She was in the passenger seat, leaning her forehead against the cold window. Her makeup was perfectly applied to her already naturally soft and soothing face. She spent nearly half an hour perfecting the wings at the corners of her hazel eyes, ready to fly anywhere but where she currently resided. The violet, eggplant shade of lipstick on her alluring lips tempted all in her vicinity. She had a faint dark circle under her left eye to match. Not fresh but resembling a coffee stained crescent moon on a coaster-less table. The gator skin pumps on her feet caused blisters the size of Rhode Island, but the days of pain that followed seemed worth it. Her midnight colored dress was chosen with precision for such a rare date night.
He sat in the driver seat with one hand on the steering wheel and one hand on the stick shift. He possessed more rings than fingers. Some were gold, some were tainted silver, but all left green rings on his sausage fingers when taken off for a good night’s rest. Heavily accessorized with more wrist wear and necklaces than appropriate, he resembled Mr. T walking away from a KAY Jewelers on payday. His popped collar and cutoff sleeves said, “I was born ready for date night.” His John Cena-like denim capris said otherwise, but with a pep talk in the mirror and some justification, it was perfect.
He was more dialed on the road than the tension that’s been building between them over the past several months. It was dark outside. Only the sea of taillights ahead of them and the distant headlights quickly receding behind them provided a source of minimal light from the exterior. The Bluetooth connection to his phone was more static than bass-heavy Pitbull screeching through the overpriced speaker system. The fluorescent green dashboard clock projected 10:15, but they were both aware of the recent daylight savings time change. Was it 9:15? Was it 11:15? Who knows and who cares? Their eyelids were more heavy than usual, if that helps at all.
After she aggressively punched the power button to the music, an increased sense of discomfort filled her boyfriend’s powder blue Scion tC. She glanced quickly over to the silhouette of his face, only to see it artificially half-lit by the untrustworthy clock. It seemed as if he were a computer programmer staring into the rapidly moving matrix that lay before his eyes. She tried remembering a character’s name from The Matrix in order to crack a joke and dispose of the elephant in the coupe.It was a movie she knew he loved so dearly and watched countless times. She unfortunately had to sit through it herself, more times than she would have liked, only falling asleep before Keanu Reeves morphed into a futuristic, EDM greaser.
If only she knew what lied ahead such an uneventful beginning to such an overrated movie. Yet, every time she was shaken to consciousness by her boyfriend as the ending credits rolled. With disappointment and annoyance in his face, he would guide her to bed half-asleep as she rubbed the freshly-formed dust and Cheetos crumbs from her eyes. The Cheetos crumbs, she knew, belonged to her heavyset, ever-growing, self-neglecting boyfriend.
These thoughts of better times passed through her head often. Yet, were they really better times? Were there ever better times?
As they traveled quickly down the highway, changing lanes more than necessary, she felt more like a passenger in their relationship than she did in the car. Maybe this was because of her exquisite talent for being a backseat driver, something she knew he hated more than The Matrix Reloaded. Maybe it was because of his hyper aggressive, alpha male, and controlling tendencies. Maybe it was the rent he failed to contribute over the past 4 months. Or, maybe it was his excessive consumption of her food clearly labeled “DO NOT EAT! LUNCH FOR WORK!”
She wanted to keep her impressively annoying talent for correcting his driving up her sleeve for the trip back. But his failure to use the turn signal more than a dozen times irked her to a boiling point.
“Will you please use your fucking blinker?!”
“Stay in your lane, bitch.”
She was unsure if his soft, straight-faced reply was to her or the rusted Dodge Neon that lay ahead of them in the fast lane. His eyes never left the road and he seemed to be involuntarily ignoring her plea. Either way, she cared very little about whom was intended to be on the receiving end of such a douchey insult. Regardless, she wanted her requests to be satisfied, so mumbling curses under her breath towards the side view mirror, she said,
“Inconsiderate, no job havin’, little cocked, piece of human garb–“
“What was that?” was his reply in a tone that really meant, “I know what you said. Do you want to say it a little louder? Give me a reason to crash this car and kill us both.”
Their telepathic communication was truly astounding. The message was transmitted perfectly to his clearly better half, but she would not retreat from such a simple request.
“I’ll yank the wheel from here and do it myself if you drive me to it.”
The already quiet car somehow became more silent and still. A cricket even started faintly chirping from what sounded like the trunk of the vehicle.
“No pun intended,” was her finishing blow to such a powerful threat. Yet, her attempts at lightening the mood with such a needless reply only made the elephant grow twice in size.
