She sat in traffic, listening to the world hum. The radio with the commercial droning on about car insurance, the blast of the cold air as the air-conditioner worked double-time to battle the summer heat, the engine purring lazily. The purr blended with sounds mady by idle cars surrounding them. Their sedan crawled inches in minutes, its seemed.
She had her legs up on the dashboard, barefoot. During traffic on a hot Sunday afternoon, hour three of a four-hour drive, she was long past caring how she looked to the passengers of other cars. David, her husband driving beside her, had his left foot resting on his seat, his knee jutting against the window. They were anxious to be on their way to pick up the kids from her parent’s place.
They had been silent for a while, having run out of things to say. Sometimes one or the other would curse at the traffic but for the most part, they seemed to prefer the sound of summer and traffic to conversation.
This was the tail end of a rare weekend without the kids. They’d been in Fredericksburg, Texas, at a bed and breakfast. They had browsed antique stores, checked out the herb farm that some friends raved about. She had bought a few cans of fresh thyme, and a few mint-flavored candles which were probably melting together in the oven-hot trunk by now. He had bought nothing, except dinner for her at the herb garden’s gourmet restaurant. They also had a couple’s massage.
She recalled one particular moment related to that massage. She had her hair bundled in a plush white towel, and her body clad in a long terry robe when she stepped out to the hallway to head to the Aromatherapy Cavern after something called a “rain shower”. A masseur was coming from the other direction on the narrow hallway trying to balance a pile of folded towels on his arms. He was about her age, brunette, blue-eyed, with the looks of someone who probably got good tips from the ladies. A lean, swimmer type, just like David had been back in their college days.
Before she could move aside, he collided against her awkwardly. He made an “Oh!” sound. She giggled, and he stepped aside with an apologetic smile. The smile wobbled, as his eyes took in the rest of her, the look in his eyes communicating clearly the appeal he found. Quickly, he shuttered it.
“My apologies. Sometimes I”m as clumsy as a baby,” he said as he bent down to pick up some of the towels that had tumbled to the floor.
She bent down to help him, feeling very conscious of the fact that underneath her plush bathrobe, she was completely naked. She could feel her nipples rubbing against the soft silk-lining, and the soft bounce in them as she quickly stood up after scooping a fallen towel. As she did so, she could feel her hair beginning to escape the knot of fabric on her head. The handsome masseur shot up a capable arm quickly, catching it. Naturally she reached up to help, brushing her hand against his flesh. Their eyes met, before his professional look gave way again to that of a straight male taking in an attractive woman’s presence.
The heat came to her suddenly, flushing her cheeks and stirring something deep within her. The moment lasted only briefly, as his professionalism took over and he turned away, murmuring apologies. He collected all that he had dropped and walked away.
As she bit her lip, David exited out of the room across hers. He looked at her for a suspended moment. She bated her breath, wondering if he would see. See what she wasn’t sure. Her breasts, her wet curls unbound, guilt for taking pleasure in another’s attention? His gaze barely made impact on her image before it slid past her as unceremoniously as a pat on the head.
Back in the present, recalling that scene, she sighed. The contrast had been so stark between the two looks that her sigh was filled with longing for what once was. That heat that came from nowhere. Those moments when one finger on her spine was enough to send her knees buckling. When as soon as one came in through the door, the clothes came flying off faster than a tornado-blown roof. That night back in their room, they had made love, and David had made only one comment:
“Well that was interesting.”
He’d meant it as a joke, a comment on her enthusiasm. But she’d chewed her lip all night with guilt, wondering if it was wrong for her to imagine the masseur as the person she was in bed with.
How long had it been since she and David had made love like two wildcats on the prowl? She couldn’t even remember. These days, sex came like clockwork. On Fridays, right after date-nights at home in bed, with the kids at a sleepover next door. Or Sunday mornings before the rest of the house woke up. Even unplanned lovemaking was predictable. Usually on a night after David came home from drinking with his colleagues, but only if they were out drinking because of a presentation gone well, and definitely not if they were out getting hammered because they lost an account.
Her mind was catapulted back to the earlier days. The images coming furiously at her like a hurricane pummeling a beach.
The movie theater bathroom during a matinee at the local movie theater. They had been at the stall reserved for the disabled and a retiree had literally screamed at them, waving her cane threateningly as they came out with hair messed up and clothes in disarray. A little girl, about ten, had been standing by the sink looking at them open-mouthed as they sprinted out beet-faced. The had rushed out, not bothering to finish the movie, gulping in the fresh air and then hiccupping as the laughter burst out at the same time.
The 1992 Honda Civic hatchback that David drove back then, parked by Grapevine Lake, with the full moon out, the atmosphere as romantic as her youthful imagination could conceive. They had made love twice in the car, the hatch all the way open to let in the moonlight. That had been the first night he told her he loved her. And he made love to her for the third time after saying the words she had been waiting months to hear.
Another image came. The kitchen in their first home. Weary, she had stood in front of the kitchen counter that long night ago, feeling like the walking dead as she filled the electric warmer with baby bottles full of breast-milk. He had sidled behind her, his big, callused palm sliding underneath her unflattering T-shirt, caressing her full breast. They had not made love in months since she gave birth and the sensation of his rough hands over her smooth breast made her groan so loud she thought she would wake the baby.
“I’ve been wanting you,” he whispered in her ear, his voice full of emotion.
“I’m ready,” was her reply.
They had made love in the kitchen floor and she wept when they finally had to leave that house to move to a bigger one. All she could say to David when they locked the door behind them for the least time was, “I hope they use the kitchen too.” And he was in stitches for minutes.
“What’s up?” David chimed in from the present, from beside her, his eyes on her reclining figure.
She turned and tried to smile, but only one corner of her lips seem to want to curl up.
“Nothing’s wrong, why do you ask?”
“I didn’t ask “what’s wrong,” I asked “what’s up”. You were sighing a while ago,” he pointed out gently, reaching out and brushing a strand of hair away. The gesture was warm, familiar, and it made her ache a little.
“I was?” she asked innocently.
“Yes, just now. It looked like you were in a daydream.”
A honk of a horn behind him. He quickly glanced at the rearview mirror, looked ahead, straightened his back. “All right, we’re moving!” And indeed they were. They weren’t flying yet but forty-five miles per hour on the highway seemed like lightning speed next to their earlier crawl.
They passed the cars unlucky enough to be on the slower lane to the right of them. As they did she saw a blur. A quick snapshot of a couple in another car, head meeting in a passionate kiss on I-35 on a hot Sunday afternoon.