I spent most of last summer with Harry, in his car. Twice a week we would put a change of clothes and some snacks in a bag and drive out somewhere for a day or two. We'd put on either ACDC or The Who, driving music, and we'd sing to every song because we knew them all so well. Wherever we went it usually wasn't too far, maybe out to Phoenix or Mesa… Tucson if we were feeling daring or we had the whole weekend. And when we got to where we were going, we never really did do much except drive around there too, and listen to the same CD we'd been listening to since we left home.
If it was hot, he'd drive to a gas station and send me in with five dollars and instructions to buy two ice cream bars for us. He'd tell me, 'Oh, I don't know, get me whatever; surprise me,' and I would buy him one of those éclair bars coated in cake crumbs, and an orange cream bar for myself. We'd sit there in the parking lot and eat them more slowly than we probably needed to, letting them last just long enough that they would drip down on our fingers and make our hands sticky in the way they had been sticky in the summers before, back in high school, in middle school, elementary school, babyhood. It occurred to me the other night that I may not do that again this year. It wouldn't really be the same, eating gas station popsicles alone. I'd probably just slip up and buy an éclair bar if I did, anyways.
Why I'm really talking about them, eating the ice cream bars, is because that's what we were doing when we got hit. We were idling in the lot outside a Chevron that didn't have any gas left (we were all alone that way), and these two kids came veering off the highway, going too fast, laughing, not paying attention. They slammed into the driver's side of his car, too fast, too hard, and it smashed the door into him. I watched as Harry's body twisted, suddenly, jerking, unprepared and afraid, to evade the impact, but too late, and it smashed the door into him. I watched then as his head slammed into the steering wheel, and saw the blood left there, and felt the impact as he was tossed into me so the blood on his head stained my dress. Oh my God, I said, oh my God.
I met Harry when he was still Malcolm. He changed his name in our first year of high school because he was named after his dad, and his dad had just run away to Nevada with a beautiful dental hygienist named Denise. That was a strange time for Harry; he kept dying his hair different colors and redecorating his bedroom, never being quite satisfied enough to stop. It only lasted about a year, though, and at the tail end of it, he got a tattoo of a tree that took root at his feet and climbed his leg to mid-calf, and then he was done. That was when I started to love him.
We dated steadily and didn't keep track of how long it had been. He said that if we kept track it would seem like a time-bomb: two months, then six months, a year, a year and a half, all reminders of time running towards the end. We agreed to just move through the days steadily, never making any sudden motions that might upset the flow of time and bring the future to the surface before we wanted to see it. Looking back now I guess that strategy was doomed to fail.
It was a few days before the end of things when Harry suddenly started talking about how our children would look if we ever had them. "They wouldn't look a thing like me," he said. "And I know they'd have youreyes if nothing else; God would never give another kid dark and muddy eyes like mine."
"I don't know," I said, "I like your eyes. They're mysterious."
"You haven't looked at them enough yet, or maybe it's because you haven't looked through them." He tried to get deep like that sometimes.
"It's just the color of my world, you know?" I didn't. "It's all the same shade of brown sometimes."
"Nah. Not really. But up here," he tapped his temples "yes."
"Oh." This was the moment when the twinge of worry appeared in the back of my skull and I began wondering if it was love after all. I paused. "You sound like a lunatic."
"There are worse things to be than a lunatic." He smiled to himself. He was being different and it bothered me.
"Are you okay? You're not being yourself." I reached out and touched his shoulder gently. "Is something wrong?"
"What? No, I'm fine, I'm just trying to make a few changes, be a better person, that kind of thing." He smiled at me. "Mix things up a bit. It was getting boring."
"Well, I don't think you need to change anything," I replied, shrugging. "I like you exactly the way you are and the way you always have been. It works for you."
He looked at me, and from his expression I was afraid I had hurt him. "Okay," he said, and life went on as normal until the day he died.
People always ask me if I blame myself like they think that I'm supposed to. I tell them that it was a car accident, and we were just doing what we always did. They still try to tell me that it wasn't my fault. I know.