Caught in Traffic

An Original Short Story

1964 Chevrolet Malibu
1964 Chevrolet Malibu

Around ten thirty on Thursday night, Suki sat in his car defencelessly, his right foot on the brake, the other, knee bent, testing whether it could hook the latch enough to pop the hood.  The working leg’s heel was anchored above the flash to pass switch which protruded mysteriously from the left side of the car’s floor, directly below the fuse box.  His mind raced impatiently and it contemplated the reason for having the switch in the floor.


He contemplated reasons imported models had the switch on the flasher arm, which extended from the steering column and why the fuse box, most easily accessible, was under the hood.  He didn’t try to discern whether the foot controlled switch location was better than the other, but made an important assumption that it, being on the steering column, was a much more common-sense approach than locating it near one’s foot.  At least he thought so as he remarked that American cars eventually followed suit.  Perhaps some people had shorter legs and couldn’t reach for it?


His mind wandered fantastically, and he visualised a tyrannosaurus rex picking up a car, clenched between its jaws, the driver of which trying frantically to flash his lights but can’t reach because his legs are too short, just to be thrown off the bridge, hitting the water a hundred feet below.


The dense smog, resulting from the extreme heat and humidity cumulative of the past two weeks, had been particularly heavy that day in late June and Suki, effortlessly, sat limp, a victim of the hot and muggy night.  The more he tried to limit the movements of his body and minimise any physical effort, the more his mind raced, making the time on the bridge stop altogether.  You see, Suki had somewhere to go.

He thought about the events of the day, starting at the time he awoke, throughout the morning when he met with customers he didn’t particularly like, at lunch with his manager whom he resented, and the rest of the afternoon that he spent pretending to be productive.  That afternoon, he did nothing more than daydream and look forward to his date tonight, for which he was now almost an hour late.  He tried analysing the chain of events that caused his lateness, refusing to believe that he was responsible.  In retrospect, he could have taken the afternoon off and accomplished more.  He felt he did nothing to warrant this temporary hold on his life and thought sincerely that God was nothing more than an empty reassurance for those whose lives were out of their grasp anyways.


The radio broadcast he was listening to did nothing but irritate him.  The music was just a cacophony of sounds and off beats, nothing rhythmic that could serve to soothe his anxiety.  His senses had been dulled by the repetitive sounds of cars passing him just inches away while he remained still – his foot always on the brake.  The sounds of the other cars’ tires overcoming the tireless inertia of the pavement served him a mild hypnosis, more appealing than the chaotic noise of the radio.  He turned off the radio and heard the faint sound of a siren in the distance.


He rested his forearm outside the downed window and tapped his fingernails on the outside of the door.  His index and middle fingers, bored of tapping, motioned alternately towards the side mirror with the annular and pinkie raised for balance.  He carefully adjusted the mirror to study a different angle.  He could see a flashing light atop a vehicle far behind.  He studied the bottom of his forearm, noting a long red imprint caused from being rested on the door.  He wondered if the red line would take longer to fade away than the vanishing of vapour trails in the sky on a windless day, thirty thousand feet above.


A silver car passed with the windows down and he peered into it.  The man was wearing a long sleeve shirt and he looked straight in front with both hands on the steering wheel.  A dirty black car followed closely and irregularly, not sure whether to keep its distance or to drive into the silver one.  The driver looked young, indifferent, and impatient.  He was holding the steering wheel between two fingers with his elbow resting outside the door.  His right leg kept a beat to an imaginary rhythm.  He sighed and kept rolling his head.  A man in a blue and white pickup smiled at Suki and rolled his eyes as he followed the filthy black car.  Suki didn’t acknowledge.  Other cars passed but Suki’s attention had now shifted to the annual fireworks display taking place two bridges away.


He wondered what it would be like to set up a fireworks display and travelling around the world like a proud soldier until he considered the responsibility, twitching his upper back and shoulders like a shiver and exhaling a long breath through his mouth, his lower lip over the upper, the breath making his hair flutter.  The car in front of him advanced and he removed his foot from the brake.  His ambition to put his foot on the gas pedal increased over the next seconds as the car in front gained distance at an increasing speed.


He recalled the last time he was in the same situation on the same bridge a week earlier.  At that time, there was a construction mess and the delay had been longer.  He dreaded that hour as he recalled the pain.  He now chafed intolerantly.  How could he again be late? To sit idle for only but a few moments was to moulder and putrefy, he worried.  He feared he had become something perishable, forgotten.  Now on the verge of spoil, he marvelled the thought of metamorphosing into something he wasn’t supposed to be.


He envied the man with the blue and white pickup who had smiled at him.  Had he smiled because he was getting along faster than he was?  Or simply because he had seized the moment?  He dwelled on the pickup owner’s own successes.  Who was he?  Why did he drive a pickup?  Was it required for his profession?  Did he drive a pickup of his own choice?  Was he any closer to accomplishing his true will or God’s?


Suddenly, his boredom passed.  He instantly came to realise that there was no other moment that mattered except for now.  In the Great Tao, there was the duality of here and not here, but all that mattered was now.  A warrior, he believed, seizes time by streamlining his thoughts now, no other time.  Suki’s weight lifted as quickly as the man in the blue and white pickup smiled.  He came to appreciate that his bladder wasn’t now on the verge of rupturing as it had during last week’s episode.  He was healthy.  No one pressed him for anything.  Moments ago, he was frustrated by the overwhelming burden of life.  What burden he thought now?  Now he was alone and the man in the blue and white pickup didn’t know his name nor did Suki know his.  He realised now that he was but a star in the universe, singular and solitary, on its predestined orbit with nothing in its path and nothing to interfere or to threaten.


Tlock!  The hood popped and startled him.  He was so unoccupied by his foot’s mission to unlatch the hood that his thoughts immediately returned to its tumultuous situation.  The car in front of him sped off, as did all the other cars next to him.  He probably would never see the man in the blue and white pickup again.  His telephone rang.  He ignored it and stepped out of his car to latch the hood.  He felt embarrassed and could hear the aggressive honking, criticising his absentmindedness.


Suki, in a frenzy, punished his right foot for his left foot’s actions by pushing it hard against the accelerator pedal, careless to put on his seat belt.  He jerkily waved his hand out the window to acknowledge the other drivers’ prompts to move and take the pole position.  He raced his car recklessly and only a few minutes later, when he was finally in the populated neighbourhood he was not destined to arrive to on time, became especially discourteous and outright hostile to the other undeserving drivers.  These were not the same drivers that he lamented on the bridge.  These drivers, he judged were just like little stars in orbit, with nowhere to go, no purpose at all, just withering away.


When he arrived to his date’s house, he wondered why there was no car in the driveway.  He parked his car and remembered his phone had rung.  He listened to the message, “Suki, please take your time, I’m caught in traffic and I’ll be about an hour late.”

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