She glared at her reflection from the passenger seat window.
Long streaks of raindrops drizzled down the glass, mocking her wavy brunette hair she had tried to straighten earlier.
The taxicab driver, a loud and dark-skinned man with gray hair, swerved abruptly to the left. Maya’s temple banged against the window, causing her to release a massive “OW!”
“Sotty,” said the driver, not looking back. “Cal-ee-fornians can’t drive in zee rain!”
They zoomed past a couple in a white Sedan with a California license plate, and exited the Brooklyn Bridge. The evening sky grew dark and heavy with the frigid October air.
Maya’s puppy came to her throbbing mind as she remembered that she forgot to leave specific directions to her friend Jackie, the dog sitter, to not give him any snacks. She imagined the mess she would find on her return home. Maya rubbed her hand on her right temple and groaned.
All she wanted was a weekend getaway. She had booked a cottage for one, non-smoking, overlooking the water in Marblehead. All Maya wanted was to be alone and breathe.
But she could only think about time; her nemesis. Time was winning, because she was going to miss the train leaving in twenty minutes. The taxi came to a red light, digging any hope of making it on time into the sopping wet ground. The air was thickening around her, constricting any blood flow to her brain. The light turned green, yet she still felt light-headed.
“Stop the car, please,” she said.
“Stop the car!” she shouted.
He glanced back and furrowed his bushy eyebrows at her. The driver pulled to the side of the road.
Maya desperately pushed the car door open and jumped outside into the pouring rain. She reached back for her umbrella and said, “Just give me a minute.”
He shook his head and turned off the ignition.
Trying to ignore the cold, she breathed deeply in and out of her nose as she took a walk. She realized they had made it the edge of the city, not far from the station.
Maya counted her steps and continued breathing just as her therapist taught her when her anxiety attacks worsened. Despite her regular yoga sessions, Maya’s boss noticed her anxiety increasing. Her tone of voice grew stern with clients and coworkers. Her boss gave her a paid weekend vacation.
She thought about the puppy her mother had bought her and remembered why she surprised her with the rambunctious fur ball. It was for comfort; to make her apartment feel whole again.
Maya’s black leather rain boots slapped on the ground as she made her way even farther from the taxi. It took her a moment to realize that she was approaching the cemetery. The place her husband was buried.
Maya hadn’t visited Tom since the summer, when she was promoted to Editor-in-Chief. The office at the time was finally reconstructed after the disaster. She felt strong enough to visit his grave back then.
She glanced back at the taxi with the headlights beaming in the rain, and decided a detour was what she needed most.
Maya walked into the cemetery, down the muddy path. In the dark, it was difficult to find his headstone, but she remembered the tree he had been buried next to which loomed ahead in the distance, an eerie silhouette.
She approached his headstone with soaked American flags around it. Standing beside his grave, she could see a part of the writing from the taxicab headlights:
TOM HAMILTON. BELOVED SON AND HUSBAND. JANUARY 12, 1974 – SEPTEMBER 11, 2001.
The horn honked from the cab, signaling her. Maya couldn’t budge. Tears came to her eyes and she could no longer hold the umbrella steady in her hand.
She remembered turning on the news that morning, seeing the towers go down. Maya had returned home to Boston to visit family while Tom stayed behind to work. He was in the elevator when the planes crashed.
Maya fell to her knees in the soggy grass, weeping. She almost didn’t feel the hand on her shoulder. The cab driver shielded her from the rain with his umbrella.
She forced a smiled in appreciation, and pushed herself up.
“Sotty,” he said. “Was he yours?”
She nodded. “My husband.”
The driver looked to the ground in sorrow. “I am…. truly sotty.”
“Thank you,” Maya said.
“Do you feel bettu now dat you have seen him?”
She looked back to his headstone for a moment, and said, “I can breathe again.”