I almost killed the little girl, but she was the one that darted in front. I was cruising along, ninety-six, ninety seven, and she leaped out into the street from another car across the street, and then she froze in the street like a deer, like she fucking wanted to get hit. You'd think she would've run to one side or another and get out of the way. But she didn't. She froze there like a deer. The only thing I could do was brake and veer. I missed her by a fucking hair, I'm telling you. I don't know what the little girl looked like, I can tell you that. I dont think she had much of a face. I know she had brown hair. She was just a girl.
But, I felt this warm feeling after I didn't hit her, as if the sun was reaching into my car and licking me in appreciation, as if the trees waved and bowed to thank me, and the street smiled on and I drove home. It was like a little visit from God. After all that I promised myself I wouldn't speed through developments anymore. The highway--fine. No more developments. For a while I thought everything would be fine.
When they opened the highway behind our house nobody could sleep. Even with the sound barriers the car surf was, what's the word? Incessant. I would fall asleep for an hour and wake up to a screech of tires or a car alarm wailing. If there was an accident I could see the red and blue flash against the sky. Sometimes I would walk down to the highway and watch the police and tow trucks and fire engines pick up the pieces. The Smiths and Browns moved. My parents say they are calling the real estate agency. Rural Pennsylvania is an option, they say. Better be way above the Mason Dixon, cause these developments aren't staying put.
I was going seventy-five in a fifty-five. Nothing out of the ordinary. But then the road narrowed to one lane and the entire highway was stuck going forty-five, behind some old lady in a ratty, rusty, bumper-stickered, shit-brown Camero. The lines were dotted and I considered passing every car in the line, but there was cars coming from the other direction. So I passed on the shoulder. I sped past them and gave her the finger, and yelled out the window: "You drive like a fucking old lady." I couldn't think of anything better. Five miles up the road I pulled off and got a drink from the store, and she pulled into the parking lot a minute later.
I saw the old woman walked up to me in her flip-flops and sundress with a swish and a swash, and a flip and a flop. She tilted her head, and said "You know what? You're way too angry young man. You almost killed me out there just so you could go to the store for a soda?"
"No, that's not why at all," I said.
"When then why?" Is it my fault I couldn't think of anything?
"Why don't you come on over for dinner and I'll see if maybe I can convince you to think about seeing these things in another way. You have to change your ways, young man." I just about told her to fuck off, but then I realized I could get a free meal out of this deal, so I nodded like a retard. I guess I'm more cheap than angry.
I think I should have tried to distance myself from my own worst parts. I've heard of situations where a man threw a paper cup, or something, out of his window, and somebody else behind him on the highway, in packed traffic, dodged the paper cup, swerved to avoid it, and the car next to that person swerved to avoid that car and the car next to them swerved to avoid that car and hit a truck and the truck jack-knifed and three cars hit it, and hit four more cars and those cars hit other cars, and the driver in front who threw the paper cup turned on the radio and hand an hour later heard about a traffic accident on the highway, and was surprised. Yeah, distance.
She was right on my case from the beginning.
"Who said it? I don't know who said it," I said. "'Take eloquence and twist its neck.' I think that's how it goes."
"You don't have to fight me," she said in her easy speech. "Why are you fighting me?"
"I'm trying to make a point," I said. She handed me seconds of tuna casserole. I stirred my salad with my knife.
"This is why I asked you to come over for dinner," she said. "Don't you see? Look at yourself."
"You're trying to help me," I said.
"Not exactly, no. I'm attempting to be a mirror for you," she said. I just knew she was a schoolteacher at that moment.
"I can see myself. I like what I see," I said.
"You do?" she said. "Are you sure?"
"That's what I'm trying to say. Take eloquence, right. It's supposed to be this great thing, this wonderful quality that everybody should have, right?"
"Mmmmm," she said.
"It could be positive," I said.
"But you could also be someone like a Hitler. There were some very eloquent fascists," she said.
"Hey, look lady," I said. "Don't moralize this shit. I don't know you."
"I'm only trying to--"
"What the saying means," I said. "Is you chuck the whole idea of speaking so well out the window, and then you start over," I said. She didn't look surprised by anything. She just looked concerned. Who needs concern?
"Is that what you're trying to do out there?" she said.
"Maybe," I said. Truth is, I never thought about it in that way.
Traffic is an accordion. It pulls forward and you go twenty, thirty, forty, and then it contracts and your lucky to go at all. In a way we're all a part of this, I thought. But then I thought, I need to get home fast. I did: Mother's birthday. I took exit eighteen through Low Branch, and I cut through Green Hills going seventy-five in a twenty-five. Fine. It's not my fault. They're idiots if they don't put speed bumps in these developments.
So as I was driving I noticed something for the first time. If you look out the window ninety degrees, the houses and leaves are blur, but if you look higher you can focus on one thing. I always look at the blur. But then I thought something else, which made me feel a little relief. I thought, it's just a matter of time, really. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen anyway. And then it did.