Always Waiting, Always Here
She’ll be dead that evening, but neither of them knows this. In her final moments, as the car flips over, she will not think of him but of her parents, of how she would give anything to spare them the pain they are about to experience. But with her final, bloody exhale, ribs pinched tight against each other, forehead pressed to the shattered windshield, she will realize she has nothing to give, no bargaining chips.
He will call the next day, too soon to appear cool, he knows, but he will still be giddy with the thought of her, the awkward hiccup of her laugh, the crinkle of her curls between his fingers. He will be smiling as he leaves the voicemail, charmed by the memory of her embarrassment when a piece of olive from her Greek salad ended up on his tongue after they kissed goodnight. Over the course of a few days his joy will fade. After a week he’ll feel a tightness in his chest while he’s in the shower and think for a horrible moment he’s going to die, naked and foamy with Irish Spring.
He won’t die.
He won’t try to date again for seven months. He will try to be reasonable and convince himself that maybe they weren’t in love after one date, but goddamn it! He knows he did not imagine the spark, knows he can’t possibly have been so wrong, so alone in this feeling.
He will get back in the dating game, but his confidence will be broken into small, jagged shards—it must have been so brittle to begin with. He will meet another woman. After years together, he will know he loves her, but the girl of the past will nibble at his ear and pluck microscopic pieces of him with her bright yellow nails. What a color! Still vivid in his memory, like shiny, plasticine egg yolks, the way he watched them drip down his chest, flick at the buttons on his button-down shirt.
He will propose to the woman. They will call their parents then make love with a tenderness uncharacteristic of their usually athletic sex life. He will not like the sensation of thinking and fucking simultaneously, the flood of emotion too much, overwhelming him. And he won’t be able to help himself. When they are done, slow shudders fading like ripples on a pond, the woman asleep in their damp sheets, he will finally look her up, the girl.
His face will be purple from the mixture of red shame and blue light from the laptop screen in the dark. Her name will pop up on an archived entry of a funeral home website—so simple, she had always been right there—and he will see the date of death and start to cry. He knows that date. Has carried that date.
The woman who will be his wife one day but at that moment is only his fiancée will wake, and he will snap the computer closed. She’ll wrap her arms around his shoulders, sweat-salty cheek to his. It’s okay, she will say, you’re okay, I’m here.
Analía Villagra’s work has appeared in Bat City Review, New Ohio Review, The Iowa Review, and other journals. She is an Assistant Fiction Editor for Split Lip Magazine. After many years of killing houseplants in Florida, New York, and Connecticut, she now has a thriving windowsill of succulents in Oakland, CA. You can find her on Twitter @isleofanalia.