“I can’t turn on the air. You know that right?” Mike glanced over at her, worriedly, beads of sweat showing on his forehead, dark spots spreading under the arms of his T-shirt.
She shook her head, still coughing, holding up a hand, reluctant to roll the window back down.
Sticky from heat, she leaned over, putting her head between her legs, covered her mouth and nose with the T-shirt and tried to breath through it. She rolled down the window again. A warm gust blew into the vehicle, but it felt better than the stagnant heat.
A horn honked somewhere behind them. Sounding about six cars back. Another sounded in response.
Hybrid cars, bicycling, scooters aside, the freeway still remained a packed daily hell. The heat and the exhaust from this caused everyone to remain in a constant state of panic.
“I hate this,” she managed, breathing through the soft cotton.
“Yeah. I think we all hate it, but it’s the reality our grandfathers left us. Right? The great industrialists of the twentieth century.” He slapped the steering wheel with the palm of his hand, dramatically.
She glanced at him briefly, grinning through the shirt. “Such a drama queen.”
“Call me Queen Bitch today. I feel like a bitch.” She saw a brief lift on the side of his mouth. At least he retained a sense of humor. She could not summon the energy for it these days.
Her throat felt a little better and she sat up, saw the vehicle in front of them had cut their engine. “I wonder how long it’s going to be?”
He shrugged. “Probably another levee break. If the road is washed out up there, they’ll send us the other way. Maybe another hour.”
Being in the right hand lane, there was no way they could cut across the divider and go back in the direction they had come from.
She removed the T-shirt from her face and took a breath. Still rancid, burning. “Why do we do this? Take the freeway? Why put ourselves through this?”
“Better than the side streets, or trying to go through town.” He sipped on his cherry cola fountain drink in the styrofoam cup, cocked his brow, as if to ask if she really wanted to suffer through that scenario.
“I meant at this particular time? Why don’t we just start leaving earlier? Or yeah, we could find a different route right? This situation isn’t going to change anytime soon, so that means we have to change.” She had read that somewhere or heard it on Dr. Phil.
He nodded. “Doesn’t matter we change, it’s only going to get worse no matter where we go.” He pointed to the scene to their right. A watery field that had once been pasture land. “That’s going to get worse. They used to say it would be forty years before the water started creeping up on us here. Look at that. The scientists say since the Greenland shift, life is going to get a lot tougher. I tend to believe them.”
She nodded, knowing what he said was true. Still… “I know that. Life is tough all over and all that crap right? But what I’m saying is, there are ways to make our lives easier. We could move closer to work. Or to the center of the country. We should move to someplace like Oklahoma. It never floods there. I bet they don’t have traffic there either. No one wants to live in Oklahoma. Quality of life would be better.”
He shook his head. “You’re dreamin’. Everyone is moving to Oklahoma. Half the people who live there are the Cali and Oregon transplants. When it comes to traffic they’re worse off than us. No one thought it would happen this soon and none of those states thought about what the migration would do to their transportation system.” He shook his head. “Oklahoma’s no good. Or Arkansas. Or Missouri. They’re all packed.”
“I don’t listen to the news anymore,” she admitted. “It’s all bad. They don’t show those hero stories anymore, or anything uplifting. We need more positive things.”
He glanced at her, snorted and shook his head, but remained silent.
A wave of dizziness swept over her and a bout of nausea followed. “I hate the future,” she moaned opening the car door.
Moving back into the car, he handed her the twenty ounce plastic water bottle. She took it gratefully, uncapped it and took a long drink.
“You know those things are going to kill you eventually, right?”
She nodded, still feeling a bit nauseous, but tried to smile. “Yeah, these bad ol’ PCBs or whatever they are. But so will the milk.”
She glanced at him surreptitiously, saw him grinning now and they both laughed.