The Geometry of Desire
They drove the interstate on Friday afternoon, escaping one small Midwestern city for the relative safety of another larger one. Long-picked cornfields stretched to the horizon, north and south. Early snow threatened to the west, dark clouds mounting like great waves at sea. Both married to other people, they contemplated divorces. The big company they worked for made it a firing offense for them to fraternize, and it was just a matter of time before they were caught. The company’s forty-floor spire rose above the rolling prairie like some ancient monument to the gods, its lights never dimming.
The man was forty but felt sixteen when he was with her. The young woman was twenty-seven and had never felt better in her life because no one had ever treated her better than this man. All across that dreary landscape, she held his hand and talked about everything from literature to chaos theory. She was as smart as she was pretty, and he liked that about her. Now and then, he added his two cents. He’d read a few books and seen his share of chaos.
She sat with her legs tucked under her, sexy in a short, plaid skirt, teasing him in that modest way of hers. And he liked that, too.
They checked into a hotel on the east side of town and made urgent love, not bothering to remove their clothes, that plaid skirt riding up and over her hips. They agreed this might have been the best ever, but they always said that.
Afterwards, he was hungry, and she was excited about being in a new place, even if it was only Omaha. She’d always wanted to travel, but had never had the chance. He’d promised to take her anywhere she wanted after things settled out, and he hoped it a promise he’d be able to keep. While she showered, he studied the parking lot below, travelers coming and going. He cracked a window and inhaled the scent of imminent snow, something else he’d seen his share of, born and raised among the rusting ruins of a steel town on a Great Lake.
He was leaving a wife and family to be with her, but wasn’t certain she wanted and needed him as badly as he wanted and needed her. He told himself that his wife had taken their marriage for granted for too long, and it was right to leave her regardless of how things worked out with the young woman. After all, he had only one life to live. He told himself that freed from a toxic marriage he’d be a better father to his children, and it wouldn’t matter that they lived apart. These were things he told himself, but they’d have been easier to believe if he’d known the young woman’s heart.
She was leaving a husband who’d raised blue and yellow bruises on her face and arms and diminished her with words. The man expected he’d eventually have to fight the young woman’s husband, or call the law on him. In the end, all she really wanted was someone to listen and treat her with respect. The man wasn’t that good at listening, but he was better at listening than fighting.
After she came out of the shower and dressed, they went looking for dinner. He’d been to Omaha and most every other place in the country on business at least once and knew where to get a good steak. In Old Town, he bought them huge hunks of bloody beef and a bottle of red. She sat on the same side of the booth as him and now and then squeezed him under the table. In fifteen years of marriage, his wife had never touched him like that.
After dinner, they asked the waiter where they could shoot pool. The man shot a pretty good stick, claiming a family history with the game — a father who’d hustled all his life, an uncle who’d taken his game on the road. The young woman hardly knew how to hold a cue, but was learning fast. He’d taught her how to shoot like she was shooting eggs and snooker an opponent by leaving the cue ball tight against a rail.
They drove through flurries to a place called Pinky’s. Inside, fifty tables covered in pink felt aligned front to back. They played each other until a couple of farm boys, likely taken with her looks, asked to shoot for money. The man said sure, they could shoot for money. She said why not, but a drink or two always made her bolder than she was.
They played doubles for five dollars a game. The farm kid shooting opposite her confided this was a game of angles and reckoned he should be good at it because he’d been good at geography in school. She giggled and asked didn’t he mean geometry. The farm kid said sure, whatever.
After suckering them in, the man ran the table once, and then ran it again — the farm boys slow on the uptake. She kept them off balance with her smile and her flirt.
Up fifty dollars, they walked out of Pinky’s into a roaring plains’ blizzard. He brushed the car’s hood with bare hands and scraped the windshield with his credit card, but the snow came faster than he could clear. A white-out, there was no driving in it anyway.
They snuggled inside the car, the heater blowing hard, half a tank of gas desperate against the cold. Snow covered the windows and obscured the outside world. Light from the dash bathed them in an eerie, green glow. She warmed his hands between her thighs, nuzzled against him, and whispered they’d be safe here in their cocoon. He said they needed to figure something out. She told him not to worry. Then she told him about the farm kid mixing up geometry and geography, and they laughed until they could laugh no more.
Gary V. Powell’s stories and flash fiction have been widely-published in both print and online literary magazines and anthologies including most recently the Thomas Wolfe Review, Fiction Southeast, SmokeLong Quarterly, Atticus Review, and Best New Writing 2015. His first novel, Lucky Bastard (Main Street Rag Press, 2012), is available at http://www.authorgaryvpowell.com/debut-novel/. He’s currently at work on a new novel.
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