YOUR INFECTION PLEASE I HAVEN'T GOT ALL NIGHT
In the morning she'll slip out of bed, get dressed quietly, and walk out the door. She won't lock it behind her. When you wake up, you hope she's gone for coffee. When she's not back two hours later, you know she's gone.
You drive. You remember her mentioning New Mexico and Arizona. You remember she hates the cold, but likes the seasons. You head northwest. It's gloomy. You hope she hasn't left the country. You pass one exit after another. Speedway. McDonald's. Gas--Food--Lodging. Truck stops. Holiday Inn. If she's gone to Europe, you'll have to learn to drive on the Autobahn. Or on the left. You'll have to ask for help. You think she set it up like that, it's just like her. "But you chose to do it," she'd say and you wouldn't be able to argue, because she'd be right. You hate her for that. But right now you are driving across the country for that.
Nebraska is greener than you thought. And hillier. You can't remember what she looks like. You tell yourself that's ridiculous, you've lived with her face next to yours for years. But now you realize you made up a face, you made up a voice. Then you put that face and that voice on a mirage and that mirage fell asleep next to you every night.
You do, however, remember her right index finger. You can see it clearly--long and thin, with a chunky ring around it and usually some ostentatious color on the nail--and you know this for a fact because she was always pointing that finger at you. You know it for a fact.
Except, after a few more exits, you begin to question even that. The Dennys have switched to Cracker Barrels. The frost has turned to dew. The once polluted air is now filled with the smell of livestock. You used to fall asleep with your head on the small of her back. You never asked if that annoyed her.
You remember the second you fell in love with her. She handed you a beer. First. There were other people around, but she handed the beer to you. And that's what you were looking for--someone to pick you out of the crowd, someone to give you the prize first. It didn't really matter who the prize came from. It doesn't matter even now. You wonder when she realized this.
You remember the fights. Screaming in the car. Slamming the bedroom door. Smashing the wine glass against the wall. You remember how your eyeballs burned you were so mad. You remember retaliating, then looking around you--at the empty passenger's seat, the empty bedroom, the empty kitchen. It's not possible you were fighting with yourself, that would make you crazy. Crazy people don't recognize their crazy.
You head north, to Montana. You're following the scent of her perfume. It invades the air. At a gas station in an empty field, you ask the old man at the counter if he smells it. He says all he can smell is cow shit. You keep driving.
You stop at a bar in Missoula. You think it should be peopled with locals, but everyone looks like a tourist. You remember how she'd laugh, loud and inappropriately, at parties. You remember that sharp tone she'd use to put people off. You remember standing in the living room, in front of the framed mirror, explaining the negative aspects of her abruptness, how she needed to watch that, how she embarrassed herself in front of others, they really didn't know what to make of her, she made them uncomfortable. You remember looking in the framed mirror, watching yourself talk to yourself.
At night, you wrap the pillow case around your neck like a scarf. It smells like her. You won't take off your paisley collared shirt because that smells like her too. You ache for something of hers to hold on to, but you can't remember what was hers.
In a small town just over the border into Washington, you're walking out of a diner and you see her. She's walking across the street, in a crowd, but you know without a doubt it's her. You can smell it.
You run. The crowd disperses. You can't see faces or index fingers or anything except the blind need that has crawled out of you and is pulling you forward. You grab her by the hand. You pull her into you. You wrap your arms around her and breathe her in and hold her while you hold your breath, until her smell is absorbed into your bone marrow. You lean back, to smile, and she disappears, like mist.