by Henry Trinder
In between the two of them sat a pair of sticky cup holders. His was filled with the remnants of bubble gum wrappers, pennies, and various crumpled receipts. Hers was brimming with starburst wrappers, but only the yellow and orange ones. She tossed away the rest.
The stop and go driving technique the man was fond of caused the empty cups littering the floor to slide across the rubber car mats, with soda syrup and water dripping of the lids andonto the floor. His left foot was careful not to allow any of these cups to fly under the pedals, andhe swore to himself everytime he would throw them away as soon as he got home. His handsbore one simple silver ring, and he could feel it press into his skin as he wrapped his fingersaround the wheel of the car anxiously, like some great mariner hauling the ship’s wheel to avoida watery grave.
She was tucked up into the corner by the side door, one leg underneath her, the other castlistlessly aside under the glove compartment. The fingers of her right hand were turning the ringon her left hand around and around until she left it hanging upside down. She then methodicallyclosed the fingers on both hands into small insignificant fists. She could feel the diamondimpressing itself into her palm. Opening her hands once again, she could see the small imprint itleft on her skin. Slowly, she lifted her head from the cold, shaking car window and turned ittowards the shadowy outline of her husband. With great care and effort, she said, “Would I stillbe beautiful if I were bald?”
The husband’s ears perked up, surprised by the sudden sound. “Well I’m not sure. Yes, Ithink you’d still be quite charming, in a different sort of way.”
“Well I think I would look dreadfully dull. Especially since it might reveal that huge dentin my head. You know the one.” She said, knowing that in fact, he did not know the one.
The husband suspected a trap, and gave serious thought to a small lie forming in his head.He decided against it. “I’m not sure I do,” he said. “Care to elaborate?”
“A meteor hit me when I was six years old. Not the huge giant ones people usually thinkof when they think of meteors. This one was small, about the size of a chicken‘s egg.” After aminute she added, “You wouldn’t be the first not to believe me.”
The Husband was unsure how to respond. When he began speaking, his mouth lookedready to detach from the very body holding it. “That sounds awfully painful. How’d that comeabout anyways?”
“Well I think, it happened when I was looking for sticks to build a magic cave with... Itmust have been just after dark, because I remember at first thinking it was a shooting star. It wasonly after it hit me I realized I was mistaken. But that’s how it happened, not really why ithappened…I guess it happened because it knew I didn’t want to live in a thing not shaped likeme any longer.”
She let a small silence fill the car.
“So what happened to the meteor?”
“Oh I think I still have it. It bounces around my head every once in awhile.” Her eyes glanced absentmindedly out the car window.
“Well as long as it doesn’t bother you too much…” he let the rest of his sentence trail off. His hand unwrapped itself from the steering wheel and reached for the knob on the radio.
She lifted both her legs onto the seat and pulled her knees to her chest. Her eyes glanced down at her watch to check the time, but found both her wrists bare. Her watch was gone.Concerned, her eyes scanned the car floor and cupholders. It wasn’t until she bent over and stared underneath the seat that her husband inquired as to what exactly she was doing.
“I don’t know, I just can’t seem to find my watch…”
“What do you mean?”
“I can’t find it.”
“You’re sure you wore it tonight?”
“Well we haven’t gone that far… let’s just head back to the house and see if someone found it.”
“Ok. Thank you.”
A minute went by. The car passed into the left lane for a U‐turn, which was about a hundred feet or so away.
“You’re sure?” he asked.
“Oh yes… Really it’s just not worth it. All those pretty people and their pretty faces and pretty clothes next to the pretty wallpaper, it all gets to be a little much sometimes, don’t you think?”
“Well I guess so…”
“You guess so?”
“I just think it bothers you more than it bothers me.”
A hand reached up to adjust the radio knob.
“Which watch did you lose?” Asked the Husband.
“The one with the black face and leather strap.”
“Did I give you that one?”
The wife hesitated momentarily.
“Well now that I think about it, I think you did. Oh and I remember when you gave it tome! I don’t know how I could have forgotten... I’m sorry, it was a wonderful watch, really it was.”
