The rigid east coast cold battles against the heat within the car. Plumes of breath gather on the window then disappear. Outside, the lights from the industrial sprawl burn against the impossible black of the night. Eighty miles an hour doesn’t seem so fast when set against the tranquility of the sleeping world. Flashing lights from a radio tower pulse in the distance like dying stars. The emptiness of it all fills my lungs and exits as a long sigh.
“What’s wrong?” she asks from the driver’s seat.
I search for an answer but all I can muster is a dismissive shrug. As if a shrug could embody everything wrong with me. As if a shrug is anywhere close to a suitable answer. If it wasn’t for the fact that this is regular behavior, I’d expect follow-up questions. She knows better. I want to tell her what’s wrong, I wish I knew. The more questions she asks, the more I want to tell her. The more questions she asks, the more I realize I know nothing about what’s wrong.
She responds warmly to my shrug, “Is there anything I can do?”
I feign a ponderous look as if I’m actually thinking about the question. I already know there isn’t anything she can do. I get the feeling that she knows that as well. How can you solve a problem when you’re not even sure what the problem is? I know she wants to help. Hell, I want her to help. I know my bullshit isn’t any easier on her than it is on me. I look over and give her a smirk. The smirk, unlike the ponderous look, is genuine. What she doesn’t realize is that the mere thought of how much she cares gets me by.
She places her hand on my leg and gently caresses. She responds to my smirk with a soothing smile.
“I’m with you until the end,” she says as she removes her hand and places it back on the steering wheel..
Those words burned a hole in my head. How do I tell her that there are days in which I feel like the end is close? How do I tell her there may be nothing she can do to help? How do I tell her that I’m not even sure why I get like this? The answer? I don’t. As I look over at her, focused on the road, it’s clear to me that I don’t tell her. I keep fighting. I keep fighting because she needs me to. A little white lie can go a long way.
I lean over and kiss her forehead, “thank you.”
“For what?” she asks.
Yet again, I don’t even know how to respond so I reaffirm, “Just… thank you.”
I place my hand on her leg, lean back in my seat and return to looking outside of the window. Neon reflections etch themselves onto my retinas. Familiar sights, modern lighthouses, beacons that bring us home. I take a deep breath and look over at her. Though, I may not know how to say it, I hope you know, I’m with you until the end.