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Amputation

She looked to her right. He sat, dozing, his feet propped against the glove compartment, his lanky legs forming awkward angles. His chin rested lightly upon his chest. Every breath he took caused his head to nod up and down, up and down, answering an unsaid question. His large hand lay upon his thigh, digits radiating out from his open palm. The fingers looked soft. She wanted to take them in her hand and squeeze. She wanted to massage them gently.

A bump in the road found its way under the tire. His eyes fluttered open. His hand clenched. The smooth fingers curled in upon themselves, becoming taut, closed, sealed off. His eyes focused and moved toward her face. She quickly concentrated her attention on the road.

He opened his mouth wide, yawned, stretched his long legs out. His bare feet touched the windshield. His toes left awkward oil marks smeared across the limpid glass. He kept them there, his hot skin pressed against the chill glass. He pressed his toes into the window, staring as his toes flexed and straightened.

He suddenly moved his feet to the floor and pressed a button on the radio. The air became mute. He moved his fingers through a stack of CDs. “Why do you listen to this crap?” he said under his breath.

“I like it.”

“It’s not good.”

“It makes me feel good.”

He grunted as he pushed a disc into the stereo, something more to his taste. He rearranged himself in his angular position.

“How much farther?”

“Not far.”

He nodded, his lids falling heavily over his round hazel eyes. His toes stopped flexing. His hand unclenched. She listened as his breathing became smooth again, as the air flowed steadily from between his lips. She didn’t need to glance at him. It was too familiar.

The sky outside had deepened to a dark indigo. The sun sank behind the inky silhouettes of the jagged peaks ahead. The car slid fluidly down the quiet road, alone with the pines and the ferns and the sky. The motor hummed beneath the music, adding a depth to the guitar riffs and bass plucks. She pushed her foot lightly against the gas. The hum accelerated. The music stayed the same.

Her grip on the steering wheel relaxed. Her muscles melted into the seat, calm, loose, slack. The clock didn’t work. She didn’t know what time it was. She pressed against the gas pedal again. The engine buzzed, the car rushed forward.

The mountains ahead disappeared as the sky deepened to black. A few stars appeared. Her eyes flicked off of the road momentarily. She tried to find a constellation, her favorite one, something familiar. She used to be able to see it whenever she looked up into the night. She couldn’t see it.

Her eyes returned to the asphalt, the straight outlined lane. The dashed yellow paint went only as far as her headlights before disappearing into the shadows ahead. All of the trees looked the same. There had been no other cars. The road never curved, it never changed.

She took her hand from the steering wheel and reached for the control on her left. Her window glided down. She stuck an arm out and felt the pressure of the outside force it backward. The air caressed her skin, cooled it, engulfed it. It gushed into the car and swirled her hair off of her shoulders. It rustled down her neck, below her shirt, across her skin. She inhaled deeply, feeling the crispness through her nostrils. It filled her lungs. She breathed. She smiled.

The music fell into a diminuendo. The air became mute. Almost immediately, he stirred next to her. He let out a little groan and stretched again. “Will you roll up your window? I’m freezing.”

She pulled her arm in and felt her skin tingle at the absence of the moving current. The glass pane closed her in again. She breathed. The air was thick.

A new song slipped through the speakers. It sounded the same as the last. The car churned along, the one moving thing in the dark still night. “Jesus, will you slow down?”

She released a bit of pressure from the pedal. The motor fell into tune with the song, murmuring and droning with his music.

“How much farther?”

She didn’t have to look at him. She felt no need to glance. She stared at the road, the trees
closing in, canopying the sky from view. She thought she could see the road curve up ahead.

“How much farther?” he repeated.

She stared at the curve.

“Not far.”

Amputation

kmariedahl

Bainbridge Island, United States

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