a quiet summer's night
He’s thirty four and he stands at the corner of an intersection in a not so major metropolitan city. He stands and he waits. He’s been waiting his whole life. His whole life he’s just been waiting. He’s been waiting for his career to pick up, he’s waiting for his college degree, he’s waiting for his high school diploma, he’s waiting to get out of junior high, he’s waiting till he’s old enough to stay up past eight, he’s waiting for his parents to come home, he’s waiting to stop wearing diapers, he’s waiting to be born. His whole life he’s been waiting and he figures it doesn’t really matter where, so he waits on the street corner on an intersection in a not so major metropolitan city.
She’s thirteen years old and she hates it. She thought being twelve was the worst; then she turned thirteen. She hates thirteen year old girls. Thirteen year old girls are cruel, spiteful, venomous, torturous, despicable creatures. They laugh and they tease and they mock and they play games. Thirteen year old girls are evil, and the only thing worse than thirteen year old girls, this thirteen year old girl thinks, are thirteen year old boys.
He stands and waits. He realizes it no longer matters where he waits, and this corner is as good as any. He waits and waits and waits. He does not move. He doesn’t want to miss it when it happens. He doesn’t know what it is, but is sure as hell it will be better than how it is now. It doesn’t have to be long. A minute would be enough. A minute at least would be something. A minute would be more than he’s had so far during his 34 year waiting period.
She’s sick of being teased. She isn’t the prettiest girl in school. She’s short, and plump. In six years she’ll grow into the baby fat she still carries around, but no one cares what life’s going ot be like in six years, especially thirteen year old girls and boys. She’s sick of her parents telling her it’s just a phase. It’s part of growing up. Why, she thinks as she wipes away her tears, why are all the good things we’re promised when we’re kids feel so empty.
He watches a couple walk by. A man, a woman, arm in arm, laughing. She’s blond and beautiful, he’s olive skinned, handsome, and speaks perfect english with a foreign accent. He looks at them and knows each of them intimately. The man has come to this country with hopes and dreams that are America. The woman studied hard in college for a rewarding career. He’s willing to drop her as soon as his dream is realized, and she’s willing to drop her dream to move to the suburbs and bear his children. Both fantasies. She’d feel the same about any man who whispers in her ears after sex, and he’d feel the same about any woman who’d have sex with him. And they both look into each other’s eyes and smile, because they think they are in love and that they are happy.
She thinks, as her knuckles go white from squeezing, about her math teacher. Her Mathematics teacher - her mathematics teacher who insists every one call him Doctor. He has a Ph.D. in education, not mathematics, but not too many people know this and wonder why a man with a doctorate is teaching eighth grade math. She knows only because he isn’t very good at math and yells at her when ever she corrects him. Her mathematics teacher doesn’t like being wrong, and he doesn’t like when his students (especially his students) are the ones who correct him, so when she comes home telling her parents her math teacher has it in for her and never gives her a chance, she’s telling the truth. But her parents laugh it off and tell her it’s in her head and she just has to try harder in math. It’s not the teachers fault she’s not very bright, they imply.
He watches the happy couple walk by and continues to wait. The lights change. Cars travel both parallel and perpendicular to his position at the corner. The intersection in the beginning of the evening is alive: vibrant with life. And as time passes, and as people pass, and as the night passes on, everything slows down. Everything becomes quiet. He thinks maybe that’s a metaphor for something, but he isn’t sure what. And he continues to wait, now more determined than ever. He’s sick of of living his life, working his routine, waiting for it to come. He’s taking a stand. His entire life he’s been going out looking for it. He went to school, he got a job, he’s been on dates. No longer, he thinks. I’m sick of it. And if it wants anything to do with me I’m going to be right here, right here until it does. He thinks maybe he’s been waiting for so long because it didn’t know where to look. And now, as long as he doesn’t move, it’s bound to find him. So he doesn't move from his spot, like a statue, because he thinks he’s run out of options.
She couldn’t take it any more. Everything was just too ridiculous, too much like a bad movie. She had to get away, but she had no money. So after her parents went to sleep she stole their keys and then stole their car. At first it was difficult, but after driving around the block a few times she thought she got the hang of it. And after a half hour she didn’t know what the big deal was anyway. And just like that, with out packing any bags, with out taking any food, she put the car into drive and drove away.
He had an sinking inclination that he might not move again. That he’d cracked and he would someday die there. He couldn’t bring himself to move. He wondered how long he’d have to wait there until someone noticed that he hadn’t moved. He almost wanted some one to ask why he was doing this, what changed. He’d say that he didn’t feel any different than he had earlier that day or any other time during his life. This was just the next logical step to take. He would stand there and wait as long as it took.
The further from home, the more she wanted to cry. And at the moment she realized that she didn’t know how to drive back, that she was lost, she couldn’t take it any more. She realized this was a stupid thing to do. What if she was pulled over. Did she even know what to do if she was pulled over. What if she ran out of gas. What if the kids at school found out. This would just be another thing for them to tease her about. Call her names, tell her she was stupid and ugly. And her parents. If her parents found out, she had no illusions. She didn't think they’d “kill” her as most kids who are prone to using such hyperbole. She did hope they’d get mad. She didn’t think she could take them just standing there being completely calm and saying it’s ok, it’s just a phase, you don’t really know what you’re feeling, you’re still too young. And so she cried. And she drove faster and faster, because she didn’t want any one to find out, ever, and she was going ot get as far away as she could. Her back aching from stretching to see over the dashboard, and tears obscured the rest of her vision.
He wasn’t paying attention. He stood waiting, letting his mind drift. Many hours of waiting on the street corner in the intersection left him immune to the sounds and the sights. He moved inwards, to a state of almost complete introspection. And by the time he noticed a car had hopped up onto the sidewalk it was already too late.
She wasn’t paying attention. She didn’t know where she was going and didn’t know how to get there. Her biggest fantasy was that one day she’d close her eyes and then disappear. So she closed her eyes, and by the time she realized the car had hopped up onto the sidewalk it was already too late.
He turned and looked at the car and at the girl who was driving with her eyes closed. Knowing he couldn’t move out of the way if he wanted to, he clenched his jaw.
She opened her eyes to see if she was still there and saw the man standing directly in front of her. Knowing she couldn’t prevent the collision if she wanted to, she clenched her jaw.
And then, something impossible happened.
As the car careened into the man it collapsed. As if he was a steel rod with roots that bore down through the earth into hell itself. The hood crumpled around him as he stood there, completely uninjured, completely unhurt. The front of the car almost folded in two around him. And he stood there. Staring forward, his jaws still clenched. And the car stopped.
Had it not been for her seat belt she would have been thrown out of the car through the windshield upon impact. The car refused to move forward as it doubled itself around the man. The front of the car had been smashed in half snaring the man in it’s center. All the pieces, all the parts, remained inside the automobile, now only deformed, dented, and out of place, but completely intact. There was no debris. And she sat in the car, looking over the hood, though misshapen was still securely attached to the grill, her jaws still clenched. And the car stopped
And he caught her eyes.
And she caught his.
And for one moment.
And he smiled.
And she blinked, and disappeared.