We were fighting about where to go for Thanksgiving. Paige was hell bent on going to her best friend’s, I wanted to go to mine. We couldn’t agree on anything anymore.
She covered her mouth with her hand to muffle her sniffles to keep me from knowing she was crying, but I knew. One year with someone, you’ll know their favorite meals and TV shows. Three years with someone and you’ll get the hang of how to crisp just the corners of their meal for their perfect balance of crunchy and chewy and how to fold their cloths in the oddly specific way so that they can’t even tell they weren’t the ones to fold them. Six years with someone, though, and you’ll know how to tell the sporadic rhythm of their crying sniffles from their running nose sniffles.. This and where every scar on their skin originated, you’ll know who called them based solely off of how they answered the phone. You’ll be walking the exact speed needed to hold their hand for the rest of your life. You’ll never buy a different brand of dryer sheets again.
Her eye makeup was running down her cheeks. I reached over and wiped her black tears away in a delicate motion. She turned to stare at me with her dead eyes and they stabbed me in my chest. I turned my attention back to the road. Golden sunshine cut through the red, orange, and yellow leaves stubborn enough to stay attached to half-bare branches. The road was paved through a stretch of towering trees and guided us along a mountainside. Every turn was a winding one. Every so often the road would open up to reveal a view of thousands of treetops going on for miles. Being at one of these openings on a clear day when the sun was rising or setting was a blessing. Being at one of them in a downpour or a snow squall was a curse. All of the openings had guard rails that weren’t there two years ago – cars wildly flying off the road had taken the old ones with them down the mountain. I’d all but mastered this road on drunken nights in my late teens and early twenties. It’s like my dad always used to say, “You’re not good at something ’til you can do it drunk.” By this adage, he was good at a lot of things. Watching TV, doing people’s taxes, getting audited, driving my brother and I to baseball practice, cheating on my mom, putting a gun between his teeth and blowing his brains all over his bedroom wall. The police said is BAC was around .28. They sent someone to clean his room.
Paige squealed as a squirrel jumped out into the road and my front passenger side tire narrowly missed him. I looked over and saw both of her hands covering her face.
“We’re past him, you can uncover your eyes now,” I said. She moved her hands from her face and I drove on.
We were headed to a couples fondue night at a friend’s place. Paige wore her grandmother’s silver earrings with a black dress she found at a thrift store a few years back. I wore the black blazer I’d worn the night I proposed to Paige. It was a little snug on me now. The comfort of “’til death do us part” is felt most when gaining weight.
My eyes roamed to her thighs. It used to be anytime she was my co-pilot one hand would control the steering wheel while the other would be squeezing her thigh. Things were different now, though. I moved my right hand over to her thigh and squeezed gently. She placed her hand on mine and turned her head, smiling at me.
“I love you, dear,” she said.
“I love you too, sweetheart,” I told her. “Hey, let’s not fight about Thanksgiving anymore. Why don’t we just write both places down on pieces of paper and one of us can draw the winner from a hat? That way it’s fair and we can stop arguing and just relax together.”
“Oh, that’d be fun,” her voice had perked up, “and I don’t want to fight anymore. I just want to go dip food in cheese and try to ignore Anna and Jerry’s stupid stories about their neighborhood crime watch.”
I laughed and stared at Paige, the love of my life.