Please Don’t Cry
“We’re running out of time,” she tells him.
He knew the look. He had seen it a thousand times. When she gets this way, he knew to just remain calm. Anything he said that was not a confirmation of her assessment would lead to crying. He couldn’t tolerate her crying. He loved her more than words could ever describe, but her crying was…it was just ugly. Glistening snot accompanied by the vexatious gulping of air like a beached whale choking on a truckload of sand, and then the end…the end was the worse.
Hiccups always followed the sobbing. Once, she had hiccupped for hours, late into the night. He suggested they go to the emergency room after trying all the home remedies to end the gastric convulsions. She started crying at the insensitivity of his suggestion. The hiccups stopped. Ironical remedies.
He turns the wipers on as the rain moves from mist to drops. Fat drops reflecting oncoming headlights as if diamonds were falling from heaven.
“We have plenty of time. I don’t want to push it. The roads might be slippery.”
“They’re not yet. But if you don’t hurry, they will be. Please hurry.”
He glances at the clock radio, not wanting to take his eyes off the road. He hates driving in the rain almost as much as he hates her crying. The blue numbers read 6:37. She might be right, he thought, they were running out of time. He stayed in the center lane. Cars on his left sped by as if the roads were dry and the drivers were invincible. A panel truck in front of him turned on the cargo lights and slowed to fifty.
“Jesus!” She spits. “Go around him.”
He should ask her if she wants to drive. But he can’t because she can’t. The three-pound cast wrapped around her right leg, from toes to calf, had grounded her from the driver’s seat. Boy had she cried that night. Even the ER nurses kept making excuses to leave the gulping, snotting, sobbing patient. He sneaks a glance at her and then at the driver side mirror. One car coming, behind that one, a buffer. He put on his blinker as the car passed, counted to three, and the carefully navigated the lane change. He passes the panel truck, a moving company with a picture of a smiling, very attractive housewife on the side. I wonder if she ever cries.
The blue numbers change to 6:40. A voice on the radio is talking about the rain. It will be here through the weekend. Another voice, a toothy sounding, naively sweet female voice tells him what he already knows—traffic is slow and go. But not too much go.
“It’s clear, you can driver faster,” she informs him.
He doesn’t tell her the left lane is for passing only. Flicking the blinker arm up, he slides in front of the panel truck. 6:42. “We will make it on time,” he assures her.
The familiar cadence of the wipers acts as a garnishment to his soothing tone.
“Do you think so?” She asks as the clock changes to 6:43.
A sea of red taillights suggests he has no chance of making it on time.
“I promise,” he tells her with a smile.
“What if we don’t?” She asks him, turning the volume down on the radio.
“We will be there,” he tells her with enough vagueness to not be mistaken for a second promise. A second lie.
“But what if we don’t? What if we run out of time?” Her voice on the verge of panic.
She knows it is not like before. Things have changed, it is the 21st century for Christ’s sake. Time has taken on a new meaning. No longer are people slaves to the uncompromising grip of time. People work from home, never punching a time clock. Meals are microwaved in a matter of seconds. Criminals no longer serve their time, now granted lesser time for good behavior, time served, plea deals…it goes on and on. When he was the District Attorney, things were different. No one got off easy. The world is going to shit in a hand basket…in its own time. And the time clock in basketball! What kind of shit is that? Tenths of a second! Holy crap, this world is in big trouble…
“Did you hear me?” she asks, “Or are just ignoring me again?”
She’s going to cry. He can hear it in her voice.
“I heard you. I am just concentrating on the road. If you want to get there, please let me drive.”
And shut the fuck up. He adds in his mind.
“I just don’t want to be late. I can’t be late, you know that.”
He can see the green sign through the rain, even as darkness invades the day. Two more exits. 6:46. It will be close. He applies slight pressure to gas pedal. The Lincoln obeys without sliding and crashing into the guardrail, flipping the car over and over with both occupants hitting their heads on the windshield. Warm blood cascading down confused faces. Ribs cracking under the lifesaving grip of seatbelts made in America. The car coming to rest in a ditch littered with highway trash. The rain pounding against the mangled rooftop, windshield wipers pounding out a sad song. And his wife…crying.
He slows the car.
The sky lights up, streaks of lightning crossing the east night sky like a mad painter’s brush branding the canvas. Thunder rolls. He hits the blinker arm again, moving into the empty exit lane. 6:51.
We might get there in time, he thinks. He glances over at the woman who stole his heart so many years ago. She is holding her hands in her lap, squeezed to tightly together he wonders if blood can flow to her fingers. She is biting her lower lip. Red brakes lights from the car in front of him make it appear as if her lip is bleeding.
“Please don’t cry,” he tells her in his most soothing voice, “We are going to make it. We always have.”
As he pulls the Lincoln into the circular drive, the skies open. Rain driven by merciless wind punishes them as they run towards the dark house. He falls on the wet pavement, cracking his hip against the landscape stones. She doesn’t slow down to make sure he is okay. The cast she wears on her leg, soaked and forgotten. He can hear her fumbling with the keys. The door opens, she runs in, never looking back. Pushing himself off the ground, his suit drenched and heavy, he sees the lights come on.
“Thank God,” he mutters, “What if the electricity had gone out.” The crying would be terrible. He looks down at his watch. A smart watch, an anniversary gift. The red numbers read 7:00.
From inside the house, he hears her squeal.
A moment later— “Wheel of Fortune!”
We made it, he thinks, walking into the house.
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Jim, my mother, the most avid of "Wheel of Fortune" fans would've been flabbergasted by your female character's rabid devotion to the show. Terrifyingly heartless as a result of her narcotic TV habit!
Your mother sounds to be a wonderful woman. Your observation of "narcotic TV habit" is appreciated. I have dealt with addictions for many years, somewhere along the way I discovered they do not always come in a bottle...television, money, social media and dare I say...writing a story.
Blog story-writing...a narcotic indeed...whose primary effect can be profound ambivalence. I've been coping with it since December. : (