It’s dark in the car, so I only catch glimpses of her from passing headlights and street lamps.
I can only get flashes of her- her dark, thick, long hair. Her strong nose, pointed and elongated by the shadows surrounding us. With the passing lights, her eyes turn dull, then too bright, then twinkling. Her gleaming white hands interrupt the blackness of the car, and they grip the steering wheel tightly. The last time I saw her, her hands were tan and calloused and chapped. It’s been months, though, and now they’re pale- too pale. A car races past us, and in the glimpse of light, I can see the oil from her lotion sweating on the backs of her hands, and then it’s dark in the car again.
She’s talking. She hasn’t stopped since she started driving. She doesn’t stop for air, not even once.
Her voice used to be beautiful, to me. It was low, with dips and lifts that carried me along like waves of an ocean. I used to be entranced by it, letting it pull me farther and farther out to sea.
Now, her voice is hoarse. She said she smoked a joint before meeting me, to take away the nerves. “It’s been so long,” she said, with a high, grating giggle, “and I’d been so worried. I missed you so much.”
I didn’t mention that I’d tried to make plans with her before this. I didn’t mention that there was no reason for the separation, other than the fact that she was always “busy, so busy, sorry about that.”
Yesterday, I forgot to return her text. She’d invited me out two hours later.
A streetlight sweeps over the car, again. Her mouth is still moving, her voice low and harsh and jagged with the edges of her high-pitched giggles. She’s saying, “and I love him but it won’t last and I’m going to a better school than him and I ditched our date to hang out with friends, yesterday,” and I zone back out because even her words are jagged and sharp to me, not just her voice.
I stare outside the window, stop looking at her and the lines of her face and her unfamiliar hands. It’s cloudy and overcast and I can’t see any stars. It’s been threatening to rain, but it hasn’t, not yet. She said that it was a good thing, that she hated the rain, but I’m starting to hope it does, hope that the rain dissipates the gray, ugly clouds just so that I can see the stars again.
The steering wheel spins beneath her new, white hands, and I realize that we’re close to my house.
“…yeah?” She asks, and I say, “mhm,” and she says, “Good, I had a good time, too. Why don’t we do this more often?”
And I feel my tongue swell with all the responses that I can think of, but they all taste bitter and hollow to me, so I stick my nails into my palms and I only say, “I don’t know.”
She smiles at me, and really, she’s beautiful, and I forget everything I’ve been thinking.
The car jerks to a stop.
“Alright, you’re home!” she says. The car’s indoor lights click on as she puts on the emergency brake, and I see her full face for the first time, this entire car ride. Her eyes are wide and her skin is winter-pale and I realize how distant she is. I’ve known her for so long, for years and years and years, but now she’s using different muscles to smile, and the yellow lights hit her face at a different angle, and I don’t want to get out of the car.
She stares at me with her new, alien eyes, and she asks why I haven’t gotten out yet.
“I think it’s starting to rain,” I say.
She blinks. “Not yet,” she says.
“But it will,” I say, “Could bring along a thunderstorm, or something.” I’m stalling, and I know it and she knows it but I just want a minute, two minutes longer before I have to leave.
She laughs and it’s annoying and I miss her old laugh, the kind that sounded like twinkling wind chimes, and she says, voice hoarse, “We’ll see each other soon,” even though I know that we won’t.
I feel my ribs tighten up with something itchy and twisting, but I say, “Sure.”
And I get out of the car.
She pulls away, and I stand in my driveway for a couple seconds, breathing in the dark. The only lights I can see are her headlights, driving farther and farther away from me. I feel like a shadow in a world of shadows, and I wish for rain. God, I wish for rain.
I walk up to my front porch slowly. I’m waiting for something, for a raindrop to hit or the clouds to stretch away from the horizons, but it doesn’t happen.
I close my eyes, and I pray. I let myself believe that tomorrow, it’ll rain so hard that all the clouds will burn away, leaving clear night skies behind.
I want to see the stars, tomorrow.