Only I don’t think to check the hours and we drive all the way there only to find it closed. “Closes at one during the summer?” I read the sign incredulously.
“Do you think it has anything to do with the dangerously high temperature?” Alex says.
“Okay,” I say. “Okay.”
“Maybe we should just go home,” Alex says. “See if Nikolai has fixed the AC.”
“Not yet,” I say, desperate. “There’s something else I wanted to do.”
“Fine,” Alex says. Back at the car, I head him off at the driver’s-side door, and he asks, “What are you doing?”
“I have to drive for this part,” I say.
He arches an eyebrow but gets into the passenger seat. I open my GPS and enter the first address on the list for the “self-guided architecture tour of Palm Springs.”
“It’s . . . a hotel,” Alex says, confused, when we pull up to the funky angular building with its flagstone siding and orange-outlined sign.
“The Del Marcos Hotel,” I say.
“Is there . . . a steel dinosaur inside?” he asks.
I frown. “I don’t think so. But this whole neighborhood, the Tennis Club neighborhood, is supposed to be full of all these ridiculously amazing buildings.”
“Ah,” he says, like that’s all he can muster in the way of enthusiasm.
My stomach drops as I punch in the next address. We drive around for two hours, stop for a cheap dinner (which we drag out for another hour because Cold Air), and when we return to the car, Alex cuts me off at the driver’s-side door. “Poppy,” he says pleadingly.
“Alex,” I say.
“You can drive if you want,” he says, “but I’m getting a little carsick, and I don’t know if I can take seeing any more strangers’ mansions today.”
“But you love architecture,” I say pathetically.
His brow furrows, his eyes narrow. “I . . . what?”
“In New Orleans,” I say, “you just walked around pointing at, like, windows the whole time. I thought you loved this kind of thing.”
“Pointing at windows?”
I throw my arms out to my sides. “I don’t know! You just, like . . . fucking loved looking at buildings!”
He lets out a fatigued laugh. “I believe you,” he says. “Maybe I do love architecture. I don’t know. I’m just . . . really tired and hot.”
I scramble to get my phone out of my purse. There’s still no word from Nikolai. We cannot go back to that apartment. “What about the air museum?”
When I look up, he’s studying me, head tilted and eyes still narrow. He runs a hapless hand through his hair and glances away for a second, sets his hand on his hip. “It’s, like, seven o’clock, Poppy,” he says. “I don’t think it’s going to be open.”
I sigh, deflating. “You’re right.” I cross back to the passenger seat and flop down, feeling defeated as Alex starts the car.
Fifteen miles down the road, we get a flat tire.
“Oh, god,” I groan as Alex pulls off to the side of the road.
“There’s probably a spare,” he says.
“And you know how to put that on?” I say.
“Yes. I know how to put that on.”
“Mr. Homeowner,” I say, trying to sound playful. Turns out I too am deeply grumpy and that’s how my voice portrays me. Alex ignores the comment and gets out of the car.
“Do you need help?” I ask.
“Might need you to shine a light,” he says. “It’s starting to get dark.”
I follow him to the back of the car. He pops the hatch door, moves some of the mats around, and swears. “No spare.”
“This car aspires to destroy our lives,” I say, and kick the side of the car. “Shit, I’m going to have to buy this girl a new tire, aren’t I?”
Alex sighs and rubs the bridge of his nose. “We’ll split it.”
“No, that’s not what I was . . . I wasn’t saying that.”
“I know,” Alex says, irritated. “But I’m not letting you pay for the whole thing.”
“What do we even do?”
“We call a towing company,” he says. “We Uber home, and we mess with it tomorrow.”
So that’s what we do: We call the towing company. Sit in silence on the tailgate while we wait for them to come. Ride back to the shop in the front of the tow truck with a man named Stan who has a naked lady tattooed on each arm. Sign some papers, call an Uber. Stand outside while we wait for the Uber to come.
Get into a car with a lady named Marla who Alex whispers under his breath “looks exactly like Delallo,” and at least that’s something to laugh about.
And then Marla’s app messes up and she gets lost.
And our seventeen-minute drive becomes a twenty-nine-minute drive before our eyes. And neither of us is laughing. Neither of us is saying anything, making any sound.
Finally, we’re almost to the Desert Rose. It’s pretty much pitch-black outside, and I’m sure the stars overhead would be amazing if we weren’t trapped in the back of Marla’s Kia Rio inhaling lungful after lungful of the sugar cookie Bath & Body Works spray she seems to have doused the entire car in.
When traffic suddenly stops half a mile from the Desert Rose, I almost cry.
“Must be an accident blocking the road,” Marla says. “No reason on heaven or earth traffic should be this backed up.”
“Do you want to walk?” Alex asks me.