The woman’s lover drove her from Nantucket to Albany, New York. During the trip, her thoughts ranged widely. She sometimes felt shame, and she attributed to him an upcoming feeling of relief after he dropped her off. During the trip they are often silent, whereas in the first few days together, they'd laughed like children. She is aware of the contrast between the noises from the car and highway and the “interior silence” they both maintain. She even thinks that one of them should die.
But when they stop at a picnic area, the woman tells him that she does not want to go back, and there she is “nothing.” On the one hand, she feels that he is her savior; on the other hand, she knows “No person could save another.”
A few hours later, they come to a small city and stop at a gas station. As she comes back from the women’s rest room, she is nervous. It has occurred to her that he might have driven off and abandoned her. But he is standing there talking with the attendant. Assessing the appearance of her friend, she notes that he is the same age as her husband. She observes the shape of his shoulders and body and the thickness of his hair, which she thinks is a “festive” color.
The mannerism that draws her attention is his constantly moving hands:
... always those rapid conversational circles, going nowhere, gestures that were at once a little aggressive and apologetic.
When she puts her hand on his arm and he smiles at her, she feels a love for him about which she has no choice.