“Annie looks like the Virgin Mary when she sleeps,” Val said.
She kept a steady arm on the wheel while she lit her cigarette. I looked over my shoulder. Annie was curled up in the corner of the back seat with her jacket draped around her shoulders. Her face, which flashed in and out of the dark with the passing streetlights, was a perfect oval portrait framed by an arch of raven hair.
“She does,” I said.
Val inhaled sharply on her cigarette and let the smoke escape from her mouth as she spoke.
“Who’d have thought she’d be such a skank?”
“Come on, Val.”
“She’s got some nerve, falling asleep like that. I’ve been driving all day.”
“She’s had a long week.”
“I’ve had a long week. We all have. God knows you’re no help. Why can’t you drive?”
“I just never learned.”
“It’s seems to be a recurring thing with you. You never learn anything. Not anything useful.”
“Helping people, you idiot!”
She banged the wheel with her hand, sending a short blast of the horn out over the empty road. Annie stirred in the back seat, turning over to her side. An impression of her cheek remained on the misty window.
“Let me ask you something,” Val said. “What am I to you?”
“You’re my friend.”
“Yeah, you see? Friends don’t treat each other this way! You can’t treat people like this.”
“You used to like it when I behaved like a jerk to people.”
“Yes, but not to me!”
“It’s not funny,” Val said, but she was laughing too. She opened her window and chucked the cigarette out. The draft tugged at Annie’s hair, and she woke up.
“Are you guys laughing at me?” she said.
“Yeah,” Val said, “you look like a tosspot in your sleep.”
I think of life as a maze scrawled on a piece of paper. Its solution is trivial, should one disregard the arbitrary walls and exit the maze via its open roof. I wonder if a similar realization comes at the end of life, and if a similar frustration manifests if we fail to solve the maze in the conventional way.