“I can’t do this.” He is driving the car. In the passenger seat, she turns and notices he has begun to cry.
“What? What can’t you do?” Her hand is steady but her heart beats faster.
“I just can’t do this…” he is shaking.
“Pull over.” She looks out the window searching for a spot on the interstate where he can safely maneuver the car and they can exchange places.
He is crying. “I don’t know how to do this.”
She is impatient, thinking we don’t have time for this, she says, “I’m doing this with you. You’re not alone.”
He looks at her and she gets the feeling that he is drowning. Every part of him is screaming ‘save me.’ Saving him is what she has been doing for more than a decade. She is use to saving him. Today, they just don’t have time for this. She points to a spot on the shoulder three cars ahead. “There. Pull over there.”
Obediently he pulls onto the shoulder. She is opening the door before the car comes to a complete stop. He puts the car in park and undoes his seatbelt. They meet at the hood and he reaches for her. She stops a moment for a brief hug. He lingers. She pulls away, thinking, we don’t have time for this.
In the driver seat, she double checks the mirrors. Even though she’s asked a thousand times before he always changes her settings on the mirrors. Once she is sure the mirrors meet her standards, she puts the car in drive. He has not put on his seat belt yet. He is looking at her expectantly.
Not hearing the click, she turns to look at him, “What is it?”
He crumbles. He is crying hysterically now. Not wanting to be thought a bitch, she places the car in park. A semi whizzes by. Reaching across the gear shift, she takes his hand and draws small circles around his palm. It has always been a way to calm him. Small circles, she begins to hum.
His nose is running and his leg has begun to shake. He hates her seeing him like this. He once told her that men cry. Its okay for a man to cry, but today he does not feel like a man. Today he does not feel like nothing but a coward. How could he be anything a coward? And even though he doesn’t want to say it, even though he knows that saying the words will change everything, they are out of his mouth before he can think another thought.
“What if we just turn around?” he murmurs. “What if we just turn around and forget about it?”
She pulls her hand away. Both hands on the stirring wheel she steadies herself.
“What if we just go back home?” He is gaining courage, believing she is listening. “We can call them in the morning and tell them we changed our minds,” he takes a deep breath and wipes his nose on the back of his hand. “We could just call them in the morning and tell them we changed out mind. Then we can all go on with our lives. We can try again. We can try again soon.”
She is counting. She will not speak until her heart beat slows. She will not release the stirring wheel until her heart beat slows. She can feel it pulsating in her temples. She can feel it pulsating in her feet. Her heart is pumping at 3 times its normal rate, she is thinking she may have a heart attack. She may have a heart attack which would be a relief because if she has a heart attack she will not be responsible for killing him. She believes that if she takes her hands off the stirring wheel they will fly to his throat and she will squeeze and push in his adam’s apple until she hears it pop and then she will put the car in drive and go.
He sits back in his seat. He reaches in the glove box and pulls out the tissue and hand sanitizer she always keeps in there. He blows his nose and squirts the clear orange scented liquid in his hands. He is being reasonable. He believes he has given her a good alternative, this just happened so fast. It all happened so fast. “This all happened so fast,” he tells her. “No one thought it would happen this fast.”
She will not scream. She will not insult him. She will not talk about his mother or his weakness. She will calm down and then they will go. Still staring into traffic, clutching the stirring wheel, she speaks slowly and with effort, “What do you mean?”
He is taken aback by the gravel in her voice. He’s at ease a little after a moment. He’s uncomfortable but believes he has her attention, “I just don’t know anything about this. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t have any example to follow. This is too much,” he’s pleading with her and wondering why does he have to beg. It’s not suppose to be this way. He’s not suppose to beg her to do anything. His word is suppose to be the rule. That’s what the Bible says. Putting more base in his throat, he declares, “I said its too soon. Let’s turn around and go home. We’ll call them in the morning.”
Slowly she turns and looks at him then. Her eyes are ablaze. He swallows, wondering if she will attack him. Her voice does not match the rage he sees in her eyes. Her voice is calm, soothing. Its her ‘teacher’ voice. The one she uses with the kids when she needs them to do something they don’t want to do. Its the voice that makes them listen. The one that lets them know they don’t have a choice in the matter.
“We’re not turning around.” She does not lower her eyes. She does not take her hands off the stirring wheel. “We are not calling the people.”
He is getting angry. She’s not listening to me, he thinks, she’s not listening to anything I’m saying. He shouts, “I SAID I’M NOT READY!”
Without taking her eyes off of him, she cuts the engine. She is giving him the death stare. He’s sure of it, this is the look that would kill. She hates him. Thirty minutes ago, he was the love of her life. Thirty minutes ago, he was the center of the world. Now she’s giving him the death stare and he is sure she wants to kill him.
Barely above a whisper, she speaks through clinched teeth, “Either we go forward together or I go forward alone.”
“You’re giving me an ultimatum?” He’s shaking again.
“I’m telling you, we’re not going home.” Her eyes are fixed on his face. He remembers she’s never lost a case. She’s never lost a battle least of all a war. Having never been on her opposing side, he never knew how completely intimidating she could be. She was a bitch.
“You’re giving me an ultimatum. You’re telling me my feelings don’t matter.” She’d never talked to him like this before. She’d never looked at him like this before. He didn’t know she was this…
“Your feelings matter. Your feelings are ALL that matter. We’ve been waiting 6 years on this decision because of your feelings. I’ve been shot full of hormones for 36 cycles because you had feelings. I have undergone 12 procedures to soothe your feelings and held your hand when you cried in my arms.” She is shaking. She is talking in her ‘teacher voice’ slowly, through clinched teeth while articulating each syllable and she is shaking. “I comforted you! I set us up for grief counseling and then figured out the payment plan for treatments! This! Was! Not! An! Over! Night! Decision! Don’t talk to me about not being ready. You tell me you’re going or you tell me you’re out because this time you’re feelings CANNOT be the priority. They simply CANNOT be the priority.”
Settling into the driver’s seat, she rechecks the mirrors and turns on the engine. He looks at her differently. They were right, he thinks, she’s already changed. Acquiescing, he sighs, “I’m in.”
She checks on the infant seat in the rearview mirror, pulling into traffic, she exhales, “Let’s go get our baby.”