Their faces are blue from the glow of the instrument panel of the car. It’s late. Out of habit, she scans the side of the road looking for deer; they’re thick this time of year, but her eyes go to the white stripe lining the side of the highway. It’s like they aren’t driving, but are being whisked along the concrete like those moving walkways in the airport.
She blinks her eyes slowly, tired, but doesn’t want to sleep while he’s driving. She doesn’t want to be rude…or snore. She shifts her body weight in vain to get more comfortable, but the seat belt digs into her neck. The day has worn her out, so she doesn’t fight with it. Slipping her shoes off, she wiggles her toes into the floor mat, surprised at how plush it is.
She sees him move with her peripheral vision and hopes he isn’t getting overly tired. She thinks about asking him if she should drive, but she blinks slowly again and decides it’s best he remains behind the wheel.
They drive in silence, save the ever-constant music. He reaches for the volume dial on the car stereo. She watches his left leg move up and down to the tempo of the song, and realizes her own toes are tapping along. She wasn’t aware of it until then.
She starts to say something, then stops herself. That’s dumb, don’t ask that. Her mind whirls at all the things she wants to ask or comment about, but always lets those thoughts remain unspoken. Part of it is because he’s enjoying the music, but mostly because she doesn’t feel she has anything valuable to say. That’s a problem with her, actually; always silent. It’s not that she doesn’t want to talk, it’s just that she doesn’t know how to. Secretly, she wishes she could be one of those people that always talks, that always has something to say, always willing to participate in conversation or strike one up on her own, but with as many decades of life she’s lived, she hasn’t started yet, so in her mind, she’s doomed. She is a good listener, though. So there is that.
Miles go by and still no word from either of them until he breaks their quiet.
“I’m tired of being alone,” he says. Despite the randomness of what he said, she loves it when he talks. His deep but soft baritone vibrates in her ears and she can feel herself become anxious to hear what he has to say next, like children huddled around their family radio listening to their favorite program back before television–sitting cross-legged on the floor, their hands under their bottoms to keep them from wiggling around too much, hunched forward to capture every word spoken as to not let a single one fly by their ears. Words more precious than any rare stone.
Those five words are all he says and goes back to tapping his leg to a new song.
Me, too or you don’t have to be alone or you know how I spend my nights? Laying in bed, wishing I was next to you, but true to her form, these words never make it out of her brain, down her tongue, and out of her lips. She tries, please believe she does. She hopes he doesn’t think she’s uncaring and cold by her frozen jaws, because that’s far from the truth. She hopes he knows that days, even weeks from now, those five words of his will be all she can think about, wondering if she can bring it up later, or if the statute of conversation limitations is gone. Too late, lady; you had your chance.
Her eyes close slowly again, this time lingering shut for a few seconds before opening again. The seat belt is digging into her neck again. The floor mat under her feet has deep grooves from her jamming her toes into it so hard. The words remain caught behind her teeth.
From the corner of her eye, she spots the glow of green in the eyes of an animal. The white line blurs as it transports them closer to home.