Of Highways and English Debutantes

That blinding flash of light that chases the life out of you.

A horn blared right into her ear as she went to cross the highway that ran at the northern boundaries of the small town. She stepped back fast onto the curb, her heart and secured her books against her chest as the Canter sped by. It was a double carriage highway with two lanes going both directions. There was a stone bordered dirt path separating them, and a dog was trapped there. It had a limp in one of its hind legs, indicating it had been run over once already. Long-distance trailers and smaller cars zoomed by, making it impossible to cross. The dog kept inching forward into the road then yowling and stepping back when oncoming vehicles hooted at it. It made such heart wrenching whimpers and yelps that the girl had a mind to jump into traffic to save him. She stood there for a minute, aching in the pumper, watching the animal struggle to brave the work of man, but she was late for class, and she needed to be gone. As she started ahead, she kept turning back to see if it was still alive. She really hated that she couldn’t help. She doubted the animal would make it against the trailers.  

The sun shone in her eyes, forcing her to squint. It was after four in the evening, and she was walking home from her last class. The venue was right beside the main highway in and out of town, and classes were punctuated with car horns and the sounds of vehicles going by. She always felt that was a terrible inconvenience to all concerned. She couldn’t hear her teachers, and they had to be getting hoarse, shouting all day. However when walking home, she liked the pedestrian way on the side because it was less crowded than the dirt road used by many of the students. It allowed her to get lost in her thoughts. And she had many.

Notice the circular patterns of light

It was, perhaps half past seven that night, she was on her phone, looking at eating videos in the back seat of the family SUV. Her dad was driving and her mom sat shotgun. They were on the C63 coming from work. Traffic had been ghastly as usual, to the eastern bypass, but having just come out it she’d settled down knowing it would be a little over half an hour before they got home. Establishments were set a few meters back from the one way highway, and most were winding down for the day. The security lights drew circular patterns of light on the windows of the car. On the opposite lane, a long transit vehicle was making it’s steady way up the slope. Smaller cars edged in and out of the road behind it trying to overtake. The pick up came out of nowhere. One minute all was quiet, a scant second later there came the heart-shattering sound of metal grinding against heavier metal. The small white pickup had sped by with nary a chill, trying to squeeze past us and the trailer ahead. With all its speed it only succeeded in slamming nose first into the chin of the larger locomotive, the sound reverberating violently in the ear, making waves of the very air. She saw a body of indefinite size get thrown clean out the front window, fly high into the air then hit the dirt with the heaviness of a sack of potatoes.  For a moment, nothing moved, the shock of it as arresting as anything you can imagine.  Then like a time lapse video that had been paused then x 1.5ed, people gathered at the scene in front of her father’s car, and in typical fashion, stared. The fateful driver appeared at the door where his partner had just been sitting, his face a gruesome study in agony, and he dragged himself down and out of the car, all the while shouting for someone to call for assistance. She felt her heart constrict as the horror of it exploded in her blood vessels. She watched as the man crawled in the glare of the headlights to near where his associate lay. At first she had thought it had been a baby that’d been thrown so viciously out the car, but upon closer scrutiny she saw he was just smaller in size.  As they continued to observe, other vehicles came up on their sides, headlights illuminating the tableau before them. Suddenly, her dad swerved, maneuvering past the battered pickup and into a gas station on the right. He drove through it and came out behind the trailer and rejoined their original lane before the inevitable five hour snarl up really caught.

There was a roundabout ahead of her, and a gas station sat at it’s side. A teenage looking boy came from the opposite angle. He was on a bike, wearing a dark red shirt, ripped jeans and a pair of adidas. His hair was dark and wavy, and his black sunglasses glinted from the afternoon light. He looked like he was straight off the cover of a teen magazine. He always came out the same time every Friday.

You hear it said in some cases that artists take years to master their crafts. That once discovered it has to be subjected to a rigorous purification process that could last as long as you are young. In other cases one is told that creators’ talents have a lifespan. An allocated slot where their productivity is at their peak. You usually have ten to fifteen years if you’re lucky, after that, not much of significance can be attributed to you. So you have this timed window – much like a debutante, where you are expected to bring out your best and make it count. You could be part of something so big, so monumental, that it changes the rest of your life. Or you could prove plain. As time proceeds and you get a bit long in the tooth, it is believed that your best years have now passed and you have less to offer. It’s logic or whatever. No pressure!

She walked looking down. Her steps medium to fast. She had earphones on, listening to Coldplay because it always put her in such a mood. A large truck passed her, kicking up the dust at the edges of the tarmac. She suddenly turned her head to it. No display of squashed animal gore. Good. Perhaps the dog from earlier in the day had made it through somehow, she thought. The matter had really been weighing on her.

Author: L.Billal

Behold! You are the Universe! You are rarely ever just one thing your whole life. You are never in one state of mind. You are many things. Like the body in which you live. You breathe life into the one and the many. You live them. You are them. But they are never you.

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