“Do we have a flat?” she asks, though it’s more like: “Oh great, we have a flat!”
“Yep,” I say putting the car in park and turning the engine off. “Good thing I have a spare in the trunk.”
“Is it one of those ugly mini tires?”
“No, I have a life-sized tire in there with a rim and everything and I promise it’ll match the other three.”
She looks slightly relieved, until she realizes I was making fun of her and she sticks her tongue out at me and crosses her eyes. Not sure why that made me want to do her in the backseat, but to each his own, I guess.
I put my hand on the door handle and she pulls her legs back onto the seat.
“What are you getting all comfortable for?”
She blinks. “What do you mean?”
“Get your shoes on,” I say, nodding to them on the floorboard, “and get your ass out with me and help.”
Her eyes get wider and she just sits there as though waiting for me to laugh and tell her I’m only kidding.
“I-I don’t know how to change a tire,” she says when she realizes I’m not.
“You know how to change a tire,” I correct her and it stuns her even more. “You’ve seen it done hundreds of times in real life and in movies—trust me, you know how; everybody knows how.”
“I’ve never changed a tire in my life.” She all but sticks out her bottom lip.
“Well you’re going to today,” I say grinning, opening my door just a few inches so the semi coming toward us doesn’t knock it off.
A few more seconds of disbelief and Camryn is slipping her feet down into her running shoes and shutting the car door behind her.
“Come over here.” I motion to her and she walks to the backside of the car with me. I point to the flat one, back passenger’s side. “If it had been one of those two on the side with the traffic, you might’ve gotten out of it.”
“You’re seriously gonna make me change a tire?”
I thought we already established this.
“Yes, babe, I’m seriously going to make you change a tire.”
“But in the car you said help you, not actually do all the work.”
I nod. “Well you are going to help technically, but—just come here.”
She walks around to the trunk and I lift the spare out and set in on the road. “Now get the jack and the tire iron out of the trunk and bring them over.”
She does what I say, grumbling under her breath something about getting ‘black gook’ on her hands. I restrain my very passionate desire to laugh at her as I roll the tire over near to the flat one and lay it on its side. Another semi zooms by; the wind rocks the car gently side to side.
“This is dangerous,” she says, dropping the jack and the tire iron on the ground at my feet. “What if a vehicle veers off the road and hits us? Don’t you watch World’s Dumbest?”
Holy shit! She watches that show, too?
“As a matter of fact I do,” I say, “now get over here and let’s get this done. If you’re the one squatting down, hidden from the traffic by the car then we’re less-likely to get run-over by anyone.”
“How does that make it less-likely?” Her eyebrows are knotted in her forehead.
“Well, if you’re standing out here in the open lookin’ all sexy and shit, I’d probably veer off the road looking at you, too.”
She rolls her eyes so hard and bends over to pick up the tire iron.
“Ugh!” she grunts, trying to get the lug nuts loosened. “They’re too damn tight!”
I loosen them for her but let her twist them off the rest of the way, all the while keeping my eyes on the oncoming traffic without letting her know that it’s making me nervous. If I’m watching, I’ve got a better chance of grabbing her in time and getting us both out of the way than if it were the other way around.
Next is the jack; I help her with it, showing her how to loosen it so it expands and I guide her about the best spot to place it, though she seemed to know where without my help. She fumbles at first with the jack handle, but quickly gets the hang of it and she hoists the car up a little. I check her butt out because I’d be an idiot, or gay, not to.
And then out of nowhere, not even a hint of thunder or lightening beforehand, rain literally starts pouring from the sky in buckets.
Camryn starts yelling about getting soaked and it starts to distract her from the tire completely. She shoots up from the ground and starts to run toward the car door, but stops once she realizes she probably shouldn’t try to get in with the car being held up by the jack.
“Andrew!” She’s completely drenched, holding her hands over her head as though it’s actually going to do something to help shield her from the rain.
I laugh my ass off.
She’s laughably furious.
I take her shoulders into my hands and say with rain pounding on my face, “I’ll finish the tire.” It’s hard to keep a straight face. And I don’t.
In a few minutes, the new tire has been tightened and I chuck the flat one along with the jack and the tire iron back into the trunk.
“Wait!” I say as Camryn starts to get inside the car now that it’s safe.
She stops. She’s shivering in the rain and every part of her is drenched. I slam the trunk closed and step up to her, feeling the water squishing around inside my shoes because I’m not wearing socks and I smile in at her, hoping to make her smile, too.
“It’s just rain.”
She relents a little, searching for more playful encouragement from me, no doubt.
“Come here.” I hold out my hand and she clasps hers around it.
“What?” she asks coyly.
Her braid is heavy with water; the few loose strands that always lay softly about her face are stuck to her forehead and on one side of her neck. I walk her around to the trunk and hop onto it. She just stands there as the rain continually washes over her. I reach out my hand again and hesitantly she takes it and I hoist her onto the back of the car. She climbs to the roof with me, all the while looking at me like I’m some crazy person that she can’t resist.
