“Why are you driving like this?”
Outside the window other cars-those respecting the conditions-flash by as they passed them. “You don’t drive this fast when it’s NOT raining…”
“Tires are good”, he grunted as they weaved into the right lane to pass someone whose tires evidently weren’t up to snuff.
“Would you slow down please!” She wasn’t asking now.
“I know this road. Driven this road dead drunk in the middle of the night. Rain, snow. Doesn’t matter.”
He was clenching the wheel too tightly and glaring too intently through the windshield. Her fists were clenched as well and she exhaled slowly to loosen them. Her sensei was teaching her to punch the heavy bag while holding a banana. His blows were lethal but the banana remained intact. Easy for him, she thought, but she needed to switch gears.
“How many drinks did you have?” she asked trying for concerned.
“Not enough to worry about.” They flew through a puddle with a wild, thundering splash that blinded them for an instant. She felt the car float just then and her heart fluttered. He didn’t change his expression. Maybe his jaw tensed a bit more.
“That’s the thing though…” she said slowly trying to sound calm-which never worked and only made her sound harsh and hectoring. She heard it too and tried to regroup-lighter with more sweetness. …”The more you have, the less you worry about it. You leave the worrying to us.”
“Then don’t worry”, he grumbled from his chest.
She ticked off the things she might have done to set him off like this but came up empty. Then she tried to remember how many drinks he did have. Did she miss something? Was this partially on her? The car fishtailed slightly as he slammed the brakes the avoid someone who came up short in front of them. “Fucker!” He screamed to the closed window as he whipped into the other lane to pass.
No, she wasn’t going to own any of this. This was his, she decided. She saw the red lights ahead through the rain. He tapped the pedal hard-jolting them once, the twice slowing for the red light. Stay red, she thought…just stay red. It did and as the car stopped she unsnapped her seat belt and stepped out into the rain.
“Hey! What are you doing?”
“Not riding with you anymore. That’s what I’m doing!” Or not doing? Which should she have said? Didn’t matter. Point made. She slammed the door and stepped up onto the sidewalk as the light turned green. Cars stopped behind began to honk as he wouldn’t move. She was conscious of being part of a “scene” so she turned and stalked up the sidewalk toward the intersection.
Her jean jacket afforded little protection against the cool rain which had let up a tad, but was still soaking. She pulled the collar up. Behind her the cacophony of horns ceased as he saw where she was headed and pulled out of traffic into the side street just ahead of her.
He reached over and opened the passenger side door to her.
Her auburn ringlets were already matted down onto her head. She bypassed the open door and walked around the front of the car and kept going, not acknowledging him.
“Come on, Karrie….Hey! Where you going?”
“Home!” she yelled over her shoulder.
“It’s four miles….”
She was marching out of shouting range so he slammed the car in gear and pulled through the closed gas station and back out on the road until he caught up with her. He slowed to her pace and the cars behind started blaring again. He rolled down the window.
“Just get in!”
“Put your hazards on!”
He did as she ordered and asked again. “Just get in. You’re soaked already and this isn’t the safest…”
“Safe! You’re going to tell me about safe!?” She had stopped and even in the spattered streetlights and passing headlights he could see her green eyes flashing.
“Come on….” He said suddenly nervous seeing her rage.
“I’m driving!” She yelled-water dripping off the end of her nose.
He struck the steering wheel with the heel of his hand. “Fine! Fuck! I don’t care. Drive.”
He stepped out of the car and walked around the back to get into the passenger side. The chill rain didn’t register. She went around the front and got in behind the wheel before he reached the door.
When he finally got in and settled into the seat she turned and lifted herself onto her hip and punched him, hard, but glancing high off his cheekbone. His head spun forward and spittle washed the inside of the windshield. Her green painted fingernails dug into her palm-she would have mashed that fucking banana. He pivoted in his seat and she relaxed-ready to evade his blow. He balled his fist and delivered a left hook to the dashboard and glared back at her. She hadn’t winced, hadn’t twitched.
“You know what’s going to happen when we get home don’t you?”
He punched the dashboard again with the side of his fist. She could feel the vibration through the steering wheel.
“Hey!” she yelled at him now, cajoling over. “Stop that!” He was going to break his fool hand, or worse, the car. “Look here!” He turned to her just in time to absorb another slap, this time open handed and from her left as she rose up in the seat. He grunted in surprise and lifted the back of his hand to his mouth. There was a spat of blood. She had caught his lip.
“Don’t make this worse than it already is…”
After a beat he threw himself back into the seat like a 220 pound eight year old and glared sullenly out the window. She calmly, precisely, put the car in gear and merged gently into the flow of traffic.
Tomorrow they would discuss this, work through this. But now, she let the anger rise in her chest and boil there. It would serve her well over the next couple of hours.