by Jannitt Ark
I’m lying alongside you, propped up on an elbow. You’re flat on your back, smirking. You’re handsome enough to get away with smirking. I used to cry sometimes, thinking you were too handsome, that I’d lose you to someone else.
“How many fingers am I holding up,” I say. I give an open palm.
“Two,” you say, blinking. “Any more difficult questions?”
We’re lying here like we’ve just have sex, like this is the part where I admire you afterward. The rain seeps from the asphalt into my jeans. Behind you, lit by the headlights, the people in rain ponchos look dipped in glow-in-the-dark paint.
“Sorry, I’ll think of something,” I say. “I know you’re bored.” The people in ponchos look like tourists just off the boat at Niagara Falls. Drenched, trying to find family members.
“You look like you’re freezing. You want this?” You mean the mylar blanket they’ve draped over you.
“I’m great,” I say. “You keep it. You know I’m not into chivalry.”
One of the poncho people squats next to me, rain dripping from the plastic cape onto my hand. A man’s voice booms from the hood. “How’s he doing?” he says.
“I’m fine,” you say. “When will the ambulance get here?”
I’m glad they parked so you can’t see the blazing white side of it, the lights painting the road in red and white flashes. One of the EMTS, as if determined to do something useful, is distributing gum to the others.
“Any second now,” the poncho man says. He gives me a deep, sad look before standing up again and leaving. I want to apologize to him, because I’m not your wife or your high-school sweetheart or the mother of your child. We’ve just been sleeping together for a while.
You smile at me. “I always knew I would be the type to be thrown clear. Were you wearing your seatbelt?”
“Yeah,” I say.
“You got lucky.”
I’m thinking, maybe we could just build a house. A glass house, to let in the light and keep out the rain. The state diverts the highway five miles west. The forest grows in again to muffle the sound of traffic. You can’t move, but you have a tablet so you can still read everything and work remotely. Your arms get strong from holding it over your face. You read the news to me as I move around the house, boiling water for spaghetti, folding laundry for the two of us. We’re a little restricted when it comes to sex, but I like being on top.
Friends visit. We admit to everyone—-we hadn’t planned on becoming a long-term thing. But you know how it is, we tell them. Sometimes life throws you a curveball.
“Hey, come back,” you say. “Don’t be worried. I’m going to be fine.”
For the first time since we started dating, you’re looking at me with deep concern. It’s enough to finally make me fall in love with you, just a little.
You reach for me, but for one awful second, your hand can’t find my face. Before you notice, I grab it and press it tight against my cheek.
“I know,” I say. As if it were my skull that was split, my brain that was cradled in place by the wet asphalt. As if your hand could stop, for one more minute, my life from leaving.
About the Author
Jannitt Ark is an American writer living abroad. This is her first published story.