International Writers Magazine: Car Life
Tony R. Rodriguez
I shouldnt be driving 85 on a 65 MPH freeway when the roads
saturated with the rain from last nights Halloween. And it
looks like its starting to sprinkle. But thats the norm
for some drivers in the SF Bay, especially the drivers of 880. So
far, Ive counted three other cars ripping across the wet road
like fierce speedboats. But I have a good excuse to drive this fast:
Im a half hour late for a meeting with my publisher.
I left Union City
and am making my way north to Oakland. My publisher is waiting to hear
a pitch for my fourth novel, which is allegedly completely mapped out
and ready to be constructed. But the truth is that I have yet to map
anything out. Im clueless. Im a compulsive procrastinator.
And Im not worried about what Im going to pitch them. Itll
all come to me.
car zips by me.
This ones a beat down Toyota pick-up truck with rust spots tattooed
along its off-white metallic body. A twenties-something girl is the
driver. Shes wearing an orange mesh hat that reads Boo.
Her blonde ponytail is sticking out of the back of the cap, and her
face is dewy soft with childlike innocence. We make brief eye contact
as she rockets pass me. I believe I saw her shoot a slight smile my
way, but perhaps my imagination was teasing me. But maybe she did smile?
Maybe her name is Sandra? Maybe shes driving fast down 880 because
she just left her boyfriend and is now emotionally distraught? Her boyfriend
was cheating on her with her mother, and now shes escaping from
it all. The only reason Sandra isnt hysterically crying is because
she had just gotten the tears out of her system. And now its time
for her to liberate her heart from the whole crap situation. Maybe she
needs someone to talk to? Maybe Sandra is getting closer and closer
to her breaking point? Sandra needs me. I should follow her and calm
her down. Soothe her. Comfort her troubled heart. My speed limit reaches
90 MPH. Im getting closer to Sandras pick-up. Sandra will
later call our first encounter fate. But then up ahead I see swirling
lights. They signal me to gently apply the brakes. My speed limit slowly
drops to 70 MPH.
I see some heavy drops of rain splat upon my windshield as I reach the
spinning lights. On the side of the road, the driver of a silver minivan
is being patted down by an officer wearing sunglasses, though the sun
is hiding behind thick grey clouds and the rain continues its descending.
The driver also appears to be young. Perhaps hes also in his twenties?
Ill call him Ian. Maybe hes Sandras Ian? He looks
like an Ian. But unlike Sandra, Ian is compulsively crying. Perhaps
its because the officer found something illegal inside his minivan?
Maybe Ian was in possession of a large bag of pot given to him by Sandras
mother? Maybe the officer is planning on taking Ian back to the station?
Poor Ian. Poor choice. Poor future ahead.
After driving a half-mile ahead of Ian, I pick up the speed and get
back up to 90 MPH. I cant find Sandra anywhere. Shes long
Another car zips pass me at high speed.
Moments later, I take the Broadway exit, deep into the heart of Oakland,
and I coast a few blocks before parking in front of the publishing house.
I quickly storm through the door of the building, check in with the
secretary, and make my way to the office of my editor. Despite my gross
tardiness, he welcomes me into his office and offers me a seat. Hes
calm and collected. My heart is violently palpitating like that of a
racehorse on steroids. As he leans back in his chair and intertwines
his fingers behind his head, he probes: So what do you got?
And I begin with complete confidence: Halloween was an intense
night for Sandra and Ian, a twenties-something couple bent on good times,
a love for new experiences, and quick money-making schemes. Perhaps
Halloween would have been less vivid if the two hadnt tried smoking
heavy volumes of pot. Sandra and Ian decided to throw a Halloween party
at Yvettes house. This is Sandras divorced and maladjusted
mother. The party had to be there because Yvettes house is huge
with a large backyard and inside living space, ideal for a party housing
close to three hundred people adorning eclectic costumes of all hues.
It was Yvette who introduced her daughter and Ian to pot. It was Sandra
and Ians first time with the drug. And that same night, it would
be Yvette who would later secretly introduce Ian to other things hes
never experienced before. Ever since Yvettes divorce five years
ago, shes been slowly creeping backwards into a lifestyle mimicking
her early twenties . . .
I go on and on and on.
I talk about my novel idea for close to a half hour before the editor
leans forward from behind his desk and says: Great. Great. Stop
there. Dont ruin the rest of it for me. I havent read a
good book similar to that narrative in a while. I think I know how youre
going to end it, but youve surprised me before. Well release
it before next Halloween season. What are you titling it?
Im not sure yet.
R. Rodriguez, SF Examiner Dec 2008
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