Air inside the car had fomented odors under the heat, relieved by occasionalBrandy drafts through the open window.

‘The window!’

Brandy snapped awake. She distinctly remembered having rolled both windows up the night before. One was now down. She searched for her purse. It was there… as were her suitcases… clothes… everything. Reassured, she tried to recall the dream she knew she had been having; for an instant (before her momentary panic had made them flee) remnants appeared to linger in the car’s heady atmosphere.

‘Damn! Why does that always happen? I can never quite remember, even the sexiest dreams.’

Reaching for the rearview mirror, Brandy gave it a twist to bring her reflection into view. Light, filtering through the bug-spattered windshield, dappled her complexion—one she now inspected with hypercritical zeal.

‘Not much damage done.’

She ran a coated tongue over her lackluster teeth. From her bag, she took a large compact, a hair brush, deodorant, baby powder, toothpaste, and a child-size toothbrush. She licked her index finger, then tried to erase yesterday’s mascara (last night’s dream risked a peek, then ducked back into hiding). Remembering she had a stash of towelettes in the glove compartment, she found one, peeled it from its foil wrapper, then wiped away the make-up’s smudgy remains. Next, she took her hair brush, thought better of it, put it down, pulled her blouse off over her head, refolded the towelette, and cleansed her neck and underarms. She then rolled on some deodorant. Returning to her hair, she knelt on the seat, and, holding the dashboard for leverage, dragged the brush, with deliberate strokes, to restore some order to her disheveled curls—which reached well down her back when she had finished. All evidence of a cramped night’s sleep untangled, she tied her hair in a scarf, then re-made-up her face.

To her eyes, already steeped in the landscape’s cactus-green, she added dark outlines. To their lids, she applied—just hints—of hazel-tinted shadow, blending the tone into a calcimine highlight below each brow. (The fact that jackrabbits and Gila monsters were likely to be her only immediate admirers, gave insufficient cause for this ritual to be altered.) On her lips, she spread a rich, peppermint gloss that paled their natural hue to a milky pink. A touch of blush to either cheek… a once-over powdering… and, with one last scrutinizing look, Brandy’s 'face' was complete.

Next, taking a beige wrap-around blouse from the hanger hung behind her seat, she draped it, inside-out, over the steering wheel to catch the fallout of baby powder she now sprinkled over her upper body… spreading the talc with her fingers (another dream-image partially surfaced; she stared at her reflection—bosom cupped by palms—but the image re-submerged).

‘Damn, I forgot to brush my teeth.’

Squeezing a glossy worm of toothpaste from the tube, Brandy (drawing back her freshly-painted lips as far from the tiny brush as possible) scrubbed away… then, opening the car door in order to lean outside and spit, she jerked back in / slammed the door / frantically locked it  / and covered up her chest! With a terrified gulp she swallowed the un-ejected lather.

‘Jeezus, there are footprints out there! Right outside the door!’

For a few awful moments she sat overwhelmed by a sense of violation.

Then, catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror—half-naked, hyperventilating, toothpaste dribbling from a corner of her froth-fringed mouth—she had to laugh; the door was securely locked but its window was still wide open.

She took a second look at the tracks outside. They appeared to come and go—an indication she found most reassuring. Again she checked her belongings; nothing seemed amiss.

So, after dressing rather hurriedly, Brandy re-packed her toiletries in a mood of wary speculation, wondering who her visitor might have been… why he had merely stood there… why he had rolled down the window… and why, having gone that far, he had left her un-harassed.

But, as fright played tag with curiosity, Brandy’s bladder urged her to be brave. In search of a convenient spot to urinate, she ventured from the vehicle—checking the road for witnesses, in both directions, for as far as she could see. Satisfied, she retreated into a wash, wriggled from her over-snug blue jeans, and relieved herself in the shade of prickly-pear cactus.

 

 


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