by Agata Antonow
The New Brunswick sun is slipping over the paint of my husband’s car, Adele’s lyrics take flight into the willow tree behind us. The sleeve of my sweater is wet, springy with soap and cold water as I run a sponge, too wide for my fingers, over the curve of this Korean-made car. The grey winks back at me.
The metal and plastic have taken us across provinces, into and out of arguments, weaving around life’s decisions made and ignored—the decision to put off children until it was no longer a decision, the choice to play dress up in a white gown and suit in a tiny church in Prince Edward Island.
He’s singing with every word, holding the garden hose up to his lips to drink in the swooping tunes and our cat jumps out of the way of the stream of water.
My hands don’t reach the top of the car anymore. They have become too heavy since the treatments began, and I retreat to a sunny spot when Robert is singing with his eyes closed, put off the inevitable fussing. I heave into the chair and let my bones knock against each other and settle where disease has started to chew at me. The car will last longer than I will, its metal glinting under the sun in a driveway or in a landfill while I’m hidden under the ground. I wonder who else will sit in the passenger seat, passing over peanut M&M’s and bottles of water.
I’ve never sat in the driver’s seat. When I was sixteen, my father and mother refused to let me take driving lessons. “I can take you anywhere you need to go,” my father would tell me, sitting down for another game of solitaire at the dinner table covered in oil cloth, his grease-stained hands turning over faded and bent cards, fanning them out one by one.
It got harder to get driving lessons when I moved out. The $500 for driver’s ed turned into $1000 and there was always something else to buy for the money. Paper bags full of groceries, orange bottles of pills from the pharmacy, a new haircut, tampons from the store. It was easy to take taxis, buses, to walk one foot into the other into a future with no car.
And now my steps are faltering. There will be a day when I will be a passenger for the last time, when I will take my last steps. At night, covered in sweat as the pain pills count down their hours, I am aware of the car in the driveway. I picture myself walking downstairs, past the kitchen, and into the driveway. I imagine placing the keys in the ignition of my husband’s car and driving slowly into the darkness.
My husband drops the garden hose and his eyes follow the path to under the tree, take in my form sitting in the lawn chair. I wave, making sure to smile. My smile is still bright. He lurches forward, leaving the car behind, the passenger side wide open, and he runs toward me, his rubber soles hitting grass.
Agata is based in New Brunswick, Canada. Her most recent work is forthcoming in FOLD (Festival of Literary Diversity). In 2021, one of her short stories won first place in the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick Douglas Kyle Memorial Prize.