He sighed. “It’s ok. People lose things all the time. Maybe we can blame that meteor of yours.”
“No it wasn’t the meteor, definitely not the meteor, the meteor wouldn’t do that.”
The husband glanced at the glove compartment, subconsciously hoping he had a spare straightjacket floating around. Then he thought about how the glove compartment isn’t all that accurately named, because he knew there were no gloves nor any straightjackets inside, probably just some old fast food napkins and loose change. He pondered some new names for a while until he realized his wife had been talking for a full minute straight, and was now waiting for a long overdue response. He didn’t have one, and she knew it.
He reluctantly looked to his left and faced her. He hated when she looked at him like that.In her irises he could just make out a sailboat moving without any wind, saying This is fine I can just sail myself thanks wind for nothing.
She had been waiting for him to finally notice her. She hated when he looked at her like that. She knew he hadn’t heard a word she’d said, and in his eyes she could make out a great mariner at the ship’s wheel ignoring cries of an imminent storm, yelling at the top of his lungs. You call that a storm?! You’ve clearly never seen a real storm!
He ended their small standoff by turning his attention back to the road. “Are you sure you wore it tonight?” he asked without looking at her.
“Hm.” “Hm what?”“Do you have any idea how you lost it?”“Well, I’m really not quite sure… I could have taken it off in the bathroom, or maybe it just slipped off all by it’s lonesome self.”
“I’m not sure watches do that.”
“Well maybe this one did.”
“What were we talking about again?” asked the wife, forgetfully.
“About how you lost the watch.”
“Look it’s gone, I feel bad about it, but these things happen.”
“That’s what I said, but now I just don’t know anymore.”
“What do you mean?”
“Part of me thinks you didn’t just lose the watch, but that you really lost it.”
“Like on purpose?”
“Like on purpose.”
“Why would you say something like that?”
“Because your arms seem lighter without it.”
“Well maybe they are. But what does it matter?’
“Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”
“Obviously it’s something.”
“No really, it’s fine.”
“No it isn’t.”
Silence came crawling back into the car. A hand reached for the radio knob. He tightened his grip on the steering wheel, once again allowing the silver to impress itself against his bare finger.
The wife begin to lose herself in the passing streetlights. She thought about how we’ve all collectively decided to replace stars with streetlamps, and how you can only have one or the other, never both. It would be too much to have both stars and streetlamps, she thought, too much. She realized she liked light best when it was surrounded by something. After all, it would be odd if we had light both down here and up there. What would be the difference then? Her eyes shifted upwards. No meteors tonight, she thought. None tonight. None at all. Haven’t seen one since then, she thought. The light doesn’t really shine from the streetlamps like they do in stars, it just kind of bleeds out, she thought. It doesn’t have a sense of direction like the stars, she thought. You never hear about shooting lamps, but you hear about shooting stars, she thought.She wondered why.
Eventually the smooth road gave way to a rocky driveway. A hand reached out, not for the radio, but for the ignition. The car slowly died around them.
The Husband was the first to exit, and walked to the front door, expecting his wife in tow.When he hadn’t heard the car door open he looked back and saw her sitting motionless, more of a silhouette than an actual person. Her left hand motioned for him to go in without her. He unlocked the door and pushed his way inside.
It took some time for her to get out of the car. When she did, her high heels crunched awkwardly against the rocks. As she shut the car door, the last sliver of light closed over the watch underneath the car seat.
Leaning on the car trunk, she silently smoked until all she could see was ash. Ash, not dust, she thought. An important distinction. Smoking silently for some time, she thought again about the streetlamps and stars. Looking upwards, she noticed there were no stars out tonight. No stars at all, she thought. Not a single one.
Author Bio: Henry Trinder is a senior at Norfolk Academy High School in Norfolk Virginia. He’s a multi instrumentalist, who is off to study Music Technology at NYU next year. His favorite authors include Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Carver, Haruki Murakami, and Zachary Schomburg.