Defeated, or in compliance, one cannot tell, he flicked his right turn signal on and began merging the coolest car on the road into the right lane at precisely 10:35. Or 9:35? Whichever it was, it didn’t matter.
What he failed to do, though, was shut off his turn signal, leaving it on for everyone to notice but himself. This quickly caught her attention. It became the only thing she could focus on.
The repetitive flasher absorbed her full concentration, leaving the passenger in a state of paralysis. This hypnosis caused her to ignore all relevance of time and place. If her significant other was trying to communicate with her, which was highly unlikely, she would not have noticed.
This directional strobe light caused her memory to shuffle like a Classic ViewMaster. Each shameful and embarrassing moment after the next. The driver and herself filled each frame, only the background different and her facial expression containing less life in each.
She began to notice the accurate representation of her boyfriend that she’s been subconsciously suppressing for so long. Of course, they’ve had their issues, some of which caused their distance to grow further than just the center console. But only now did she realize his true character and it only took a stereoscope of images to come to such a conclusion.
Every moment he made her change outfits before they left for a night out, much like tonight. Every instance he failed to appear at her parents’ house for “a few drinks with the bros, babe.” That one time he unpremeditatedly forced her to dine-and-dash at her favorite restaurant due to his lack of funds. She never went back due to shame.
Even every time he downloaded Tinder, Bumble, or Grindr without her noticing. Yet, she always found out. He didn’t do the best job of hiding it either. He would aimlessly swipe often while driving, possibly thinking that she wouldn’t notice. Once, she even caught him swiping while performing oral sex on him. Her retreat was to “fall asleep” on his lap, leaving him in agony for the remainder of the night. This was the most joy she had felt in quite some time. At some point during their 5-year stint, her boyfriend’s torment gave her an unmatched state of euphoria.
When was this moment, exactly? This was the following image that appeared before her subconscious. One so painful that she hasn’t thought about it since the moment it occurred. So scarring that not even years of therapy would relieve her of such grief. Luckily for her, this searing image was instantly forgotten in exchange for a few years of her already rapidly depleting life. Though not remembered until this moment, its pain has continuously been a weight on her mental health for years. It was a half-burnt polaroid of the motorist–
“TURN OFF YOUR FUCKING BLINKER!”
Without skipping a beat, the driver calmly flicked his right turn signal off without saying a word. He started to slowly remove each ring one by one, leaving his green knuckles exposed to the uneasy air.
Coming to and perplexed by the subtleties of her boyfriend, the clock reads 10:59.
“I wouldn’t want to leave a scar,” he said in a threatening, yet tranquil tone as he continued to remove his bling. Only a few rings remained, leaving his fists to resemble a mid-morphed Hulk.
“We’re through,” she sternly stated as she unbuckled her seatbelt to face the man that’s been a cancer for so long. She was ready to remove the tumor. These sudden realizations of fact sprung her into new sense of self. This burden to her left was the one that kept her from feeling true happiness. She always thought that with relationships came happiness. But her naiveté led her down a dark highway of excessive mental torture. Security kept her by his side, but, sometimes comfort leads to bedsores. Hers were getting too painful.
In preparation for a foreseen blow to her fragile face, a scene much too familiar, she was ready for her self-defense classes to finally kick in. Only she must time it right, like the motorist’s cleverness when changing lanes.
He slowly placed each ring back on its assigned finger.
“Ya’ better re-thunk that. Once I get this ice back on, your face is gonna feel cold.”
Without acknowledging such a demand, he was almost finished accessorizing.
“PULL OV– “
Suddenly, the tires screeched with a boar-like squeal that echoed in the ears of the driver. Loud, concussion-causing airbags spawned a daze to the driver’s already slow sense of thought. Shards of glass lay on the dashboard, on himself, and amongst his pile of rings in the cup holder. One gator skin pump lay aside him where the lovely passenger was only moments ago. Glancing quickly in the rearview mirror in search of an explanation, his eyes burned from the stationary headlights. His ears rang of an explosive-heavy battlefield scene, until the rhythmic ticking of the right turn signal gave him back his senses.
As the airbag slowly deflated, the horrific scene was gradually presented before him. The one-shoed passenger laid facedown amongst the asphalt and light-reflected pieces of windshield. A smeared trail of deep maroon showed her path from exit, to finish line. Five, or so, yards in front of her laid a deceased, long-tailed, pale white possum. In shock, after abruptly slipping back into reality, the driver turned off his right turn signal. Only a moment after, the possum sprang up and scampered away into the distant shadows of the highway.