“I come to a red light, tempted to go through it, then stop once I see a billboard sign that I don’t remember seeing and I look up at it. All it says is ‘Disappear Here’ and even though it’s probably an ad for some resort, it still freaks me out a little and I step on the gas really hard and the car screeches as I leave the light.”
― Bret Easton Ellis, Less Than Zero
From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Sunday, December 16, 2001, Twenty Years ago today
Driving and cussing
The directions were bad.
I hate diving. I hate driving in North Texas. I hate driving in North Texas in the dark. I hate driving in North Texas in the dark and the rain. I hate driving in North Texas in the dark and the rain and at Christmas time….
…especially when I’m lost.
The rain poured down – making the dark streets slick and murky, smearing the windshield, making me run the defogger ’til the car heated up like a steam room.
The traffic was horrible – endless lines of cars reduced to smears of white lights on the right, red on the left. Who are these people? Where are they all going? How can they possibly all move so quickly, honking and passing – making high-speed lane changes a way of life, so aggressive – and still miss each other? How can they all miss me?
The panic and fear welled up – especially with my son in the back seat. Driving with a child in the car is different than driving alone, at least for me. Images of disaster have to be fought back and down. Nick started out whining ’cause I wouldn’t turn up the radio loud enough when his favorite songs came on the teeny-bopper station he insists on. As we descended the concentric rings of hell I began to curse, muttering, “Shit” or yelling “Cut it OUT, motherfucker” at some honking jerk in a pickup assholing his way into the stream. I don’t usually cuss like that and Nick picked up on it, even saying stuff like, “That’s all right Dad, it’s not your fault.”
We were lost along Highway 75 in Plano – the cold dark heart of consumer America – writhing in its pre-Christmas, last-minute, gift-giving, feeding frenzy. The roads are lined with massive strips of big-box retailers – suburban SUVs and giant pickup trucks swarming like ants on spilt honey. I had the name of the place and the address, but nothing along the highway even had numbers on it. I went inside a Party City store and asked for directions but nobody knew where the place we were going was exactly, though one guy thought is was on the other side of the freeway. Out we went, once more into the breach, with me muttering, “How he hell are we supposed to get over there?“
As I waited at a stop sign on a branch to the feeder to the frontage road leading to the freeway I watched a giant pickup truck whip out into a fast U-turn at the same time the car next to me shot into a daring left. Neither one was watching – neither one saw the other.
To me the amazing thing about a car crash is the sound. There’s the quick squeal of rubber on pavement – the prelude. At first impact there is a double whack of metal on metal with the concurrent crunch of panels caving in. Next comes the unholy whine of steel scraping against itself and the groan of heavy members deforming. In a second the cacophony is done, leaving only an echo in the mind and maybe a little tinkle of glass still showering the street.
The pickup and the sedan moved together off to my right and disappeared into the murk, leaving only a solitary hubcap rolling on its own, strangely peaceful in the yellow glow of my headlights.
I pulled out and continued on my quest – nobody else seemed to have even seen the accident.
And a piece of flash fiction for today: