Music Worth Dancing To—Wyatt Dalton

“No. NO! This can not be happening!” On top of everything else, how can he get a flat tire here? “We’re in the middle of the desert. There’s nothing but sand and scrub for miles, what could I have possibly run over?” He knew she wouldn’t answer—neither of them had said a word for the last three hours—but that didn’t stop him from glaring at her as he pulled over. This had to be her fault, somehow. He was sure of it.

She was leaning heavily against her window, chin resting in her hand, the corners of her mouth turned decidedly down as she stared out through the glass.

What has she been looking at? There’s literally nothing out there for her to see.

She probably wasn’t seeing anything through those misty eyes anyway. As he watched, another tear appeared and rolled down her cheek, with even more of her mascara streaming in it’s wake.

How could she still be crying after all this time? Doesn’t she know she looks like a mess? He scowled at her as he unbuckled his seatbelt, and got out of the car.

Women. Why can’t they just have an argument and move on? Instead they need to sit there wallowing in their own misery. Who knows what could be going on in her mind right now? She’s probably thinking about how stupid and unfair I am.

At that thought he couldn’t help but shake his head and with a clenched jaw, he slammed his door shut. It was slightly satisfying to see her jump when the door slammed, but the smirk he wore as he made his way to the back of the car wasn’t enough to cover up the frustration he felt because of her.

He found the flat easily enough, and the sight of it made him feel worse, if that was possible: the rim of the tire was resting on the ground, and the tire itself was just beginning to shred when he pulled over. There was no salvaging this.

“Great.” He mumbled as he gave the “tire” a half-hearted kick. He almost felt like apologizing to the tire for what had happened to it. After all, it wasn’t the tire’s fault that this happened—it was hers. 

“Jess pop the trunk.” He ordered through the open window. Then as an afterthought, and with heavy sarcasm dripping from his tongue, he added. “Please.”

He watched through the rear window as Jess’s head slowly lifted itself off of the glass it had been plastered to for so long and leaned forward; then he heard the mechanical click that told him the trunk was open.

“Thank you.” He said to himself in his best “whiny-Jess” impersonation: complete with scrunched up eyes, flared nostrils, pursed lips, and enough attitude to pass for the real deal.

He didn’t know if she saw him, and if he was being honest, he didn’t really care. The sun was setting, and in the uncertain light, he was going to have a hard enough time getting the bad tire off and putting the spare on without having to worry about the mess sitting in the passenger seat.

Pulling his toolbox and the spare tire out of the trunk, he got to work.

The first three lugs that secured the ruined tire to his car were pretty snug, but they came off easy enough, with some effort; it was the fourth one that was giving him trouble. He had to put all of his weight on the tire iron to make it budge—using nothing but brute strength to get what he wanted. He figured that it would be therapeutic to try to work out his aggression this way, instead of using the tools in his toolbox that would make the job easier. But when he finally managed to get the nut loose, and there was nothing left to resist all of the pressure he was putting on the tire iron, he slipped and slammed his head against the side of the car—knocking over his toolbox as he fell, and scattering it’s contents all around him as he lay in a daze on the side of the road.

It wasn’t that he was too hurt or too shocked from what had happened to pick himself up off the asphalt: he was simply trying to string together the most colorful and explicit combination of swear words he could come up with to properly give voice to the wellspring of emotion that was dangerously close to bursting forth from his mouth.

“Do you, think I’m pretty?”

The words caught him off guard and he lost concentration on the masterpiece of that he was crafting in his head. What sort of question is that? He thought as anger and frustration were replaced by pure annoyance with his wife. He slowly sat up, fully prepared to give her a glare that she wouldn’t soon forget. Can’t she see that I’m busy trying to…

Something was wrong. Very wrong.

“Do you think I’m pretty?” She asked again.

She was standing by the trunk. he must have been so focused on the tire that he didn’t hear her get out and walk around the car; but that wasn’t the only thing he hadn’t noticed until now.

Her arms were weakly crossed in front of her, and her shoulders slumped forward, the trembling in her lower lip was made more apparent by the downturned corners of her mouth, her eyebrows pinched together and her eyes squinted slightly as if she were physically in pain: she was the very image of emotional agony. She no longer looked like a mess to him, she looked vulnerable.

How could I not see this before?

He slowly got to his feet and went to her. The worst of it all was in her eyes: as he looked into them, all anger, frustration, confusion, and bad memories that had been lingering in his mind from before were forgotten: because the eyes that he saw were not the sparkling hazel that he fell in love with. There was no happiness in them now, there was nothing at all. It broke his heart. Not only because she had been hurt and he wasn’t there for her, but because he was the one that hurt her.

He reached forward and gently placed his hand against her cheek. She pressed back against him, just a little, and he did his best to wipe away the makeup that was still smudged across her face. He wanted to hold her and make it all better, and he wanted to rip his heart out of his chest for how much it ached from seeing her in such pain.

How could I be so stupid?

“You’re beautiful.”

She took in a shuddering breath, like there had been some great tension building up inside of her that had just been released—but there was still so much pain. He pulled her close and wrapped his arms around her, letting her bury her smeared face into his white shirt.

“Jess, I’m so sorry.”

“I know.” She said, her voice muffled against his chest. “I’m sorry too.”

They stood there for a while, holding each other tight, feeling each other breathe, she slowly letting her pain melt away and he praying that he can somehow heal the scars that he had given her. Neither of them said another word. The silence was deep, and it was long, only broken by the sounds of the desert and the beating of their hearts—a quiet symphony compared to the deafening silence that was between them before.

He wasn’t sure how long they stood like that, but after a few minutes, when the sun had just set behind the mountains and the stars were starting to peak out between the pink cotton-candy clouds, he gently interrupted the silence, like it was something so fragile that even a whisper could shatter it.

“Do you remember how we used to dance?” He asked as he started to sway with her in his arms. “We would put on some music, clear out a space, and dance. It didn’t matter what we were doing or how bad the day was. When we danced, nothing else mattered, and everything was alright.” He began to slowly move her in a circle.

He felt her moving with him, their bodies and minds perfectly in-sync. She lifted her head off his chest and looked into his eyes. She wasn’t crying any more. All hint of pain was gone from her face; and while her makeup was still smeared, her eyes sparkled in the failing light and smiled at him. “But, there’s no music.” She said. “How can we dance when there’s no music?”

He gave a little laugh and twirled her in the starlight, moving away from the car, and the tire, and the tools that were still scattered all over the place. What do they really matter anyway? “You don’t hear it? It’s the only music worth dancing to.”