CW: Mention of drug use
We are driving down Sheridan in my black Santa Fe, just like we’ve done a thousand times before, except this time I am dating someone new, and we’re not acknowledging it. We are being polite. We’re on our way to meet friends at our regular bar, a shitty dive where you can still smoke even if state law suggests otherwise. They will expect our particular brand of razzmatazz, and we’ll go along with it because we value showmanship above all else. You are smoking. Your window is rolled down letting in the crisp cold of a deep Illinois winter. The wind blows your menthol smoke my way. Taylor Swift is playing on the radio, and you are talking. I am nodding along to Taylor. You think I’m nodding along to you. You flick your cigarette butt out the window as you roll it back up. The window sticks a little bit, but you anticipate that. Taylor Swift is playing, you’re asking me questions about this new guy, and I am wishing you would shut up, just this once. You watch me. You’re reading my silence and reaching into the backseat for my purse. I turn Taylor Swift up before returning my slightly clammy hand back to the wheel. I’m too warm to be wearing gloves, but the car is still cold from your cigarette. You keep talking, undaunted, rummaging through my purse, looking for a lighter or a flat surface to do lines off of. As you take a tattered old paperback out of my purse. I shoot you a look that seems to make my purse slump over in your lap. You toss the book on the dash, and open your legs so my open purse slides to the floor board. It is too full for anything to fall out. Taylor and I are scream-singing now. He respects my space and never makes me wait. You are maybe still talking. My peripheral vision suggests you may be pointing at the gas station we’re currently passing. You need more cigarettes. Taylor and I drive on, Just so frustrating, intoxicating, complicated. We hit a pothole, the winter kind that sneaks up on you and seems as if it’s going grab onto your car’s axle and to pull you all right down to Hades. As I start to brake for a red light, your girlfriend leans forward to turn down the radio so we can hear her. The paperback slides off the dash. You reach for it, but it hits your foot as you stare down at the bookmark that landed in your hand. I wonder if your girlfriend thinks about turning down the thick, blaring silence between us too. That might help, if any of us knew how to do it.
Megan Cannella (she/her) is a Midwestern transplant currently living in Nevada. Her debut chapbook, Confrontational Crotch and Other Real Housewives Musings, is out now and available at https://linktr.ee/mcannella. You can find Megan on Twitter at @megancannella.