Out of Oxygen - Elizabeth Weld Nolan

He slammed the door of the old white station wagon and turned the ignition key. The car was parked in front of the house facing the wrong way. He leaned into the steering wheel as he engaged the gears. She stood beside the car in her green running shorts and top, hugging herself against the morning chill.

``What time will you be home? See you tonight?’’ He didn’t turn his head but managed a little wave. He pulled the car away from the curb with a deep thrust of the accelerator. She kept her eyes on him as she began to run alongside, feeling at least she could be beside him for a minute more. He pulled away onto the right side of the street.

She kept pace for two more seconds until she slammed into the concrete with her chin and knees. He kept going. Flat on the rough sidewalk, she gasped and began crying with the shock, curling around to reach for her knee, patting her face and coming away with blood. Confused and stunned, she sat up. She had stepped in a deep hole in the sidewalk in front of their next door neighbor’s house, a hole she had never noticed. She couldn’t get her breath and held her stomach until slowly, air returned and she could get up.

She hobbled into the house feeling as if she’d been assaulted. At least the children were already gone to school and she could tend to herself without scaring them. She dabbed at her scraped knees and hunted in the medicine cabinet for the antibacterial ointment.

Tending herself, by herself. She sat still in the quiet house, no chaos, no shouts and tears. She wanted this. She had to make it happen. She had to go, take the children and go, before she stepped in another hole, before she ran out of oxygen for good.