He comes through now and then, the traveling salesman of jokes, lead guitar in the on-the-road band. These visits are a flutter of wings, the routine that overrides her day, fills a night. As the taillights of his ’98 Buick red-streak out of town, Antonia breaks out in hives.
It’s happened that way for over a decade, twelve years she counts on her fingers and ears. She finds the fexofenadine in her medicine cabinet which when opened, hides the hives on the other side of its door. Her face is screwed up in resentment, natural symmetry unnaturally out of square. A mouth tired of singing the song of hello and goodbye, the low notes outlasting the high.
It’s a prescription she refills on a regular basis because she won’t know when the headlights will pull in. Sometimes a phone call, the blare of a trumpet, comes from a phone booth the next town away, the next county, the next state. Sometimes not. Like the meds, the house is kept ready, the dust caught before it could fall. There is always a steak in the freezer, always a six-pack of Coors asleep in the bottom of the vegetable bin.
Antonia hasn’t dated in the last ten years of her now forty-two. Except for tonight; she said yes to the concert with Jim, the pharmacist at the drugstore in town. She kissed him goodnight, went upstairs, undressed, and smiled as she scratched at the hives.