“The Commute”

He was frustrated with the radio.  All the familiar stations were playing annoying ads, or a barking DJ, or pop songs that got under his skin.  Only just last week he found those bubblegum songs so flavorful.  His right index finger kept punching at the radio buttons while his left hand held the steering wheel.  He had to have music on when he drove, especially this late at night.

A few dried leaves fell into the car’s path.  Unusual this deep into winter, he only made note of them because they were objects rapidly approaching his windshield.  He saw other headlights on the roads, but never thought they represented others like him.  He was tired, but not from work fatigue.  It was the day’s monotony that wore him down.  Waiting for him at home was the relief and escape he sought.  His right shoulder twinged and told him to give up on the radio.

His mind wandered to places past and to possible futures as his eyes blankly watched the familiar terrain.  Same signs, same trees, same abandoned gas station, same utility poles.  Another dried leaf gave in to gravity, skipped off the hood, and kissed the windshield.  Again, only being seen out of a driver’s reflex.  He reached again for the radio as yet another object fell towards the windshield.

The object’s size jerked his attention into focus.  His inner dialog that had just been replaying yesterday’s emotional fight now told him what he was seeing must be an illusion.  But his eyes clearly saw a face.  The head and shoulders punched the windshield.  The glass cracked like a gunshot.  The body bounced off his car over the passenger's side.  Instinctively he slammed on brakes.  His eyes looked ahead to see the road curve away from his screeching skidding path.  He looked back at the center of the windshield at the two spiderweb punches.  Then his mind’s eye remembered the face.  That face, expressionless, frozen, not as if it were solid and immutable, just lacking will to change the expression.  That face made him feel thirsty, lonely, breathless, impotent.  As the tires left the pavement, the car violently shook pulling his sight back to the car’s predetermined path.

The car stopped.  He remained motionless, gripping the wheel like a rope to sanctuary.  Once his thoughts and his eyes reconciled the reality of the broken windshield, he haltingly exited the car.  The body lain face up passively at the edge of the road.  The low angle red glow from his car’s tail lights merged with a single stark street light and imbued the body with a pungent realism.  He looked frenetically up and down the road, up into the sky, into the trees on one side of the road into the field on the far side.  Everything appeared normal.  No hint, no clue could be found that would connect the world to this interruption.  Nothing looked any different than it had the countless times he drove this route.

He looked back to the body, clad in jeans and t-shirt.  It looked so very heavy despite being slender and average height.  He stepped towards it though his mind screamed to run away.  He looked again towards the horizons.  He suddenly realized he had not seen any more headlights.  Even the laden highway on the ridge, that all hours Christmas parade, was empty and dark.  He took a few more steps towards that heavy eternity, his eyes stole peaks to the horizons.  Nothing.  No motion, no light, no one around near or far.  He just wanted to leave, resume his drive and get home.  He wanted to escape.  His legs betrayed him again; he was now at funeral viewing distance from the body.  He looked into the sky, nothing.  He looked to the roads, nothing.  He looked at the face.  It looked into the night sky.  It looked past tree branches, past the few tenacious dried leaves.  It looked passed him like he was not even there.