It was an hour wait for an oil change this time of day, the guy at Jiffy Lube told her. In lieu of her time, they offered Starbucks coffee and powdered creamer, which Amanda helped herself to before crashing into a green cushioned seat as far from the stack of tires by the door as she could get. The place smelled of rubber, oil and men.
Tendrils of steam floated from the surface of her coffee, pock-marked with clumps of creamer not yet dissolved. It was already half-past one by the time she saw her Kia Sportage levitate from the floor of the garage to the high corrugated ceiling. A man wearing a grease-stained red t-shirt looked up at the car, then at her through the plate-glass window that separated them. He winked.
She cursed to herself. Why didn’t she know more about cars? She should've listened to her dad when she was younger, taken that class on basic car maintenance instead of the photography course that made her realize just how mediocre her talents were. It would've been more productive, and hurt half as much.
Time passed slowly. Angry Birds caught her attention. She drained her coffee. People came and went and the waiting room chilled from the constant open and close of the door. She hunched closer to herself when someone sat next to her.
She jumped when she saw him, her iPad crashing to the floor. A poor attempt to recover; a laugh too high-pitched; an awkward hug; a kiss dodged. Her heart beat loudly in her ears.
”Hey, Alex, how are you? It's been a while.”
"Yeah. Uh, how've you been?" Distraction pulled him away from her. Two unruly blonde children screamed "Dad!" and demanded quarters for snacks in the vending machines.
"Fine." Too short and too vague. In desperation, she looked for her car but found it still defying gravity, happily hanging in the air like some 1950s take on the future.
"Good. What are you doing here?" Alex's eyes followed the children, who had nested inside one of the tires on display. A sign next to them read "Buy One Get One Free."
"Same as you, I guess. They only do the one thing, right?”
God, she sounded like a bitch.
Alex was unfazed. ”Sure. You still at KU Med?"
"Good job there, right?"
She nodded. He knew she had a good job there, why did he ask? Made more than he did and he had the two kids and a wife at home to support. A dull ache nagged at her chest. All of a sudden, she hated herself.
"How's the family? You must be busy."
"Yeah, especially now." He paused and she thought for a minute he was going to cry. Right there, in the middle of the Overland Park Jiffy Lube waiting room, while Starbucks coffee burned on the pot warmers.
And he did cry a little then, and she half-heartedly patted his arm. Hoped it didn't come across as fake as her intentions.
"What do you mean? Didn't you hear?" He blew his nose too loudly into a tissue he grabbed from a crumpled box on the coffee table. The other patrons stared and she worried they thought she’d made him cry.
She hadn't, had she?
And for just a second, she was glad. Hoped she had made him cry. Maybe he was the one being dumped this time. The one that sat alone at the dinner table drinking bottle after bottle of Sauvignon Blanc while the hours turned to days which turned to months and before you knew it you'd missed so many days of work you had no PTO left and your boss was threatening to fire you.
"Lindy. She died."
The greasy man in the red shirt called her name. Once, twice, then he walked up to her with scuffed boots scraping the muddy floor. The world slowed as she saw her hand reach out for the keys.
"I thought you knew. Breast cancer. We posted it on Facebook."
Facebook. Amanda shook her head. She had blocked Lindy a few months ago. She'd had enough of the feel-good christian quotes and anti-Obama crusading. It was more than she could take.
It was also more than she could take when Lindy and Alex started having babies. Pretty ones. And then the photos of their custom-built house in Nottingham Forest, not three blocks from where they all went to high school.
"Why didn't you call me?” She stood over him with keys clutched so hard they cut into her hand.
"Why would I have?"
"She was mine too, you know." It came out a whisper. It was meant to be full of emotion, but she felt strangely numb.
"She was my wife." Spit with venom.
Amanda backed away slowly, bumping into a man at the coffee bar.
"She never loved you,” he called, his voice muffled as the door slammed behind her.
The world blurred to a hazy blue. She made it as far as the Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot across the street before she collapsed in a heap across the steering wheel. The memory of Lindy's soft hair alive on her fingers, the soft caress of her touch as they lay breathless in bed with limbs intertwined. Lindy, naked in the bathroom of their dorm, hard nipples pressed against the shower door. Lindy, hair wild and uncombed, running through the prairie where they picnicked, hands skimming sheathes of wheat. Lindy walking away from her and toward Alex. Lindy, hair dyed blonde and wearing a white gown. Lindy, belly round and body soft, smiling from the pixelated confines of social media. And now Lindy, dead.
Amanda sped home, fueled by fresh oil and the need for alcohol. Her hands trembled on the steering wheel until she pulled into her upscale apartment building. She called work and claimed to be sick again. Heard the threatening tone of her boss’ words come across the line but cut her off before she could finish.
Yellow pills tumbled into her palm one by one until the bottle was empty. She started on the next. They went down easier with wine. Better with vodka.
She lay on her side, staring at the setting sun through the bay windows while she waited for the world to disappear, and for Lindy to be hers again.
Jo Owen is a writer and nurse living in Kansas City.