……….Driving back from spring break he looks at you, not at the road, and says, Uh-oh, the car won’t go. We might not make it.
You’re confused, because the car seems fine. No weird noises. No warning lights.
This car runs on dancing. It can’t go until you do a dance.
You laugh. It’s another one of his jokes—you know he wouldn’t really stop in the middle of I-85. Although he’s slowed down to sixty-five in a seventy. Now he’s going sixty-four. Sixty-three.
………..Well? Better start dancing.
………..You laugh again and wave your hands around. You’re not a good dancer. You’ve never understood how to move right, how to flirt, how to dress sexy. You’re honestly surprised he’s even interested in you, but he says you’re different from his exes. You’re so chill. So not a bitch.
………..Usually he drives so fast he almost scares you a little. You’re always asking him to maybe slow down, to which he always says, Let yourself go for once.
…………You try letting go now. You try not thinking about those pictures the coroner showed at that one assembly back in high school. The blood-spattered windshield, the severed head on the dashboard. It was meant to scare everyone out of drunk driving on prom night. You didn’t have to worry about any of that, though. You weren’t going to prom, because of how embarrassed you were at the thought of dancing, and because no one asked you anyway.
………..That’s not much of a dance, he says.
………..You can barely hear his voice over all the horns blaring. He’s going twenty-two. Any slower and you could open your door and—do what? Jump out into traffic?
………..I could drive if you’re tired, you say. We can get out and swap at the next rest stop. He stares ahead and doesn’t answer.
………..Fifteen. Fourteen. Thirteen. You wiggle your hips in your seat. You shimmy and gyrate, not worrying about how ridiculous you look, thinking instead about how the coroner said to always carry photo ID, that it made her job so much easier. Your ID is in your purse, by your feet..
………..Woo, yeah, he says. That’s more like it. At last the speedometer goes back up, and soon he’s going too fast again.
……….You dance all the way back to campus. What a goofball, what a ridiculous joke is how you’ll tell this story, even to yourself, for a long time. You’re not ready to let yourself look at it any other way. Whenever he tells this story to friends, you’ll agree it was hilarious, although you laugh a little less each time. The more you think about it, the more it feels like a story about someone else, a stranger projected on a screen as a voice drones, you think this won’t happen to you, but it can.
Katie Burgess lives in South Carolina with her family and some cats.
Photo by Karolina Kolacz