By Marcio Saito
Victor stared at the traffic light glistening against the purple evening twilight when another red object entered his field of vision. A VW Beetle coasted to a stop in the turning lane to his left.
He took a disapproving glimpse of the woman, who must think it’s cool to drive a stylized relic from the 70’s painted in a primary color, before returning his gaze to the cross traffic in front of him.
She was waving her hand, trying to catch his attention, and he looked back after a moment of hesitation. She pointed to her dark, thin lips and them to him. “I want to tell you something,” she mouthed.
His index finger caressed the touch-sensitive control and the window opened slowly with a hum. The noise of the outside world hit his ears, and his view fogged momentarily as the warm humidity licked his glasses.
“What a coincidence to meet you here,” she said.
Victor smiled politely, not knowing what to say. He scanned his memory for a record of that glowing face, framed by long hair the color autumn leaves. A woman he could not even see clearly now, much less recognize.
“Yeah, coincidence…it’s hot, huh?” he said, trying to buy time.
She laughed at his embarrassment. He realized they had never met before.
“Hey, I wanted to give this to you,” she stretched her slender body toward him and reached out with something in her hand. He reached his arm out the window to take it.
The light turned green and she took off, veering off to the left, accelerating as if challenging Victor to race. She waved her hand through the open sunroof as she sped away in the distance. He looked at the crumpled piece of paper in his hands. 441-8080 Lisa
The car behind honked impatiently.
Victor entered the expansive high-ceiling room from the 2-car garage attached to his home. Julia, a rising star at a prestigious law firm, was sitting on the sofa reviewing a contract she had brought home from work.
She had her bare feet crossed on the coffee table next to a glass of red. Her high-heel shoes were neatly paired next to the couch. She was biting on the pencil with her slightly crooked front teeth. Her dark blonde hair held up by the chopsticks she had brought from a business trip to Japan.
“Had a good day?” Julia asked without raising her green eyes from the document. She made an annotation to be checked the next morning at the office. “I am having La Petra, there’s some left in the bottle, I think. Dinner is in the microwave.”
“Sorry for being late,” he said. “We are scrambling to get ready for the customer presentation tomorrow, I still have to work a bit on the campaign concept tonight.”
Julia took a sip from her glass. “I’m waking up early, going to the gym.”
Victor dropped his briefcase, removed his shoes, and headed to the kitchen. He turned the microwave on and found an empty bottle of La Petra on the counter. He poured some scotch on ice into a tumbler, took a sip while counting down with the green digital timer. He collected his plate and glass. “I’m going to be in the office upstairs, okay?”
Over the years, they learned to find their private corners of the house and minimize their schedule overlap. She woke up early. He worked late.
He ate a piece of meatloaf, staring at the computer screen, looking for the customer file he had to edit.
‘Take your dream vacation,’ was the subject of the email message from American Airlines. We haven’t traveled for several years, he thought. They had good memories. He could still taste the salt of ocean from their weekends together in Miami Beach. He had the sight of Machu Picchu suddenly emerging behind that last hill engraved in his memory. But those tastes and sights were fading, almost as if they came from a story he’d read on his Kindle.
He heard Julia coming upstairs, she was going to take a shower and go to bed.
Victor wondered if kids kept couples engaged long-term. After they’d married, he had wanted to have children, two if possible, but Julia was not ready for it. So they’d postponed it until later, and the time to re-examine that decision never came.
We became roommates, not minding the silences, no longer trying to amuse each other, he thought.
That night, Victor looked at Julia’s silhouette on the other side as he came up to bed. She had been asleep for a few hours. He lay down, closed his eyes and wondered what life would be like if he called the number on that crumpled piece of paper in his pants’ pocket.