Heather is on her way to Houston to see her father, who she hasn’t seen in ten years. On her way, she took a detour to Galveston to try to find the pier that was the scene of her mother’s death. In Galveston, she is befriended by Lucas, a no-nonsense oil rig worker probably 20 years older than she is. He helps her through a medical crisis and in their brief time together, they become close. In this scene, Lucas is driving her from the hospital to her car, where she will continue her journey to Houston.
Lucas drove a Jeep. Of course he did. The hospital was only a couple of miles from the shore and they rode silently, the only sound the buzzing of the tires on the wet roads and the flip-flap of the windshield wipers.
All necessary information was exchanged back at the hospital. The doctor had been in before Lucas had arrived, so she told him everything, as if he was her parent. It was comforting to talk to an older man, one who seemed gentle and kind and wise. Naivete had left her on a warm Fourth of July evening thirty years ago and she knew that Lucas had an attraction to her and that being with her was more than just an act of kindness. But that was ok. She had a similar attraction to him, despite his age. But she knew and he knew that their relationship, however brief it would turn out to be, was founded on something deeper than a superficial physical appeal. Even so, just as the setting sun can bring a moment of pleasure, or the taste of freshly baked bread can offer a passing contentment, so it is with the inexplicable feelings that simmer just beneath the surface when the ancient instincts draw one to another, despite all logic and reason. Sometimes it’s just there, not to be acted upon, but to savor in the moment and to store away as a memory for the lonely, hollow days that surely lie ahead. And as they stood in the rain and hugged, Heather knew that it was more than a courteous embrace that they shared. Maybe she could stay a little longer. Maybe she could return to Galveston when the business with her father was complete. When she kissed his cheek, she thought it was a real possibility. It wasn’t until she was driving along the Gulf Freeway that reality started to nibble at the edges of the romantic vignette that she had allowed her imagination to paint.
He had to be in his sixties and though he appeared healthy, heart disease or cancer or some other ailment was likely lurking around the corner. His future was short. Not that hers was any better, and she was already showing signs. Hers would be a lingering illness; his, one and done. Not a very promising future, for either of them.
She drove west, knowing she would never return to Galveston.
copyright 2017, joseph e bird
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