“You wanna do something fun?” he leans back and stares at the roof of the car, refusing to make eye contact with me. He has decided the fight is over. He loves me again. I can either go along or keep picking at it.
“Like what?” I laugh. He sits up and starts the engine. He rolls down the windows and slowly pulls out of his driveway. “Where are we going?” I ask.
“Trust me,” he replies. That’s the problem, I think to myself, I don’t. I shake my head and begin to roll up the window. He rolls it back down. My fingers return to the little black button; the mechanics begin whirring. “Fine, be a party pooper,” he says and I bite my lip. I roll the window down. The air is cool and crisp, autumn is knocking on our door. I heave a big sigh expecting him to ask what’s wrong. I’ll say, “Nothing.” It’ll be a lie. The fight will start either because he’ll call me on my bullshit or he won’t. I’ll be hurt in both scenarios. He doesn’t say anything, just swings right at the light. “Where are we going?” I ask the brightly colored trees. He shakes his head at me like I am a child tripping over my own feet in my mother’s borrowed heels. I let my arm fall into the wind like a flag pole. I let myself relish in the shivers that run down my spine and a smile spreads across my face. When he slows at the next light I pull my arm back in and my left hand rushes up and down its companion to rewarm it. I catch him staring at me out of the corner of my eye. His dark blue eyes bore into me, the way they used to when we first started dating. The light changes to green, but his gaze doesn’t leave my freckled cheek.
The radio starts playing a song about a summer love on a summer beach. I change the station. A deep bass fills the car. His nimble fingers shoot out and bounce us back to the country song. A female backup singer is wailing, the guitar riff is jamming. He is smiling. I heave another sigh and watch colorful leaves rush around us. My arm flies back out the window and I weave my hand like an airplane, fingers spread out wide. I screech as he rolls up the window and my arm flies to my chest. He rolls his eyes and merges onto the highway. Fuck you. His eyes shot over to me, did I say that out loud? As he turns on cruise control his right hand drops into the black center console and his left perches like a parakeet at the top of the steering wheel. I roll my eyes as he opens the console and pulls out a pack of spearmint gum. I hate spearmint gum and he knows it. I take a deep breath in and he dramatically unwraps a stick and places it on his tongue. One eye watches the road, the other peers into my soul, daring me to react.
I don’t. Instead, I start looking for license plates that start with A. “AHZ 203,” I boast proudly and point at a red bug. He punches me in the arm. It’s harder than necessary and I cry out. He takes a deep breath in and exhales slowly. Another country song comes on. It’s about a breakup. I slink back in my seat and cross my arms around my chest, but not before I dramatically rub my left bicep. He shrugs and says, “BUZ 184.” A black minivan rushes past us. I turn my nose up at him. “CIT 478,” a motorcyclist weaves in and out of our lane. His black leather jacket makes him look like a beetle. The song ends with the final cries of a violin which has been masquerading as a backup instrument. A commercial about a new apartment complex hosting showings plays. My heart races. He begins to exit. A large wooden sign advertising pumpkins nearby comes into view. “EVP 777,” he points out a truck. My eyebrows shoot up, you skipped D. He would deny it. Can’t stand to be wrong. I’d run through the cars-the red beetle, the black minivan, the motorcycle, the truck. He’d sputter out some makes and models of vehicles. I’d concede. Why? A commercial for a local dentist begins playing as he follows the signs to FOSTER FARMS. We turn onto a dirt road, he rolls down the windows.
