Posted by: patti | November 29, 2008

Moving (Day-after-Friday Fiction)

Jane had never been in a moving car she did not want to jump out of. As a child, when she traveled with her parents down the length of the Long Island Expressway, she imagined opening the door and rolling down, away from the car, into the pines. As the car approached the tip of Long Island, the trees thinned and Jane saw herself leaping into soft, cool sand and running out to water. Away from the whine of her brother, from the blare of her mother’s music, from the feeling of traveling forever and getting nowhere. She rode in the backseat with her forehead pressed against the headrest in front of her, even though the vinyl was hot and made her sweaty. The longer they sat in traffic, the longer she’d wear the red splotch under her yellow bangs.

As she grew up and rode in other cars with other families to other beaches, other houses, past other forests, Jane still found herself wondering what it would be like if she just opened the door and left the car. Sometimes, she wanted to jump when the car was going too fast, down an empty New Jersey Turnpike on an early autumn morning or slicing across the Throgs Neck Bridge in a steady dark rain.

The times she comes closest to jumping, though, the car is on a smaller road, going the speed limit or stopped at a stoplight. She examines the houses, or the woods, or the side streets, and looks for a place to disappear to. She imagines stepping out, walking away from the others in the car. Maybe leaving the door open behind her.

Jane never considered what she’d do if she did jump. She just wanted to. She never thought past the jump itself, with her hand gripping the handle, eyes trained on the ribbon of paint on the side of the road or the guardrail slipping past her window.

She loved to ride in the car with her temple pressed against the window. She could block out everything but that one point of cool — cold and sharp some days — on her head.

The closest she ever came was on the Bronx River Parkway, sitting in the passenger seat of her boyfriend’s car. At a red light just north of Bronxville, Jane listened to him talk about a novel he had just read, one that she had lent him, one that she loved. He talked and talked about its genius as if he had discovered it himself, and at turns, as if he had written it himself. Her knuckles turned white on the door handle, her thumb pressed into the handle’s button. She could see herself stepping out and rolling into the woods, hiding from him. He continued talking; the light changed and he drove on. Jane stayed put, Jane married him, and before long, Jane hated him.


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