It kept turning. Like the world, the moon and infinite stars in a desperate sky, the wheel of their undoing was repetitive and inevitable. He felt lost in that spin, and as the man slurred his story, Simon’s grip on the steering wheel loosened as if his hands were too weak to hold on; all of him too weak to hold on any longer.
Her name was Katerine, not Katherine as so many misspoke, although he said her name correctly since day one. She was married to his best friend, Cal, but he’d still fallen in love with her at first sight. It was “TV movie” material, stupidly cliché. But dominoes tumble and quietly he watched as their marriage failed, their love weakening due to finances, stress. And he made sure he was in place when, after their second child suffocated their patience, Katerine needed a shoulder to cry on, new lips to remind her of purpose and hands to lift her downcast gaze.
She was contacted by them first; a slip of neatly folded paper under her windshield wiper when she came out of the daycare she and Cal could barely afford. As the bleeding man in the backseat spoke, Simon saw Daneen dropping off their own kids at daycare, little bodies wandering among the myriad colored circles on the carpet like clumsy giants stomping on neon racetracks. He’d stare into those circles at pick-up, feeling hypnotized. Cycles. Wheels. Circles. The paper had a single word, “work” with a telephone number. She called. A disguised voice told her that she had been chosen to make more money than she could ever hope to make any other way. She saw it as a way out of the struggle to provide for the kids, wanted to unburden Cal so he could pursue bigger dreams of being a writer. She loved him, the man told Simon. Their affair was a balm, but not a cure. The real cure, she knew, was money.
Simon’s eyes flooded with sun and tears. He pulled off the highway shaking and asked, “What did she do?”
“She didn’t. She couldn’t,” said the man, coughing on blood. “And now she’s dead, isn’t she?”
Simon looked into the rearview at his ailing passenger, unblinking. The man winced in an even greater pain than any he was experiencing physically. (To be continued…)