Dust fills my lungs and my eyes begin to water. Really? You roll down the windows now? Damn straight he’d roll down the windows now. I huff and puff my distaste as he maneuvers his vehicle into a spot. It’s a jam packed day. Kids in flannels and jeans that match their parents rush past us. We sit parked for a moment, listening to a symphony of laughter. I press my lips together, rub my eyes, and dramatically turn my bicep so I can see if there’s a bruise. He sighs and opens the door. My boots crunch on the gravel and I throw my dark curls into a ponytail. He doesn’t tell me to grab my sweatshirt. I close my door and try to shrug it off. There was a time he would. We walked side by side up to the red barn. Like magnets, our fingertips graze each other. Our hands are not clasped. A woman stands behind a plastic table with a little cash box on it. A brigade of red wagons are neatly parked to one side. She is busy convincing a family of six they need to wagons not one and the oldest child, maybe 10 or 11, is protesting that he is a, “big boy.” He tugs on his father’s blue button down sleeve and says, “I can walk, Daddy. I can!” The father smiles, kisses his son’s blonde curls and holds up two fingers. The boy’s mother mumbles her name, “Charlotte,” to the employee in a red polo and marches over to Wagon 3 and 9. We approach the table. He shakes his head when she asks if we want a wagon. Her green eyes glance at my face. I want a wagon. There was a time when he would’ve asked, when we would’ve taken laughing selfies and tried to tip over the wagon. There was a time when I would’ve posted it on social media and he would’ve made us his cover photo. Now, it’s a picture of a cherry blossom tree.
We walk down the dirt path as instructed and begin searching for treasure. Most of the pumpkins near the entrance have been plucked so without speaking a word, we decide to walk deep into the field. I spot some large orange ones and begin walking more quickly. My footsteps echo in my head and I wonder if he’s watching me. I get twelve feet ahead when I turn around and realize he’s not by my side. He’s knelt by a green pumpkin. I sigh, typical, and begin the journey back. The green pumpkin is tiny. He cradles it in his palm affectionately. My right hand flies to my hip which I pop out in frustration. He doesn’t look at me. Not anymore. I huff and puff. I sigh. Nothing. Fuck you. The gravel spits dirt from my heel as I spin on it and head back to my orange pumpkins. These ones are huge. Too big for me. They break my heart because he won’t offer to carry it back, not like he used to. He won’t say, “Climb in,” and hand me my pumpkin. It won’t be slightly cool and get my jeans a little dirty. I won’t stare at his butt as he pulls me giggling back to the barn. I found a baby, still pretty orange, but easier to carry. When I look up, I see him approaching. It’s a race back to each other so I stand quickly and begin the race walking to him. “I’m done,” I say defiantly and he heaves a sigh. He meanders past me to the collection of orange pumpkins. “Hello? I said I’m done,” I’m frozen, watching him. He doesn’t turn back, but stands like a scarecrow beside the pumpkins. There was a time I would’ve snapped a photo and written across it: FUN, FUN, FUN! before pasting it into a scrapbook.
Instead, I am pulled to him. He is examining the pumpkins, considering his green tomatoesque pumpkin. “Sit down and close your eyes,” he tells me. I set down my pumpkin dramatically and find a pumpkin to sit on. It’s cold on my ass. I bend my knees and rest my elbows on them so I can put my fingers in front of my eyes. In this dark world, I can hear the sound of wheels on a dirt path, the laughter of children. I can’t see him, but I know he is moving all around- his boots squelch in mud, his cologne wafts around me. I peek out and catch a tiny image of him; his hair is a mess. There was a time I would have ran my fingers through that hair, jumped onto his back, and kissed his neck. We would have been that couple. The one everyone is jealous of. The one that makes all the heads turn and the angry employees turn their nose up. I hold my index and middle finger back together. The world goes dark again. I feel cold and shiver slightly. My nose searches for the scents of apple and cinnamon wafting from the barn. Instead, it’s filled with clean air. I breathe deeply.
“Ok, open,” he commands. He’s down on one knee. The left knee of his jeans is covered in dirt and he holds out a little gold key with a kitty cat in a pink bow on the end, because I have always wanted a cat. It’s a house key. My breath catches in my throat. My heart beats out of my chest. “I know things haven’t been outstanding,” he starts, “But I want you to know I’m committed to you. To us. Move in with me?” He phrases it as a question. I watch his chest heave in nervous gasps. There was a time I would’ve screamed, “Yes!” I would have thrown my arms around that neck and covered him in kisses. Everything would be perfect...for about six weeks. I would pretend it was enough. It would be a lie. He’d know it. I’d know it. We walk back in silence, our pumpkins abandoned.