Hitchhike

Her porch light flicks off, and he trudges down the snow packed walk to the avenue. Enough she thinks. She’s had enough of him. She wonders if he’ll try to hitchhike again. Remembers that night: driving Katie from her dance class to Sarah’s house for a sleepover; she was on her way home when she saw him. He stood near the curb facing oncoming traffic, far enough away not to get splashed by the spray of tires, but close enough for drivers to see his upturned thumb. A ribbed shirt clung to his body highlighting the curves of dampened muscles. His skin is darkened from the re-occurring spray of road water. She pulls the Corolla over to the side of the road and watches him slowly start to make his way toward her car; his large strides purposefully avoid the water filled potholes. Why was she doing this? She could easily merge back onto the road and drive away. He reaches the door and looks through the glass at her. His eyes are solid gray, like the stones circling the path to the back porch. She unlockes the door.

“Pretty wet out there.” He makes an “unmph”. She pulls back onto the street, passes the McAlister Hotel; the pub hasn’t closed down yet; cars line the parking lot.

“Where do you want to be left off?” She asks. “Anywhere.” Something grabbs at her, she wants more than just a few muffled words. They hit a red light and she turns to him,

“Is that all you’re going say?” She can hear the pitch of her voice getting higher. “Doesn’t a lift deserve a little conversation?”

“You want to talk?” The voice is thick. A deep guttural sound mocking her.

The light changes. She takes the corner too fast and the tires squeal their annoyance at her. They are on her street now. A busy avenue that curves upwards after passing St. John Elementary. She pulls the Corolla into the drive, shuts off the engine. The keys fall between her thighs, and then sink deeper into the seat. She stretches her head back and massages her aching neck. Closing her eyes, she focuses in on the sound of the rain pounding on the hood.

Eventually she hears him stir; the soles of his shoes catch against the rubber car mat. His breath exhaust heavily into the air.

“I could make coffee?” she offers in an what she hopes is an encouraging tone. “Sure.”

They leave the car and grimace under the pelting rain. Inside, he spots the couch that hovers under the main window, and and quickly consumes one of its corners. He takes one of the over-sized cushions into his lap, the one with an red Asian damask and a gold tassel on each corner – she’d had it recovered last month. He plays with one of the tassels, running it through his callused fingers, while she pulls out the coffee filters and starts the percolator. She frowns realizing that the couch will be growing damp underneath him and steps away from the kitchen briefly to throw him a towel from the bathroom, tossing it at him from across the room. He understands what the towel was for and pulls himself up, spreading the towel underneath him. The faded coral towel clashes uncomfortably against the red seat cushions.

Behind the counter caramel pulls at her fingers while transferring squares from the sealed glad container to plate. She can feel his eyes on her and feels the slow consuming flush take over. She turns her back to him, opens the fridge and pulls out a 2% carton while wishing she’d remembered to pick up cream. The coffee isn’t ready yet; she stands there, carton in hand, absorbing the cool breath of the fridge. She can still feel his eyes on her and avoids turning around. When the coffee is ready, she carries two mugs and the plate of squares to the coffee table in front of him. She sits hesitantly on the other end of the couch, then pulling one leg underneath her, she gingerly looks up as she turns towards him. The rain is propelling itself at the window, gaining speed; the wind is whipping through trees in the front yard, snatching up the weaker limbs and hurling them at the house. Beyond the glow of the porch light everything is black.

He never left the couch. Later, after returning from her bedroom, where she changed out of her wool skirt and rayon tunic, she discovered him asleep. Peering over at him, he looked different. She notices the scar lightly sketched across his forehead. How did he get it? She can imagine him in the heat of a brawl with pupils dilated and blood pulsing. She recalls his swift grab of the towel. But for now he is peaceful, thick eyelashes resting against his cheekbone. She stretches over him and turned off the lamp.

The morning smelt of burnt toast and strawberry jam. The aging toaster rebukes chocking down his extra toast. She watches him eat; tracing each swallow with her eyes. His skin glistened where the sun caught the last beads of water from this mornings shower. She imagines running her fingers down his torso almost able to feel its smoothness on the tips of her fingers. He catches her looking at him with a disapproving glare; she smiles hesitantly, then turns away, blushing with embarrassment.

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