By: PJ Lonneman
The sun idled lazily in the sky that beautiful May afternoon. Outside the car the occasional student walked by. You could tell they were students because they wore backpacks, slung over both shoulders, laden with books. Ray wished, yearned to be one of those kids at this moment, which made the situation he faced inside the car that much more difficult to deal with and understand. This woman in the driver's seat, he thought, is on the verge of tears, and I want to comfort her somehow, but I have no idea how. "So what's going to happen when you get back?" she said. "I dunno," said Ray as he idly scratched a fictitious itch on his head. "I dunno" wasn't Ray's favorite expression, but he found he used it a lot with this girl. And of course it infuriated her. "God damn it, Ray! You don't know what the fuck to do about anything!" "I really don't," he conceded. "I'm sorry." That was the other often used expression of his. They made a nice, efficient tandem, really- I dunno, I'm sorry. "So what are we going to do about the money situation? I can't afford the whole thing; I shouldn't have to." "Well of course I'll split it with you baby. I wouldn't be like that." "Oh, that's comforting. You're not going to 'be like that'." "No, I said I'd split it, and I will. It's my responsibility." Jesus, he thought, I wish I could be somewhere else, anywhere else, right now. "Well, I guess this is it, then." He opened the door. "I guess so," she said, as he put his right foot on the curb, hesitantly. "I fucking can't believe you're not even going to say goodbye!" She began to cry. Ray closed the door again and tried to console her. "Honey, I'm sorry, I don't know what to do." There it was again- the tandem. "Fuck it," she cried. "Go. Have a nice life." "I don't want to leave like that," he confessed. He really didn't want to, either. But they were in quicksand, and all this useless thrashing that was their conversation only made then sink faster. He finally realized this, but, as usual, he couldn't tell if it had dawned on her. "Okay, I'm really going to go now." "Alright," she said. He got out. She met him on the sidewalk, where they hugged. "Have a safe trip back," Ray said. "I'll call you." "Okay," she said, "have fun on your trip. I guess I'll see you when you return?" "Yeah," he said. He squeezed her hand as he stepped into the street towards his car. He watched her get back in, light a cigarette, and drive off. He turned the key and looked at the time. 1:21. His lunch break ended twenty-one minutes ago. He sped back to the packing plant, thinking of excuses.