Tuesday, July 21, 2009

bravery as baby steps

it was a slow drive on the freeway. the personalities of the surrounding vehicles intimidated him, and he drove in feverish anxiety. massive eighteen-wheelers kept a consistent speed, like galloping giants or ancient gods, conceived from the very gravel of the highway they now reigned above. his tiny sedan could be swallowed whole with just the slightest twitch of his stubby fingers. a miscalculation could send his toy of a car into auto oblivion, so he tried to stop his hands from shaking.
an hour before he got on the road, he was nursing his last whiskey sour. a new coworker at the office, jonathan, had coerced him into a tradition he hated. he hated most traditions that involved social bullshitting. every time someone dragged him out to a gathering of business class bottom-feeders, he would leave with an irritation, a rash-like film all over his mental state as if he had been a statue in a basement left to collect dust for decades. that same film was now causing his hands to shake and his driving induced anxiety to double.
he had read a few nights prior to tonight's outing about a man who was completely conscious, but could not move a single muscle in his body. nurses would cart him around on a wheelchair around the hospital's corridors; the fluorescent light fixtures installed in the ceilings had replaced the sun for five months and counting. no one could say they really knew how this man was feeling, but every doctor, nurse, and visiting loved one all had a similar guess. the article was cold and arduous and ended with the line "even modern science has yet to discover a cure for isolation." it had been published in a health journal.

the lights around him grew softer as his progression from the city to his small suburban apartment was paralleled by the evolution of scenery. this was his detox. the mundane slime had slipped out the window with the smoke of his cigarette, his hands had relaxed to a mere trembling. the large, green overhead sign attached to an oncoming overpass educated him that his exit was approaching: 2 and 1/3 miles to go. he let his cigarette shoot out his window and curve back behind his car, hitting the asphalt of the freeway a few feet behind. 2 miles to go. whether the initial pressure was an intentional movement or not, he still hasn't decided. but he certainly did press down on the accelerator a little further. the engine did whine a little louder. 1 and 1/2 miles to go. he loosened his tie and rolled the cuffs of his starched white dress shirt to right below his elbows. 3/4 mile to go. he felt a lurch and a sudden growl from under the hood as his steady fingertips choked the leather steering wheel. exit. slamming on the breaks he swerved onto the off-ramp and burned to a stop at a glaring red light. was it ninety-five this time? he couldn't be sure. but it was faster than the last mark of ninety. as he pulled into his assigned number sixteen parking space he was sure he would hit a hundred the next time around.

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