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Passenger Princess

Seat pending...

By AshleyPublished 5 months ago 4 min read

As swiftly as he came, he went.

As if the anticipated birthday candle I’d been preparing to blow out all week long, I’d finally huffed over, and the thing now whispered a thin smoke trail. He’s all I thought about, but the flame now extinguished, and the aftermath floating upwards until it will one day dissipate into thin air.

I had jotted his name on the back of the chariot tarot card, shuffled over to my bed, and tucked it under my mattress, in hopes the ache in my heart might be relieved by witchcraft.

It buzzes from across my room.

My head whips to the right, near whiplash from the pull of my sorrow. I clammer over the puffed duvet and onto the right side of my mattress, clawing toward my phone.

If he wanted to, he would have stayed, she texts. A bolt of lightning blasts up my spine. The lump now forming, a hiss curdling behind my uvula.

Ready to Facetime my supposed best friend, the fingers of rage interlocking through the spaces between my rib bones, I—trembling—swipe away from her text and to the next screen prepared to smash the Facetime button or quite possibly block her, and those pictures emerge under her contact information. Images I shared from his and my trip to Palestine two years ago. She had needed them for the slideshow.

The soap factories. The Ibrahimi Mosque. The old market. Bethlehem.

His mother who loved me.

Recently he’d gone back. Recently he’d been visiting where he’d come from. He thought he might convince her to move to Oregon before the summer. His mother. I clicked my phone off. I clicked my phone on.

I’d known nothing of the conflict and hadn’t needed to, but entwined with him, I’d visited two years prior and paid no mind to the turbulent history that he’d been birthed into. A generational wound too heavy to fix, likely, for him and his cousins, and so he moved to America given the opportunity with his uncle at the age of thirteen.

He’d given me a ring a year later. A wedding would have been this coming June.

He left in September and would’ve been back by Halloween, the Micky and Minni Mouse costumes still dangling in my closet. Smoke trails.

Instead, I call my mother. She loved him.

She hushes me. She promises me things she cannot. She says she’s coming over and she does. Braunschweiger spread carelessly on top of her homemade bread. She strokes my bleach-blonde hair, scrawling her fingers through the brown roots. She holds my near-translucent clammy hands. Her blue eyes fearfully searching inside my green ones.

I had never experienced a heaviness brought on by war before, and, I could not have expected to as an American white woman grown and raised in the Pacific Northwest by a schoolteacher and claims adjuster, who, like me, had arrived on Earth three miles west at St. Vincent Hospital off Barnes Road, the building in perpetuity.

And sure, there was the news. NPR. Podcasts and Jon Stewart. The button on the remote, in the car, or on the iPhone, capable of tuning to something else because “I’m tired and don’t feel like listening to the news today. Oh, and Miranda wants us to bring a charcuterie board this Friday. I think she invited, like, four couples.” And then I would apply the lip-gloss I earned with five hundred points collected at Sephora, me at his right side—the passenger seat.

And sure, he’d nod and drive on and push the button off and sigh and tell me he was thankful for me, no hint of accent in his voice, spoken like an American man with the hard ‘rs’ we speak here, and shower me with gifts, and hold the car door open, and I’d obliviously sit to his right, and point outside my window, through the windshield, on your left, to the roadside attractions I’d never considered more than a passing enjoyment, along the highway on our road trips, hiking excursions, on the way to Cannon Beach. Or Seattle. Once Ashland.

And, I thought him attractive when he whispered in my ear words in Arabic, and I once laughed with my friends at how much I smothered him in bed when he used that entertaining language on me. A treat for a trick.

And even yet, he loved me.

Our car had broken down seven months ago, smoke exhaust fuming from under the hood, floating up, up, up, and dissipating as one would hope for. And, I, in the passenger seat, resting my head on my right hand, tapping my fingers to my thigh, watched him frantically jump out of the driver’s side, trying to salvage our trip, that time to Mt. Saint Helens. I thought it important he learn about the eruption and the devastation it had caused. I played music instead that day. He always mentioned his mother.

I have to drive to the store tonight to buy something. I don’t know what. But I can buy it.

The passenger seat will be empty, and I’m burdened with which direction to turn, I’m sure of that at least. Funny, I will still choose the silence because it’s easier to be the passenger princess and not the driver.

I am one and he is thirty thousand, with whom I’ve chosen not to know. And, they can no longer drive anywhere, because there’s nowhere to drive to.

And I’m the wreck. Apparently.


About the Creator



I'm a writer based in Portland, Oregon. Feminist-focused.

Instagram: @ashleyleap

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