I haven’t posted a sample of a work in progress in a while. After all, the splintering cracks in our democracy have seemed more important. But here’s the opening of a story called “The Blurred Person” inspired by a recent conversation with Jonathan Dembling and Michael Parker. Don’t think of this as a reaction to our current circumstances. It’s more of a spasm in reaction to them. I guess there’s a difference.
He’s watching it happen. But he’s also making it happen. He’s the one with his palms on the hood of the silver Hummer, raising up his arms, bringing them down again. He’s slapping at it as if it’s an animal he’s trying to shoo backwards into the flow of traffic.
He’s yelling something, something crazy, something stupid. And he’s yelling it anyway because he can’t help himself. He can’t help it as he comes around to the window and stares in at the driver. But he’s also far away, staring it down with a bystander’s detachment. And even judgment. Who is this nut coming around the car, scratching at the driver’s side window? What’s going to happen next?
He’s wiping the water away so he can see inside. The driver’s head comes into view. The face softens, blurs. He’s pushing his own face close to the glass, but all he can see is bad photograph, a person with the barest suggestion of nose, eyes, mouth, hands still grip the steering wheel.
The driver must be young, under thirty, and must be heading home from work. He’s concerned about being late because he has all sorts of plans for the weekend. He’s going to climb a mountain and when he gets to the top, in the view of nobody but God, a new idea will occur to him, an elegant solution for a problem his team has been struggling with for months.
He’s the kind of person who gets his best ideas on the tops of mountains, in boats on rivers, while playing sweaty games of racket ball. And he’s in there, faceless. The man peers into the pocket of stillness.
But he also sees this from far away as a pause in the action. This could be the end of it. They could separate. The blurred man could slide back into his car and drive away. The other driver, the one in the Hummer, would gather his thoughts, breath deep. Nothing even has significance yet: just a story to share with his girlfriend as they slide onto the highway and leave the city behind.
It’s raining and the blacktop glows wet in the street light glare. He’s dimly aware of its beauty, its rarity, because it hardly ever rains this hard and when it does he’s usually in his office and he only finds out when he steps outside at the end of the day. If circumstances were different he’d dwell on the way the light turns the road’s imperfections into shimmering pools catching both water and light, but another driver is sounding a horn.