I never saw him again

Published 10:26 am Wednesday, February 6, 2013

by Rex Alphin

I saw the brake lights shine about 60 miles east of Albuquerque.

Clumsily jogging along the highway shoulder, I tossed my pack in the backseat and slipped into the front seat of a shiny BMW (what year, I am not sure).

“Where are you headed?” he asked, a recurring question sent my way.

“West,” I said.

He grinned at the vague, but open-ended reply.

The car picked up speed as we slipped between a green van and tractor-trailer with “Haley” printed on the red door panel.

His neatly trimmed black hair roofed a deliberate countenance that bespoke confidence and accomplishment. I suspected a vast gulf between us, but though our lots were vastly different, I noted no air of condescension.

Platitudes aside (Where are you from? What do you do?), the layers peeled away as he settled into his world.

I just listened.

“We split up four years ago this March.”

I could tell the wounds were still fresh.

“I know I worked too much, but someone’s got to pay the bills, right? Hit me blindsided. Hell, she didn’t even want to work it out. Said it was no use. Tired of doing everything herself. ‘You need a maid instead of a wife.’ That’s what she told me. Women! Who can figure them out.”

I glanced out the window at the barren landscape. Does it ever rain out here?

“Made the best pecan pie I ever tasted. Crust included. You like pecan pie?”

I nodded.

His words spilled out like a waterfall. People talk with their hands when they get passionate. You ever notice that? His eyes lit up like little Christmas lights. I paid attention to the road. Didn’t want to miss my exit.

He went on and on.

“Think I missed a lot of stuff. Little things, you know? But I had needs too, you know? It works both ways. Nice house and cars don’t come free, you know? I mean, we lived good. (His voice lowered). I don’t know what happened.

“It was never meant to be. And better now than 50 years from now, both staring out the window wondering what the hell went wrong, but too blame old to do anything about it. I’m over it, anyway.”

I looked at him and pointed as we rolled past my exit. He blinked three times, raised his head and pulled over a good 100 yards past. But I didn’t mind walking back.

“So long, buddy,” I said, pulling my pack out of the back seat.

He nodded and drove off, still lost in his thoughts.

I never saw him again.

REX ALPHIN of Walters is a farmer, businessman, author, county supervisor and contributing columnist for The Tidewater News. His email address is rexalphin@aol.com.