I counted telephone poles and the seconds between them. The highway cut straight through the sand, and it seemed the road would never end. No curves. No hills. Just poles.
I’m not sure when she changed. After kids, I guess. She rarely smiled, joked even less. I watched her drive. Not even a blink. Just an arid stare, dry like the desert, alone like a cactus. I wanted to say something, but I knew she just wanted to drive, to hide behind the wheel, an excuse to concentrate, a reason to focus on something other than me. Maybe I had changed, too. I went back to the poles.
She once asked me to keep her young. “There’s not much I can do about aging,” I said. So she asked me to keep her youthful. “That, I can try.” And so came the days when everyone we saw became someone else. We spent hours inventing stories about people, who they were, what their lives were like. She later told me she got the idea from a Simon and Garfunkel song. “See that woman over there,” she said in a grocery store checkout line. “She’s having an affair with her tango instructor. Her husband knows it, too. But he’s sleeping with his secretary.” She looked at me, and waited for what I would say.
“Do you think they know?” I asked.
“Do you think they know her tango instructor is married to his secretary?”
She kissed me, right there in the checkout line, for a long time.
I tired of the poles and wanted to turn on the radio, but figured no stations were in reach. I also figured she’d turn it off if I found one. I wanted to talk, or break something.
I must have dozed off because I don’t remember stopping. I woke to an empty car, still running, her door open. I jumped out, looked around, and found her standing in the sand some ways away. I walked to where she was, but let her speak first. She stood in front of a cactus, prickly in bloom.
“They’re spies,” she said.
“They’re spies from another planet, sent here to watch us. See those flowers,” she said. “Those flowers aren’t really flowers.”
It was my turn. “No, they’re not. They’re communication devices used to send information back to their home planet. Information they gathered throughout the year.”
“Yes,” she said. “That’s what they are. Communication devices.”
I wanted to ask where she’d gone, but instead I kissed her for a long time.
Foster Trecost writes stories that are mostly made up. They tend to follow his attention span: sometimes short, and sometimes very short. He lives in New Orleans.