I vowed that if the car stopped I was going to open the door and walk away. I would not look back this time. I would not stop. My right temple squeaked on the sun-hot glass of the passenger window and a six-pack of his favorite Coors bounced on my lap. I tried to remember all I could about beer: the way it smelled like a palmful of dirty pennies, how it coldly foamed in the nose, how the cans sweated in the unbearable sun. I had to think of something other than where I was and what I knew was going to happen.
The car left the highway and pulled onto a dirt road.
Open the door and walk away.
Gravel crunched under the tires as the car rolled to stop under a bridge. A swaying tree loosed a solitary bird. When the engine choked to a halt, a hand lifted the six-pack from my lap. Fingers like palsied bird's claws unbuckled my seat belt. There must have been a moment as Abraham was binding him, that Isaac cursed his father's devotion. How could he not, condemned to the path? Both side windows rolled down and air from the outside, the terribly free world, roared in to carry away his words: "I still love you."
He touches my knee.
There must be a car, a horse's abrupt clop, a couple languid in their strolling. Anything. Some hawthorn taken to flame, some voice to come and interrupt, a sound to blow apart the humid silence in this thick and heavy car.
His fingers reach my neck. A scar on his palm catches my flesh. There's a certain tenderness into which I lean to ache. I am surprised at how familiar it feels. It's been six years and I still hear him telling me how the Lord should be worshipped, on my knees with my eyes closed, devoted and silent. Some voices will not be silenced. If he could stop here, I would be radiant with love, swollen with love, aching for this. I could forgive him. If he would just stop here.
My hand finds the door handle.
His fingers harden in my hair. "Where do you think you're going?"
"You can't make me."
"You want to. You wouldn't have come to the store with me otherwise. You wouldn't have come back. You wouldn't have kept the secret. I know you like it."
"It's wrong. It's unpleasant. Makes me sick."
His teeth flash in a laugh. "Wrong? Look around. Nothing is wrong. Haven't you learned this yet?"
In an instant I'm sideways with the dash. Pain shrieks through my neck. The cold, serrated teeth of a zipper claw my cheek. My right hand flails against the window glass, mad, reckless, warm in the Lord's unending light. Birds screech from the trees. Leaves rattle in the wake. Animals stop in their tracks, sniff, dart away. Those birds blacken the sliver of horizon visible in the windshield, leak into blue until all that is left is a hard, glaring, inhuman expanse. My hand slaps the roof, and then weaker again: slaps, slaps, slaps.