The conversation could have gone like this; it could have been a rambling-down-a-pretty-autumn-country-road conversation, one that stops to gasp at a view or a lovely lane of golden-leaved trees before moving on to a little pub for a few quiet drinks; he, a Cascade and she, a vodka-lime-tonic.
Instead, it went like this:
“Hi honey, do you want to do something this afternoon?”
“Oh, what do you mean by ‘something’?”
“I don’t know. Maybe a drive out to the country. We could go up to the mountains and have a drink at that pub you like; maybe even a counter dinner.”
“Why do you always want to drive somewhere? Haven’t you heard about global warming? Can’t we just stay in the city? Why do you always want to pollute the atmosphere?”
“I don’t always want to drive somewhere and I certainly don’t want to pollute. Why are you being so bitchy? All I asked is if you wanted to do something?”
The silence stretched out like a long, flat, dusty straight, like the Hay Plain, with no shade, no features and seemingly no end. It stretched out far into the distance before she broke it.
“Well, aren’t you going to say something?”
“What do you want me to say? I can’t say sorry because I haven’t done anything wrong. Besides you hate it when I apologise for nothing.”
“Typical…bloody typical. You have no idea, do you?”
“And you are impossible to please. Seems to me the only thing you wanted to do this afternoon was pick a fight with me.”
“That is so not true. But as you put it so eloquently, it looks as though you’re the one who was spoiling.”
“All I did was ask if you’d like to do something. And you turned it into this.”
“Exactly what is ‘this’ you’re referring to?”
“Well, it sure isn’t a good way to spend an afternoon. Maybe I’ll just leave you alone for now. You can call me later when you’re calm.”
Again, the silence stretched out between them, uncomfortable as driving an unknown country road at night, wary and tense, waiting for some suicidal roo to bounce into the headlights.
He whispered down the line, “Are you there?”
“Are you alright?”
“No. I feel crushed. I feel like I’ve been run over and left beside the road. I feel bloated and torn and disgusting, like road kill. And I don’t want to feel like this, not with you.”
“Do you want me to come over?”
“Yes, that would be good.”
“Okay, I’ll be there soon. And I’m…”
“Please, don’t say it. Just come over, okay.”
The road to her place was crowded with Sunday traffic, some moving one way to the beach and some moving the other way to the mountains.
His mind replayed the conversation. He wished he’d handled it differently. He wished he could be more like what she desired, if she only knew herself. Like today; all he wanted was to spend some time with her, maybe to go for a drive in the country, somewhere quiet, peaceful and beautiful.
With his attention drifting away, he missed the light change and went sailing through a busy intersection. A large truck t-boned his little car, then picked it up and crushed it against a thick telegraph pole. Thankfully, he never felt a thing. His last thought were of a country laneway bordered by golden-leaved autumn trees and his love by his side, smiling and beautiful in the afternoon sun.
It took rescue services some time to cut him from the wreckage. Doing such a job, they thought they’d seen it all. But they were surprised to find this poor man smiling. It would have them wondering for days.