hears the rustling of a magazine, the occasional downshift or honk from Central through the open window.
The hallway is dark. The light from the bathroom draws a yellow line across her Danskos. Cuts her feet in half, she thinks. Cuts her feet in half so she cannot run away.
She goes to the kitchen, opens the fridge. Her footsteps thud agains the hardwood floor. The floor creaks as she walks across it. She begins to put her lunch together. She looks at her watch. She finishes fixing her lunch and puts it in a plastic bag, puts that next to her purse and white coat and stethoscope. She finds her ID badge and winds the lanyard around it and puts it in the chest pocket of her white coat. She can’t forget her ID badge.
She walks back across the house.
He hears her walk up to the bathroom. He hears her stand behind the door. He looks at the door as if expecting her to come in. He hears her walk away.
She goes to the bedroom, slips out of the Danskos, lays down on the bed. She has only a little while before she has to leave. She loosens the scrubs around her waist. She reaches across for her phone to see the time and if anyone called. She feels the fatigue settle down on her. She feels it press down on her eyes. She feels it clamp around her chest. It hurts to open her eyes. Even with them closed they are burning.
They are out of Diet Dr. Pepper. All she wants is a Diet Dr. Pepper. She considers going to McDonald’s to get one. But then they wouldn’t have time to lay down together. She wants to lay down with him more than she wants a Diet Dr. Pepper. But without a Diet Dr. Pepper she doesn’t think she can possibly make it through the night.
She wakes up with a jolt. She didn’t realize she fell asleep. She grabs the phone to see the time. She’s not late, but it’s time for her to go. She sees there are no missed calls or messages. She wishes for someone to call her. She wishes for a missed call.
“Hun,” she says through the bathroom door. “Hun, I have to go now. Have a good night, ok? Try to get some rest, ok?”
She pauses and waits. She listens to the silence of the house. She listens to the wind outside and the occasional creak from somewhere in the house.
“Hun,” she says. “Hun, is everything all right? Are you mad?” She hears the toilet and the sink faucet. There is a pause, then he opens the door.
“No,” he says, “everything is fine. Everything is all right.”
“I just wanted to see you before I left. I wanted to lay down with you. I’m so tired I can hardly stand it.”
They are in the hallway, the walls sandwiching them together. He wraps his arms around her.
“I’m gonna look for jobs tonight,” he says. “On the internet, I’m gonna look for a job.”
“I have to go now,” she says. “All I want is to be here with you. All I want is to lay down with you.”
“Your car,” he says. “I think your car is fine. Go on,” he says. “Go on and take your car.”
She looks at her watch and goes to the kitchen, grabs her things. He kisses her on the cheek. Her cheek is warm and soft. He presses his face against hers. He kisses her again and she leaves.
He goes to the living room window, watches his wife pull out of the driveway. He watches her taillights down the street as far as he can see. He bites his cuticles and goes to the fridge. Looks inside and goes to the pantry, eats a handful of trail-mix with M&M’s. He wishes for something sweet to eat, like Oreos. They never buy Oreos.
He goes to each door, makes sure the house is all locked. He gets his iPad. He goes back to the bathroom with his iPad.
Her car feels like it’s going to die when she lets it idle. At Fourth, she revs the engine, waiting for a turn signal. The leather seats are cold, they feel like plastic. The leather seats are cold and make her shiver. The streetlights float over and pass. They flicker and die. They bathe the car in orange shadows, then pass to the next.
He sets the iPad on the bathroom counter and goes to RedTube on the internet, to the Mature section. He looks for something with MILF in the title. He finds what he’s looking for, checks behind the shower curtain, begins jerking off.
On Second, between Los Ranchos and Albuquerque, there is no streetlights, just warehouses, a few tenements, a collateral off the river that runs parallel. She stops for a red light, forgets to keep the engined revved, the car dies. It restarts, gets her half a mile further, then dies again. She pulls over, onto the collateral. She uses the car’s momentum to get on the dirt, then the wheels lock and she brakes.
The car sits at a funny angle, almost perpendicular to the road.
She reaches to her bag in the backseat to get her phone. A truck approaches, headlights flood the cabin. Momentarily she is blinded. The truck slows, someone sticks their head out the window–then continues on.
She shivers, wishes for the .38 her brother is always trying to give her. She calls her husband, but he does not answer. Texts him and waits. Another car goes by. Pulls over fifty yards in front of her, idles there, then pulls back onto the road and leaves. She calls her husband again, he does not answer, so she calls her brother. He agrees to come right away.
“That is not a good place to stop,” he says. “That is not a good place to stop and wait at all.”
She crosses her arms around her chest and holds herself. It is cold and she is shivering. She doesn’t know if it is because of the cold or because of the neighborhood. She reclines the seat all the way down so cars don’t see her. She keeps the phone in her hand and tries her husband.
A car pulls in behind her. She doesn’t notice it approaching. Its lights are off. She doesn’t notice it until she hears the car doors slam behind her. For a moment she thinks it’s her brother and sits up. Then she realizes it can’t possibly be her brother so soon.
She is holding the phone in her hand, her hand is on her lap. She hears the phone ringing. She is calling her husband.
Two men walk up to the car, one on each side. She can’t see them well. They stay right behind the door so she has to twist her neck to see them. One of them is whistling a tune she recognizes but can’t place.
The one on the driver’s side knocks on the window. Then the one on the other side knocks too.
“Hey, lady,” he says. “Hey, lady, do you need some help?”
It is the one on the passenger side who’s whistling.
“Hey, hun,” her husband says over the phone.
“Hey, lady,” the man says. “Why don’t you open the doors? We’re not going to hurt you. Why don’t you open the doors?”
“Hun?” the husbands says. “Hun, are you there?”
“No?” the man says, and nods to the one on the passenger side. “You don’t want to let us in?”
Not missing a beat, the man whistling slides a slim jim down the door. She hears it scrap against metal. She hears it grab something and slip.
“Hun?” her husband says. “Hun, are you there?”
AV Boyd lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His work can be found at chughole.wordpress.com.