Buffeted by cars on the serpentine highway, he grips the wheel. The air whistles as the car hits 65. The landscape: a suburb, with cookie-cutter banality all around. None of it registers, none of it but one. On a grey hill, framed by a grey sky, there is a hotel. In this hotel there is a room. He is in the room now, arms propped up on the garish, chalky comforter of the bed, his lower half supported by the bench at its foot. Adjacent on the bed there is a girl, beautiful but sad; her hair is dark and hangs limply. Magnetic eyes, with a color that looks like greenish moss broken by pools of fresh rain water, are cruelly highlighted by the oil-slick blackness of mascara mangled by tears. Shoulders heaving, her hand lies extended towards him, almost like an unconscious invitation. Tentatively, he accepts.
They don’t talk a lot, and what is said is laconic and inarticulate, but this is what it is now, a relationship near the end of its road, with two people separated by distance and more. At one point it was different. Before her move, before the strain and frustration. Still, there is nothing unique about this. It’s nothing but typical. They love each other but it’s not enough.
“I know you need space,” she says as he moves further backwards. Their first year together had been smooth-sailing. Drunkenly coming together over a night of bad HBO, with clouds of cigarette smoke hanging in the air like fog, he had grabbed the same hand he is gripping now. A kiss on the forehead and an exchange of numbers had brought about a summer where once again he had removed the safety net, dived headlong and given everything he had.
“But I can’t not talk to you.”
With these words she grips his hand tighter and inches her small form towards him. He tries to say all the right things, telling her that they will talk and that they will figure something out. She nods and pretends to ignore her impending flight home, dismissing that their attempts at long-distance had been at best problematic and at worst painful. And then they’re together again. Unprotected like so many other times; there’s nothing separating them. She gasps in his ear as he pushes closer to her. Apathetic to the consequences, reduced to the basics, both people stop with the words and move with an apocalyptic and violent sense of finality.
Because it is their final time. Hours later, he kisses her naked shoulder and watches as the shadows on her face dance slowly in tune with the quiet, silvery flickering of the room’s television set. In the morning they share a meal together, partaking in the continental breakfast of the hotel. Scooping individual portions of ruby colored jelly onto toast among other bedraggled patrons, they talk but nothing is said.
He drives her to the airport. Stalling briefly at a rail-road crossing, both people watch as a light-rail train coasts by with a gentle hum. Wishing for other disruptions, for more red-lights, his pleas go sadly unrewarded. Every intersection is cruelly marked by that hellish emerald glow. They pull into the check-in where he grabs her bag which feels amazingly heavy. His eyes feel strange as he pulls her close to him and his hand moves instinctively through her short ribbons of jet-black hair.
Six months now have gone by and he’s in his car which has just hit 65 on the serpentine highway. And he looks for the hotel on the grey hill, framed by the grey sky, while he thinks of the room and the girl who once was in it. And he knows that it’s over and thinks of the reasons why that is and knows that they are good reasons. Still, he thinks of what was good about his time with that girl and wishes that he could have it back; although he knows he can’t. And he wonders if he can get past it. But as the highway hooks to the left and the hotel on the grey hill framed by the grey sky suddenly disappears from view, he looks forward at the open road and suddenly knows that he will.