A TALE

 

He wanted the car window rolled down.

She wanted the air-conditioning.

This had become a matter of repeated debate any time they were together in the car. It was one in a series of debates that marked their relationship recently. 

As occasional spates of debates, arguments and disagreements mark almost all relationships of any duration or worth. 

For rolling down the window, he argued the air is natural. The rush of wind feels good on the skin and through the hair. It reminds him of his childhood when car air-conditioning was rare. There is freedom in it.

Finding also a pragmatic answer to counterbalance the romance of the wind, he said rolling down the window conserved gas and thus helped the car get better gas mileage and thus saved them money.

Truth be told the reason he argued so adamantly for rolling down the window was because she wanted to run the air-conditioning. While he argued for rolling down the window rather than against using the air-conditioner, her arguments were against rolling down the window which, in turn, supported the use of the air-conditioner.

For turning on the air-conditioning, she argued that it is too hot to have the windows rolled down. This is South Georgia, and the 60-mph air-conditioning of a rolled-down window just doesn’t cut it in this heat. Rolling the windows down mussed her hair. Rolling down the windows sucked bugs into the car. Sweat makes their clothes sticky.

Besides, she said, rolling down the window disturbs the aerodynamic design of the car thus creating wind friction thus making the engine use more gas to counteract the wind and thus using more gas and wasting more money.

Truth be told, again, the reason she argued so adamantly for the air-conditioning was because he wanted the window down.

Back and forth the argument went until it turned into a battle of no words. He would automatically roll down the windows and shut off the air-conditioning. She would automatically raise the windows and turn on the air-conditioning. Back and forth, up and down, on and off, off and on, down and up, forth and back ...

A loud horn ended the battle. A large truck was barreling toward them.

In their battle, the man had run a red light and was now in the intersection with a semi about to T-bone them into next week. The truck hit the brakes, but it would never stop in time. The man hit the accelerator and zipped the car, he and his wife out of the path of the truck by a whisker of a second and a matter of centimeters. Clear, the man stopped the car immediately. 

The car swayed and shook with the passing of the truck. They sat there for a moment. He and she. Her and him. They sat in silence. Their hearts racing. Their minds dizzy with the doom just barely missed.

Their lives didn’t pass before their eyes, but the possibility of a life, one without the other, did.

They sat. They breathed. They didn’t speak. They didn’t look at one another. Long deep sighs escaped their lungs and lips pulling the nervous tension from their necks and shoulders. Their knees quit quivering with the next inhalation of breath.

He turned on the air-conditioning. She rolled down the windows. Without a word between them, they pulled their car back into traffic and drove home.

Dean Poling is an editor with The Valdosta Daily Times.

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