Fair - Michael Goldfine

I feel like a drenched blanket's been swaddled around me, suffocating my heart. Each inexorable beat drumming low, mournful thuds, shuddering out from my chest. The air, sodden with sunshine, tugs the vitality out of me.

The car's moving. I'm driving. Buildings crawl by as I glide across the road. There's a spark of energy when I realize I've missed my turn, but it melts away. I glide the car around construction on the side of the road.

Scaffolding hugs the side of the building, which is puffing some sort of smog out a chimney. Some guy backs out the door, holding a box up to his chest. A pink square of paper escapes from his hand, fluttering into the air.

I don't realize I'm watching until a car honks behind me. My foot sinks into the gas pedal and I accelerate forward. I can't be late, a little voice reminds me. I'm not sure I care.

And I thought it couldn't get worse, I remind myself. A chuckle quivers in my chest, but my lips refuse to set it free. The lawyers told me it was worse.

Nothing. 25 years equals nothing. Nothing because off shore bank accounts, hidden incomes, and trust funds mean that my husband, as far as legal system is concerned, makes nothing. I get nothing. No child support. No alimony. No career. Nothing, except maybe a mortgaged house.

Some judge will look everything over and sign his name across the divorce papers, endorsing it as just with the full force of the US government. The affair didn't matter, according to the lawyers. He could screw whoever the fucking hell he wanted to and I get abso-fucking-lutely nothing.

Angry tears are racing down my face. I punch on the radio and words pour out through the speakers.

Companies are laying off more workers after a sudden downturn in the economy. Some reporter says.

The words ring around inside me, echoing off the empty cavern in my chest.

Protests continue as wall street executives receive more bonu-

I wrench the nob around, wiping the tuner to some other channel. I stop listening. The car is decelerating, halting a few feet from the end of the one in front of me. I'm here.

I wait, my emotions stewing in the bottom of my stomach. My arms liquify, dropping off the steering wheel and collapsing into my lap. The inside of my palm is stained red; I didn't realize how hard I'd been squeezing the wheel.

Radio voices dive into my head.

16-year-old Ethan Couch received no jail time after killing four people and injuring 11 others. The teen, from a wealthy family in Texas, claimed the d-

The car door thudded open, then closed, a snatch of fresh air breathing into the car.

The families of the victims protest this injustice, with several of them f-

The words stream into my ears, cascading down into the bottom of my chest.

"How was your day." I manage to say.

My son glances up from his phone in the back seat. "Ok. I got an A on the physics project."

"That's good."

"Theo and Jessica got the same grade. I did all the work though." He doesn't seem too concerned about this, immersing himself back into his phone.

I'm on the highway now. Or, I've been on the highway for a few minutes. I think. Thoughts are swirling through my head, boiling up from my chest. It feels like a fist is strangling my heart.

It's not fair Is the loudest thought, mourning the injustice. Here I am, taking care of our son, shuttling everyone around. And he's screwing some prostitute.

And then the same thought again, It's not fair, seething in my ear. I get nothing and he gets everything. He gets his money, his women and his son. They've already started to forgive him.

Guiltily, I had hoped they would reject him, censor him from their lives. But no. He gets everything and I get nothing. He gets rewarded for his affair and I get punished.

The last thought sets off an inferno of rage, like a spark hitting gasoline, revitalizing the stagnant emotions buried in the bottom of my stomach. They're boiling and writhing.

I need to do something. I need to fix this. Something. Something. Something. I don't know what. He needs to be punished. Fairness. Justice. That's what this is about. This world isn't fair. I need to fix this.

What does he want? What does he care about? Nothing. Nothing. That's a lie. I look in the back seat. My son is texting. That's something.

The car bumps over road as we careen onto the bridge. I jab the gas pedal and we're flying. Fairness. Punishment. My son says something in the back, but the car is spinning onto the side of the road. The road’s gone. The sidewalk’s wrenched out from beneath us.

The metal screams as we crunch through the guard rails.

We haven't hit the water yet, but I feel like it. All the noise around me is slow. The air feels like molasses. As we tip over the side of the bridge, there's a moment of panic. My hands clench the wheel and I scream.

But now a cool warmth is spreading from my chest, coaxing the emotions out of my stomach and siphoning them away, teasing the aches and stresses out of my muscles. I don't have time to look back at my son.

As we slip into the water, there is one last thought embedded in my mind: Now he's lost everything too.