(This originally was published in The Quarterly, a small-press magazine out of Rhode Island. It is included in Goodbye and Other Stories[Jan Luby photo])


It was the car she noticed first, though she never could understand why.

There was nothing special about it. It was just one of  those silver Japanese-looking things.  It didn't say much about him either, other than hinting at  a career that was somewhat successful, and of responsibilities to it and other things. Still, nothing was revealed by it. It was simply the car he drove.

At first, she hadn't thought much about the man behind the wheel. When their eyes had met she quickly looked away, as she did whenever she chanced upon the gaze of strangers.

She saw him again a few days later, driving by in the same direction, not hurrying, though not going slowly either. Again, though, she looked out to the street absent-mindedly upon hearing a car moving by and found herself looking directly into his eyes. It made her uncomfortable and she again quickly turned away.

Later though, he came to mind suddenly as she sat on her front step waiting for the bus that delivered her son from day camp. She found herself wondering where he might be coming from so early in the day. Was he a salesman driving by on a regular route? Could he be heading home so soon?

Then she abruptly caught herself. Why did the activities of this total stranger hold any interest for her? She concluded that her curiosity was the product of a mind grown restless by a summer of sweltering listlessness.

She didn't see the car again for a week or so. But she continued to think about it and the man who drove it. Did it seem as if he took particular interest in her as he drove past? Did he linger in his gaze as he drove through the corner in front of her home? Why did she even wonder? He was no different than a hundred other drivers who motored past during the course of the week. His was certainly not the only car she noticed on a frequent path down her street. He looked as if he might be handsome, maybe athletic - youthful even. So what if he was? She was at no loss for the company of handsome men. Her husband, for one, cut quite a figure, as her friends constantly reminded her. And with her regular visits to the club came opportunities to meet and socialize with a steady stream of good-looking and self-assured young men.

How, then, had he made this nagging impact upon her? She began to wonder about that more and more, although she consciously dismissed the idea each weekday at mid-afternoon as she found herself strolling through her yard.

It was an oppressively hot day when she saw him again. She once more was waiting for her son. She was standing idly in her front yard, her left hand outstretched, holding onto a branch of the willow that shaded the porch of her white Colonial house. She was dressed for the heat, in white shorts, and in the top from a two-piece bathing suit. Her hair was pulled to the back of her head in a tight french braid.

She looked down from the tall willow in an involuntary response to the sound of a motor and found herself frozen, looking into the eyes of the stranger in the silver car. This time she did not look away but fixed her gaze into the eyes of the man, who glanced away only for a moment to navigate before quickly finding her eyes again. He didn't smile, and yet she sensed intuitively that he was relaxed and good-natured, a gentleman. She was struck with the immediate, indelible impression that she felt not the least bit intimidated by the fact that he seemed to be looking right into her.

She continued to stare at him, into his eyes, as long as he could divert his attention from his driving. Then, as he drove on his way, she stared after him until his car disappeared into the thick trees that swallowed the road on its way into town. Then she turned and headed quickly into the coolness of her home.