As she waits for Simon to arrive, she rinses an empty yogurt container, preparing it to hold the salad she has made for their trip. Kate, her roommate, wanders into the kitchen, her hair matted, wearing her bathrobe over last night’s party clothes. She fishes in her robe pocket and watches Claudia pour the contents of the bowl into the clean container. “You know,” she says, after Claudia pushes the cover over the top, “my sister says using those things more than once can give you cancer.” She lights the cigarette she’s found in her pocket and leaves the kitchen.

Once, Simon would have thought this was funny. Lately, though, his eyes glaze over when she goes on about something. She has started filing these stories away in her memory, saving them for when he might want to hear them.

Simon honks the horn now -- one neat blast. She picks up her small suitcase and the container of salad.

The sticky air outside is a shock. Kate keeps the apartment as cold as possible, year-round. When she reaches the car, Claudia pretends to look around in her bag so she doesn’t have to meet Simon’s eyes. “Hi,” he says, holding up his palm in greeting. His smile is weak, like he’s been sick and his strength is coming back to him slowly. They planned this trip months ago, in a fervor that no longer exists. Still, he pulls away from the curb.

Simon changes radio stations constantly. It seems to be an exercise for his hand and not a search for music. Claudia doesn’t stop him. Erratic or not, there’s nothing she wants more right now than noise.

Just outside Westchester, traffic comes to a halt. Claudia rolls down her window. In the far left lane, a car sits, stopped, two girls nearby, one with her jeans too big and slipping down, the other with a tight red ponytail. Drivers cut around them, gazing curiously for a moment before they plow back into their lanes and speed on ahead.

Simon stares straight, eyes never moving from the road, one palm on the wheel, the other on his knee, rubbing the fabric of his jeans so hard he might wear through it. Without signaling, he swerves and pulls in front of the stalled car. Without looking at Claudia, he gets out. She sits, feeling the car shake and jerk from the speed of the cars that pass it. It feels flimsy, like it might blow across the highway.

Simon approaches the girls carefully. He reads true crime novels and watches horror movies. Claudia knows that he thinks women are naturally suspicious. “The car passed out,” the red hair girl shouts, and Claudia imagines it collapsing on its haunches, like a dead dog. “Don’t worry,” Simon says, confidently. He inspects the car as though he knows what he’s looking for, checking under the hood, kicking the inflated tires, sitting in the driver’s seat and wrinkling his nose. He says something to the red-headed girl. Her eyes get big. She laughs. Simon unlocks the trunk of his own car, retrieves a jug of pool colored liquid, and proceeds to pour from it into a place under their car’s hood.

When he turns back to Claudia, she’s not sure how to look at him. This happens often. He’ll be walking towards her from across the street or the supermarket aisle and she won’t know what to do with her face. The redhead is on a cell phone now, her face flushed, smiling. Her friend stands beside her, nodding, looking relieved.

After the girls have driven away, Simon and Claudia stand beside his car. Claudia’s throat feels tight and gritty. Simon’s hair blows across his forehead, and from where Claudia is standing, his eyes are very green. “Please,” he says, not looking at her, “let’s just turn around.”

Later, after he’s driven away, Claudia stands on her steps for a long time, watching the heat of the day sizzle across the sidewalks and rooftops, until the rain comes, another small, unexpected kindness.