The car does not start this morning so I call an Uber to take me to the airport. The driver is young. It feels like I am getting into my little brother’s car, except it is spotless and smells of pine.
“Please take off your raincoat in the car,” the driver says.
I take it off and don’t bother telling him it is not a raincoat, just a coat with rain on it.
“Where is your luggage?” he says.
“I’m not going anywhere. I’m collecting someone.”
He closes his eyes. “But you do not have a car. Shouldn’t they come to you?”
We crawl in a sea of red tail lights. Rain runs down the window, snaking, merging, halting and running again. The driver plays music with a hard drumbeat that makes me grind my teeth.
“Would you mind changing the music?” I say.
He raises a hand in apology and turns it off.
“I’ll still give you a five star rating,” I say.
He grins at me in the rear-view mirror and his gold tooth, third from the front, gleams.
A crack of thunder makes me jump in my seat. The driver switches on the radio. R.E.M. “Everybody Hurts." That song always makes me cry.
“You don’t like storms?” the driver says.
“It’s this song. Please leave it on.”
The day they first put him in the hospital and I went home without him, I mopped the kitchen floor, all six tiles, and this song played.
“You cannot help who you love,” my therapist told me. Or I told her. It sounded defensive. It must have been me who said it.
Three AM. He lay in the bed asleep and he was thin, his face pale and somehow smaller against the hospital-white pillow. They had pushed his dark hair back from his forehead. His face was pointy, sharp. I wasn’t sure but I thought he probably was the most perfectly formed human being.
I went to the church at the end of our street. It was empty other than me and the priest, but there was a blaze of prayer candles beneath the statue of the too-white St Mary.
“Some people have had enough of this life,” I said to the priest.
“Suicide is a sin.”
“Oh, for fucksake,” I said and left him sitting in the pew.
At the airport, in the drop-off lane, the driver says he will wait for me and I almost say, I love you. I shake my head and leave the car while the fare is deducted from my account.
I wait in the baggage claim area. He comes down the escalator from the arrivals hall. He does not walk. He sails. He listens to his iPod, moving his head to a beat, and I wonder who is singing to him. Everyone thinks he likes super cool underground music but his secret favorite song is K.D. Lang’s “Constant Craving.”
He sees me and his smile falters. It disappears. His shoulders rise with a breath. He pulls away the earbuds.
If this were a movie, he would kiss me. He would hold my face, pulling me up against him and he would kiss my mouth and we would kiss for at least seven seconds.
I hug him. There is nothing left of him, but his arms are strong when he hugs me back. I press my face into his warm neck. He smells of antiseptic and he will not be able to get that smell out of his skin.
About the Author: Melissa Goode’s work has appeared in Best Australian Short Stories, SmokeLong Quarterly, New World Writing, Split Lip Magazine, Atticus Review, and Jellyfish Review, among others. She lives in Australia. You can find her here: www.melissagoode.com and @melgoodewriter.
Story Song: "Everybody Hurts" by R.E.M.