I stared through the grubby apartment window, half-listening to Margaret trying vainly to convince Theodore to quit his job at the insurance corporation. "You just don't make any friends in those nasty cubicle jungles," she fretted for at least the third time in the last hour. The sun sank slowly into the smog and auditory haze of car horns and far-off ambulance sirens. "At least try to move up, get promoted. Didn't you say that that supervisor you hated finally got fired? You drive a nice car, wear a tie every day. You could move up, Theodore. Try for me, please?" The wind shifted, blowing the vented kitchen smells of the neon sign-lit Chinese restaurant on the corner into the tiny dark living room of Theodore's apartment.
As we left Theodore in Los Angeles, he told Margaret that he was “going to be more socially active.” Margaret smiled, relieved. Ever since the accident, his constant brooding and insatiable hunger for solitude had seemed to ensure that he would, to our concern, die alone. But when he said, “That doesn’t mean what you think,” I became worried. Maybe we should have tossed a box of Trojans in with the odds and ends that he had asked us to bring. It wouldn't even have to be embarassing. Margaret would have hidden it among the other items. That at least would have been a fairly normal item to pack for a young man out on his own in the big city.
As it was, though, Margaret was glad to pack him the cardboard box full of wine bottles and old rags. She even teared up a little as he, unsmiling and slump-shouldered in his dark apartment doorway, waved us off with the box still under his arm. I glanced into the rearview mirror to see him stoop to pick up the full, red gasoline can at his feet. The gas had set me back twenty bucks, and thought to myself that it had been worth that and the two day drive just to catch a glimpse of Theodore again.