This is what she did before she stepped in front of the semi.

She walked into the bar, six or seven steps behind the waitress, three ahead of him. He was talking on his cell phone. She walked with her head down, an apology to the waitress who was nearly done with her shift and hoping to hurry it by walking faster.

She took the booth side under the TV, he the one facing it. She did this because of the one time she didn’t. The TV was tuned to a soccer game. She anticipated his scowl before it appeared and almost allowed herself a smile. He told the waitress to change the channel to “real football.” She said she couldn’t do that but she could find them another booth near another TV if they didn’t mind waiting. He minded.

She wore not-skinny jeans and a heather gray V-neck sweatshirt decorated with an orange C. The sweatshirt was at least five sizes too big, but it wasn’t his. He was barely her height and skinny enough to wear her clothes, which he had but only one time and only then because he was drunk and she was passed out on the sofa and he just wanted to know.

Every time she set her wine glass on the table the sweatshirt slipped over her left shoulder, revealing a black bra strap. She tugged the sweatshirt back into place like she was trying to teach it a lesson.

She wasn’t wearing makeup. Her eyes were tired and her skin pale and freckled. Her shoulder-length dirty blonde hair was tied in back with a rubber band. Escaped strands kept falling in front of her face but she didn’t scold them like she did the sweatshirt.

When they’d first met three years earlier he’d told her she reminded him of Charlize Theron and he’d said it again tonight but he was thinking of her role in Monster and she’d never seen it so she mistakenly thought he was being kind.

Her baked chicken was under-baked and she shouldn’t have mentioned it but she did in a sort of half-whispered dictation, another thing added to a secret list. This time he was listening so he called the waitress over and told her to fix it (and his overcooked steak, too) or he’d tweet about how bad the restaurant was and he has over seven thousand followers. The waitress apologized and took the chicken and the steak and the angry words back to the kitchen.

He wore sunglasses the whole time, not to hide his bloodshot eyes (they were) but because he was as vain as he was clueless about how stupid he looked wearing sunglasses indoors.

“They look good on me,” he’d said when he bought them a month earlier at a store that sold only sunglasses. It wasn’t a question, though he’d expected an answer. She’d said “yes” then. It wasn't her first lie. He bought her a pair a week later. They cost half of what he’d spent on his, but that was still ten times more than she’d ever spent on sunglasses. She snapped the frame in half the next day quite by accident, but he doesn’t know it yet.

He checked his messages six times between the complaint and the delivery of the new food. He noted this aloud to the waitress (who had not been cut after all and would quit later that night after the third kitchen mistake), then experienced a rare, strange joy when he silently compared the checking of messages to the tapping of impatient fingers and recognized this as metaphor.

He looked at her once with an expression that surprised her. He shook his head slowly, disbelieving something. She thought she remembered the look from when they were first dating. The “how did I get so lucky?” look. The one that preceded his comparison of her to Charlize Theron in The Cider House Rules. But it quickly faded into something like dismay. She brushed the hair from her face and took another bite of chicken.

Halfway through the second attempt at supper, he got up to use the bathroom or take a phone call or both and she looked across the aisle. She smiled politely and I tried to smile back in kind but all I could manage was a sad half-smile because honesty had filled the vacuum he’d left behind.

It was then that I whispered those three words. I hadn’t planned to say anything. I never say anything. I am an observer, not an intruder.

But the words came out and I couldn’t retrieve them.

“You are beautiful.”

There was no invitation in the words. I didn’t want to start a conversation. I didn’t want to fall in love with her or kiss her or sleep with her. I didn’t want anything but to say those words and I didn't even want to do that until they'd already come out.

I saw her catch her breath then and wondered if she’d been looking at me or the picture window beyond. The sun was setting and the sky was purple and orange and yellow and a few colors I hadn’t seen before.

He came back a moment later and said it was time to go and she nearly told him that she’d come for the blueberry pie and couldn’t they at least get some to go. Instead, she slid soundlessly out of the booth and put on her coat and gathered her purse and walked past him, out the door next to the picture window and into the parking lot. By the time he was done paying the bill, she had kicked off her heels. By the time he was stepping off the curb, she was almost at the highway. He walked to his car with his phone at his ear while two strangers chased after her. She stepped in front of the semi just as he opened the driver’s side door.

He turned when the horn sounded and stood there next to his just-washed car while she rolled into the median and came to a stop with her legs bent the wrong way and her body bloodied and her dirty blonde hair tied in back with a rubber band.

He stood there a long time. Long enough to notice a smudge on the hood. Long enough to start to feel something like sadness.

I might be wrong about some of the details. I’m not sure if he ever wore her clothes or if blueberry pie was her favorite dessert. But I am certain about some things.

The guy was an asshole.

The woman stepped in front of a semi.

And I didn’t say “you are beautiful” loud enough.
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