We heard the pop and then the loose flap of rubber smacking the asphalt. She turned on a neighborhood road, and we surveyed the damage.

“A nail.”

“I have AAA; I’ll call.”

I nodded and leaned back on the grassy slope. The air was thick, and the back of my thighs were moist from sweat.

“They said a couple of hours.”

She eased down next to me. It was a nice evening, and the houses towered around us. I really had nothing else to do. We chatted; she was a ride to and from class, and we didn’t know each other that well. She talked about her summer wedding, and it made me think about all the changes in my life.

This was the finale, this class with the four of us. Stragglers who had dropped the other late night course. I guess I already felt detached. Our cohort had dwindled. What had once been my life-preserver against the soul-sucking waves of first years and urban schools was now just a small floatie. Something you didn’t really need, but it was nice to have around for the comfort.

The sun set and turned the sky orange. A white truck pulled up, its yellow lights a haze in the dusk. He hooked up her car, and she asked him where he was from. The windows were down, but the night was a quilt, and I kept sweating. The houses stopped towering, turned into tiny dwellings stacked one on top of the other, and then into rows with boards for windows. Blue and red lights whizzed passed us, and he asked if we were sure about the shop. We shrugged and said yes; these neighborhoods were familiar to us, the territory our quixotic training had thrust us into.

At the end of the night it was just the two of us and her new tire. She crossed the bridge to drop me off at my place, and my feet crunched against the gravel of the sidewalk.

She leaned toward the open passenger’s side window. “Thanks for staying with me.”

“Of course.”

I watched her drive into the black suede night.


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