by Lili Flanders
Norman was a talker, which meant that Anita, for the most part, was a listener and, by extension, an observer; such as when Norman worked himself into a lather about digital billboards—their pervasiveness and invasiveness and wastefulness (energy-wise) and danger (driver-wise) and overall awfulness-all of which Anita agreed with but didn’t want to listen to again at high volume as they waited out a red light at the intersection of Barrington and Olympic, so instead she focused on the tiny globes (or would it be globules, she wondered?) of saliva that launched from her husband’s mouth like micro-cannonballs and were briefly lit by the low sun before exploding against the dashboard, the steering wheel, and the back of her left hand that rested on Norman’s right thigh and registered the subtle contractions of his quadriceps with each guttural sound he produced, leading her to wonder at the delicate web of cause and effect created by the digital billboard, Norman’s reaction to it, her desire to calm him (thus her hand on his thigh), the tiny rain of saliva on the back of her hand and the memory it summoned: of waking on a beach on the other side of the world, decades earlier, her face wet with dew and Norman’s face nosed up to hers, his breathing deep and vulnerable and his mouth quiet, even when he woke and smiled against her cheek and pulled on the belt loops of her jeans so that they were hip-to-hip, choosing instead of words a long, sour-tasting kiss that sweetened as it lasted and was powerful enough to make Anita’s mouth water, all those years later, as she waited for the light to change and listened to Norman spew his anger into the afternoon; therefore, instead of slapping him (and she had to admit, if only to herself, that she itched to strike him, to startle him into one blessed moment of quiet), instead she slowly lifted her hand—the one on which a fine spray of Norman’s spittle had dried-and stroked the back of her fingers against his lined cheek, which caused him, if not to become silent, at least to speak more gently and to lean his large weary head against her hand and say, “Blah, blah, blah…anyway, despite the state of the world, I love you,” leaving Anita with the thought, just before the light turned green and they moved forward, that some day, decades hence, she might remember this moment in their stale car at an ugly intersection with the same vivid sense-memory that she recalled the sour-apple kiss on the beach in Java and, if that were the case—if minor magic could occur on a Thursday afternoon in rush hour traffic—then how could she not want more of the noisy, complicated, passionate life she had chosen with Norman, and which, as she opened the passenger door window to catch a breeze, she chose, quietly, once again.
Lili Flanders is a graduate of the Juilliard School of Drama and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Warren Wilson College. She lives and works in Los Angeles and spends her summers on outer Cape Cod. Her flash fiction has appeared in Vestal Review and Foundling Review, and her fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in Pearl magazine and New Plains Review.