You are driving on a road. Buildings swoosh by. Cars weave and sweve. Your engine tumbles. The car propulses. You’re in traffic. Subjected to it. It’s a world of the road, unfolding in front of your wheel.
But there’s another world, the one we—as reader and writer—are already engaged in through the project of language. In fact, we could hardly make the distinction here, for speech, order, and meaning suggest this world. So, instead, a retelling:
You are driving on a road. Buildings swoosh by. Cars weave and swerve. Your engine tumbles. The car propulses. You’re in traffic. Subjected to it. But this time, it’s a world in your mind, stretching, weaving, synthesizing, pacing in front of you. Traffic is an object, brute and immediate, but it’s also a fiction: a narrative of movements in front of you.
We saw a car crash the other week in Chicago. It’s a blur: one car slid past the other. Did one crumple into the other, did another hit a pole? One car knocked into a biker, who broke his leg. And one man, running out of his car, holding a dislocated wrist, yells, “WHAT THE FUCK MAN! YOU FUCKED UP MY ARM!” The other man exited his car sheepishly, apologizing in shame.
I would have kept walking. There was nothing I could do. But we stood. Betsy wondered if we could help. I’m not really sure what Andrew and Matt were thinking (I think Andrew said something like “holy shit!”). Just another happening to me. What causes us to stare?
Firetruck arrives. I try to make eye contact with as many strangers as possible, wondering what they’re thinking. We get burgers after. This doesn’t seem worth a story to me: it’s an accidental collision, a careless event ending in suffering, anger, and disaster. Is this not a general story that we’ve all heard each day?
But to stare, to look twice, is to let that “general story” unfold on its own terms. Does the biker, hit and rolled away on a stretcher care about the third-person story of his injury; does the man’s fucked up arm fit into a three-word story: accident, then pain? What is going on, and how could anyone, cobbling together words-too-small and concepts-too-big make any real sense of it? I don’t believe I can. I want to keep walking. So, a retelling:
You are driving on a road. Buildings swoosh by. Cars weave and swerve. Your engine tumbles. The car propulses. You’re in traffic. Subjected to it. But this time, it is one world, not another, continuing forward: nothing like the accident that resides in your mind.