“Lay down,” I say over the loud, pounding rain as I lay my back against the roof and let my feet dangle over the end and on the windshield.
Without question or objection—although both are kind of written all over her face—she lies down next to me.
“This is crazy,” she shouts. “You are crazy.”
She must like crazy because I’m getting the feeling she wants to be up here with me.
Tossing that earlier plan of mine out the window, the one where I needed to control myself around her, I let my left arm lay straight out at my side and instinctively she lays her head on it.
I swallow hard. I really didn’t expect that. But I’m glad she did it.
“Now just open your eyes and look up,” I say, already looking up myself.
A smaller truck zooms past, followed by a few cars, but neither of us notices. Another semi flies by and the wind knocks the car a little, but we don’t care about that, either.
She winces at first as the rain gets in her eyes, but she does it, every now and then squinting and trying to curl her face into my side to shield it from the rain and the whole time, laughing gently. She forces herself to look straight up, but this time closes her eyes and lets her mouth part halfway. I watch her lips, how the rain moves over them in rivulets and how she smiles and flinches when the drops hit her in the back of the throat. How her shoulders push up when she tries to bury her face, smiling and laughing and soaking wet.
I watch her so much that I forget it’s raining at all.
WHEN I COULD HOLD my eyes open long enough, I did stare up at the rain pelting down on me. I’ve never looked at it like that, straight up into the sky, and while I flinched more than I could actually see, when I could see it was absolutely beautiful. Like each drop rocketing towards me was separate from the thousands of others and for a suspended moment in time, I could glimpse it and see its delicate facets. I saw the gray clouds churning above me and felt the car shake when the wind from the traffic pushed against it. I shivered even though it’s warm enough to swim. But nothing I saw or felt or heard was as warm and fascinating as Andrew’s closeness.
I scream and laugh as we race to get back inside the car minutes later.
The door slams shut and then his does after mine.
“I’m freezing!” I shudder out a laugh, pressing my uplifted arms between my br**sts with my fingers tightly interlocked and my chin pressed against them.
Andrew, smiling so hugely that it stretches his entire face, shivers once and flips on the heat.
Instinctively, I try to forget that I had lain against his arm, or that he put it out there for me to begin with. I think he tries to forget, too, or at least not to make it obvious.
He rubs his hands together, trying to get warm as the heat blasts from the vents. My teeth are chattering.
“Wearing wet clothes sucks,” I say with shivering jaws.
“Yeah, I’m with you on that one,” he says, stretching his seatbelt around and clicking it in place.
I do the same, though like always, after being in the car so long I’ll end up slipping out of it so that I can find another comfortable seating position.
“My toes feel slimy,” he says, looking toward his feet.
My whole face crumples. He laughs and then reaches down and pulls his shoes off, tossing them in the back floorboard.
I decide to do the same because even though I won’t say it, my feet feel slimy, too.
“We need to find a place a change,” I say.
He puts the car in drive and looks at me. “There’s a backseat,” he says, grinning. “I won’t look, I swear.” He puts his hands up for assurance and then grips the steering wheel again, pulling back onto the freeway when he has an opening between traffic.
I scoff. “Nah, I think I’ll wait until we find a place.”
I know he would totally look. And, well, it wouldn’t bother me much….
The windshield wipers are swishing back and forth full blast and it’s raining so hard that it’s still difficult to see the road out ahead. Andrew leaves the heat on until it starts to feel like a sauna and he turns it down after checking first to see if I’m good with it.
“So, Hotel California, huh?” he asks, grinning over at me with deep dimples. He reaches out and presses the button to choose another CD and then keeps pressing until he finds the song. “Let’s see how much you know.”
His hand drops back on the wheel.
The song begins like I always remembered with that eerie guitar, slow and haunting. We look at each other back and forth, letting the music move through and between us, waiting for the lyrics to begin. Then at the same time, we raise our hands as if knocking on the air one, two, three with the beat and we start to sing with Don Henley.
We get fully into it, line after line and sometimes we switch off, him letting me sing a line and then he sings one. And when the first chorus comes, we sing together at the top of our lungs, practically shouting the lyrics at the windshield. We squint our eyes and bob our heads and I pretend I’m not mortified by my singing. Then the second verse comes and our taking-turns starts to get a little tangled, but we totally have fun with it and only trip-up a couple of times. And we say 1969! loudly together. Then we lose a little of the passion to sing and just let the music funnel through the car instead. But when the iconic second chorus comes around and the song slows and becomes more haunting, we get serious again and sing every single word together, looking right at each other. Andrew hits ‘alibis!’ so flawlessly that it sends shivers up my arms. And we both ‘stabbed the beast’ together, pumping our fists at our sides and getting into it.