She glared at her reflection from the passenger seat window.
Long streaks of raindrops drizzled down the glass, mocking her wavy brunette hair she had tried to straighten earlier.
The taxicab driver, a loud and dark-skinned man with gray hair, swerved abruptly to the left. Maya’s temple banged against the window, causing her to release a massive “OW!”
“Sotty,” said the driver, not looking back. “Cal-ee-fornians can’t drive in zee rain!”
They zoomed passed a couple exiting the Brooklyn Bridge in a white sedan with a California license plate. The evening sky grew dark and heavy with the frigid October air.
Maya’s German Shepherd puppy, Kona, came to her throbbing head.
Crap. I forgot to tell Jackie to not give him any snacks.
She imagined the mess she would find on her return home. Maya rubbed her hand on her right temple and groaned.
All she wanted was a weekend getaway. She booked a cottage for one, non-smoking, overlooking the water in Marblehead. All Maya wanted was to be alone and breathe.
But she could only think about time; her nemesis. Time was winning. She was going to miss the train leaving in 20 minutes. The taxi came to a red light, digging any hope of making it on time into the sopping wet ground.
The air thickened around her, enclosing all worries into the only space left in her mind. She felt light-headed.
“Stop the car, please,” she shouted as the traffic light turned green.
“Wha?!” the driver shouted.
“Stop the car!” Maya repeated.
He glanced behind and furrowed his bushy eyebrows, and pulled over.
Maya pushed open the door and jumped into the pouring rain. She reached back for her umbrella.
“Just give me a minute,” she panted.
He shook his head and turned off the ignition.
Smoke rushed from her lips in the cold air. Maya slowed her breath and looked around. They had made it the edge of the city, not far from the station.
Maya counted her steps to 30 just as her therapist taught her to do when her anxiety attacks worsened. She fought to stop the twitching from her fingers reaching inside her jeans pocket for a cigarette. Despite taking weekly yoga classes, Maya’s boss noticed her anxiety increasing and gave her this weekend to relax.
Especially this weekend.
She remembered the warmth and joy she felt when her mother surprised her with Kona on her birthday. The comfort made her apartment feel partially whole again.
Maya’s black leather rain boots slapped on the ground as she landed on number 26. It took her a moment to realize that she was approaching the cemetery, the place they buried her husband.
She hadn't felt strong enough to visit his grave since her office was reconstructed. Maya looked back at the taxi headlights beaming in the rain. She decided that a detour was what she needed.
Her movement became purposeful as she walked into the cemetery down the muddy path. In the dark, she spotted the silhouette tree in the distance that he lied beside.
She approached his headstone decorated with soaked American flags. Standing beside his grave, she couldn't read the words, but had memorized them in her sleep:
IN LOVING MEMORY
BELOVED SON AND HUSBAND
JAN. 12, 1974 – SEPT. 11, 2001.
The horn honked from the taxi, signaling her. Maya couldn’t budge. Tears streamed down her cheeks. She could no longer hold the umbrella steady in her hand.
She remembered turning on the news that morning, seeing the towers go down. Maya was driving home to Boston to visit family while Tom stayed behind to work.
He was in the elevator when the planes crashed.
Maya fell to her knees in the soggy grass.
A soft hand landed on her shoulder. The cab driver shielded her from the rain with his umbrella. She forced a smiled and pushed herself up.
“Sotty,” he said. “Was he yours?”
“My husband,” she nodded.
“I am…. truly sotty.” The driver looked to the ground in sorrow.
“Thank you,” Maya said.
“Do you feel bettu now dat you have seen him?”
Her tired eyes looked back to his headstone.
“I can breathe again,” she sighed.
Published by Amanda Ridder