A Jeep Patriot is parked on the side of the interstate somewhere in west Texas. The hazard lights are still flashing, but they’re very dim.
A couple is in the car. The guy is in the driver’s seat. He hangs up his phone. “I’ve called 400 times, but they can’t seem to get it out of the computer that we’re at mile 381, not 831. The car battery is dying. It’s been 5 fucking hours. It’s freezing. There is a tow truck looking for us 500 miles from here.” He pulls his hair.
The girl looks at him for a while. “Ok, Ryan, you know I don’t blame you, but I’m getting irrational. I haven’t eaten and it’s like 18 degrees outside and the car can’t heat. So, I’m just going to read my book.”
“I hear and appreciate that you know I didn’t do it on purpose.”
She looks up from the first page of her book. “No offense, but when you talk like our therapist told us to talk, I want to attack you.”
“That’s not helpful! Please don’t pick a fight with me right now, Deanna.” He takes off his watch and tosses it on the dash. He rubs his face.
Deanna looks at the watch like it killed her family. “Why do you do that?” she finally says in a small voice.
“Why do you throw things? Why do you throw cups at the dishwasher when you could just take two extra steps to set it in there?”
He shrugs. “I like to do things fast.”
“Not everything is a race! You could have made sure you had the mile marker right before you called! You’re always just like, ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, I got it.’”
“Doing things fast gets me ahead in life in a lot of other ways. This is just the price of doing business.”
“Oh really? It gets you ahead? Let’s talk about how you’re in ahead in life because of how quickly you do things!”
“I don’t know, I wrote that book!”
“Oh! The book that not even I have read! I’m so glad you were in such a rush to write that book. And you know, it’s probably better for the fact that you rushed through it.”
“I didn’t rush through it, I’m just decisive!”
“Oh, is that what we’re calling it? Decisive? That’s a really cool spin you’re putting on that you’re fucking impulsive. Yeah, I like that. You know, my dad was an alcoholic, but really he was just fun at parties, right?”
“I mean, I know you’re making a ridiculous point to make me look stupid, but the upside to alcoholics is that they do know how to party.”
“You’re an idiot.”
“Stop! Don’t say something you can’t take back. I’m just saying that every virtue has a dark side. Like maybe someone who is nice can be a doormat.”
“You’re saying I’m a doormat?”
“No, that was a random example.”
“You looked right at me as you thought of it! And I know you think I let everyone walk all over me.”
“No. You’re fine.” A pressurized silence. “I mean, you could stand up for yourself and not be 5 hours late hang out with me when I made you dinner.”
“Ok, well, whenever I’m with someone I’m really with them, so… Sorry.”
“Oh, Ok. Presence. Now you’re trying my trick? We’re calling extreme irresponsibility presence? As long as someone is in front of you, no one else in the world exists, right? You’re like a baby that doesn’t have object permanence and fucking forgets that I made dinner and have been waiting for fucking 5 hours! “
“You know what? I do. Maybe I just don’t think about you.” Guilt and anger battle on her face.
“Fuck…” He deflates. They both become aware of the sound of the passing cars and the way the wind makes the car shake.
“I’m sorry, Ryan,” she says.
“No you’re not.”
“We still have to sit here and wait, after you said that…” He says. He looks out the window.
After a while, he hears a sniffle. “Are you crying?” he asks. She’s hiding her face.
“I wish I wasn’t late all the time. My parents used to yell at me about it, but I just get lost in the moment…”
“So, it’s not just me?”
“No, you idiot.” She sniffs. “I’m sorry that I said that stuff to you. I think you just hit a nerve.”
He touches her hand, she falls into his arms.
“Look,” he says, pointing out the back window. A pair of headlights slow to a stop behind them. “The tow truck is here.”
Originally published at https://www.tumblr.com on January 29, 2020.