Dangerous Thoughts

My response to this week’s Go Dog Go Cafe’s writing prompt.

My mother hovers above the 55 miles per hour speed limit, cigarette casually in hand. Her ever-present open bag of spice drops on the dashboard melts lazily in the afternoon sun. It doesn’t matter. Despite the variety of jewel tones contained in the bag, whenever I cautiously try one they all taste the same to me. I prefer them slightly warm and melty to rock hard on overcast winter days, when it would be easy to break a tooth on one.

My grandmother dozes in the passenger seat. She will deny this vehemently when we arrive at our destination, insisting that she was only ‘resting’ her eyes, but her soft snores give her away. We have done this drive many, many times. The exits along the Mass Pike are far apart on this stretch and there is little to look at other than the monotonous pines that line the side of the highway and the concrete dividers that keep us separated from the steady traffic heading East.

I am sprawled across the back seat, my 12-year-old head resting against the steel window frame. The sound of the station wagon’s tires crunching across the road’s surface is hypnotic. I am drowsy, my thoughts drifting.  I idly note the mile markers as they briefly come into focus.

Out of nowhere, I am filled with the sudden, overwhelming impulse to open the car door my weight rests against and let myself fall onto the road. I envision my head splitting open like an overripe melon as I hit the asphalt or perhaps it would be the cars behind us that would do the job. Would my bones crunch or would the cars simply make a soft thud as they one by one run over my increasingly unrecognizable body? I picture the looks of horror on the drivers’ faces when they realize the inevitability of the impact, but I can feel nothing but detached curiosity. I have no compassion, no guilt for the trauma I might cause nor for my family’s imagined grief. Nothing feels real but the beat of my pulse in my ears.

The compulsion is so strong that my fingers curl in readiness to grab the door handle and fling it open. Fortunately- or unfortunately- the door is locked. Before I consciously decide if I truly want to unlock it, my mother notes casually from the front seat that we are less than a half-hour from my aunt’s house. Pulled back from my trance, the car is suddenly warmer, the road louder, the smell of cigarettes and anise stronger than it had been a moment ago. As my grandmother’s snores break off at the sound of my mother’s voice, I straighten in my seat, moving slightly away from the car door, hands resting in my lap. I am both horrified and filled with euphoria at how close I had dangled at the edge.

I tell no one, equally concerned that no one else has moments like this or that everyone does.

© 2020 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All Rights Reserved

5 comments

  1. Evocative, Christine! Your descriptions were so powerful they made me squirm. Then, I opened Flannery O’Connor’s “Wise Blood.” The opening line:

    “Hazel Motes sat at a forward angle on the green plush train seat, looking one minute at the window as if he might want to jump out of it…”

    After reading your piece, my mind had a vivid, dangerous picture to put with that line.

    Liked by 1 person

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