The man waved me over to the curb. He was fifty feet ahead, so I pulled front and to the side. He looked like he wanted to tell me something, so I rolled down my window.
“We just, uh, need to wait. For my wife,” he said.
“Okay, no problem,” I said. But before I could even put my window back up, I heard a voice shouting from the other side of the parking lot.
“What, are you leaving without me?” she screamed, and at first she was so animated that I thought she was joking, but as she got closer, I could tell she was not joking. Not at all.
“What, you can hold the door open for someone else, but not for me?”
He left his door open and walked around to the other side.
“No, no,” she said, still shouting. “Don’t bother.”
The hatred on her face is difficult to describe. It was an anger that did not care who watched, who witnessed. It was pure hatred, welling up out of deep hurt or disappointment. She flicked her cigarette away in contempt and climbed into the car, still fuming, still angry beyond reason.
“I bet you hold the door open for her, don’t you?” she said, accusingly.
“No,” he said.
“I bet you probably carry her purse, don’t you?”
When he spoke, there was patience, and there was also a sense that he somehow deserved it. I don’t know. It’s difficult to describe. After that there was only silence, the kind that stretches flat and wide with nothing to break it. A silence at once deep and sad and full of first lines that never happen. Breathing seems like an imposition.
I am just the driver, I tell myself.
Ten minutes of silence. We approached their neighborhood.
“Should we stop at the gas station on the corner?” he asked.
She erupted again.
“Why? Do you have someone you need to meet there? Maybe someone to hold the door open for?”
“I thought maybe the kids might want something,” he said quietly.
Silence. We skipped the gas station.
I pulled up to the curb at their destination and stopped the car. They each climbed out a different side, and she was gesturing at him all the way up the sidewalk. They disappeared inside their house, behind a door that looked like every other door in the neighborhood. Hundreds of doors, all alike, and behind them, hundreds of different situations. Arguments, kind words, the sharing of grocery lists, the delivery of good and bad news. All of it, there, behind all the doors.
I drove away. It was warm, as if the new year was too preoccupied with other things to remember what season it was.