I hated having to sit shoulders forward, folded over at a right angle like a human corner. I exhaled, reached down toward the dial at the side of the chair, and noticed I was driving.
It was in the city centre. A goosey honk got into my ear canals and made a nuisance of itself. Cars flashed as they went by as if they were greeting me, rivering down the right. Specks of rain on the windscreen were lit up by the traffic lights, all green. A honk again. The handbrake took some fighting, the button was stiff but it went in. The specks went red. Vehicle accelerated.
Nose-to-nose was the point of impact. We hit each other like dodgems. Don’t get me wrong, nothing serious. Come to think of it, something similar happened a few weeks ago. I didn’t realise there was a ketamine ‘limit’ but the police informed me there was and I was 80mg over it (an amount suitable for a five year old). Anyway, a series of awkward conversations with officers, a trip to the station, a small fine and ninety hours charity shop work was the price. I’d just finished that slog as well and I’d been celebrating my great contribution to society.
A surprise; my face got a swift, all encompassing puffing from the soft white bags. I almost got comfortable. If I didn’t know something potentially very stressful and with multiple ramifications was happening I might have welcomed it. Might have seized upon that microsleep.
A lady appeared. An inch or two of my window were open at the top.
“What the fuck was that?” she paused, waiting for an answer, “are you okay, you’re not injured are you? You’ve ruined my bonnet.”
The executive board inside my skull made the decision that speaking was not mandatory and therefore not advisable. The lady was in the forties bracket, blonde and based on the blue nurse outfit; probably a nurse. She had moved right up to the gap now. Gravity was pulling me toward everything except her. I squinted up from my lovely cushion and saw her big eyes looking down at me like an emoticon.
“Oh Jesus. What the, what have you had? Are you pissed?” And with that she pulled out her mobile phone. I was quite puzzled, as I expected nurse-talk to be a lot more wholesome and sympathetic.
A cacophony of horns. Some people unwound their windows and burbled as they meandered round. Humans have an instinct for horror. When horror is around us, you know something grotesque, something awful you should not be seeing, like a dead thing, that’s when something inside us, something deep and ancient, some DNA, some animal instinct, some life-commandment tells us “go on Nigel, take a look, take a look!” If anyone asked you why you are looking you know you wouldn’t be able to provide a remotely reasonable answer. You were duped, we were all duped.
Time to go. I pushed the cushions into themselves until they all but deflated, and left them sagging under the dash. All simultaneously- the engine rev groan, a big piece of metalwork scraping the concrete below, the nurse lady screech. Inconveniently, I happened to be on the wrong side of the road. I tried to spin it round before the cars came back down. I saw them sitting at the lights. I was almost the whole way round when they rolled up, the first one glaring at me like my old Maths teacher used to when I didn’t pay attention. Why do they so closely resemble faces? Is it so we get attached to our cars, a good car like a good husband, or a good cat? Is it all some weird practical joke? Humans again, I’m telling you.
Back on the correct side of the road now, the lady was of course blocking it in the middle, throwing her arms around like she wanted them to come flying out of their sockets. She really was being obscenely melodramatic.
I considered running her over. If not fully, just a bit. She’d probably get at least almost out of the way; presumably she didn’t think this incident was worth dying over.
I nudged forward with the clutch. With a jerk, the car stalled and I stopped to think about what I was doing. Again, I was left looking up at the specks on the screen. They were neon blue. The shield was a cool and minty glaze, a window between me and the dark and banal world.
Back to red, then blue, then red, blue.
Story inspired by the following news article