Written July 2009
A clear bead crawls slowly down the flushed skin, weaving expertly between furrows and tiny hairs. Leaving a single, wet track in its’ wake. Cresting the curve of the clenched jaw, it quivers slightly, and then launches itself into oblivion.
Rhonda swears, swiping a shaking hand across her cheek. This damned heat is killing her. Swiveling her head in a horizontal arc, she drinks in the scene around her with wide and wild eyes. The hot afternoon sun is driving its’ rays deep into the black tarmac, causing the sea of idling cars in front of her to shimmer and waver in a dizzying haze. Carefully unclenching her fingers from the steering wheel, Rhonda painfully stretches the digits, cracking each knuckle in succession. Reaching over and punching the buttons on the radio, she frantically flips through channels, looking for a recent traffic report. Landing on an all-news number low-down on the dial, she listens carefully as the “eye-in-the-sky” reviews the evening’s happenings. No accident. No hit pedestrian. Nothing. Just miles and miles of infernal traffic.
Rhonda glares angrily at the radio, a fresh coating of perspiration erupting on her forehead. Swearing under her breath, she silently hopes that the geeky little creep hovering over the city in his state-of-the-air helicopter, crashes into an overpass. Now that would be an accident worth sitting in traffic for. But to be sitting here, her skin baking inside the sweltering sauna of her car, for no reason at all, boils Rhonda to new levels of anger.
Nine hours earlier Rhonda sat in almost exactly the same position, however pointing in the opposite direction, as she made her way into work. With the sun just barely peaking over the eastern horizon behind her, a gentle breeze blowing across the highway, and a hot coffee in her hand, the drive into work was just about bearable. However, with a stressful eight-hour work-day now behind her, compounding her irritation, Rhonda feels her grip on sanity slipping. Looking around at the other commuters, her eyes settle on the car directly beside her. Inside, the fat, male occupant draws hungrily on a cigarette, blowing the smoke out through his mouth and nose. His beady eyes squint against the glare of the afternoon sun, and his bald head reflects the light like a fleshy mirror. Rhonda feels disgust rising in her gut as the smoke curls through her open passenger window, causing her to cough. The man, feeling her gaze, turns towards her. Mistaking her look as one of passion, he flirtatiously licks his lips and winks.
“Great” Rhonda thinks “now I’m angry and revolted”
“Hey, baby, wanna shift my gears?” The man is hanging his sweaty, massive head out of his window, ogling her like a piece of prime rib. Shaking her head in disgust, Rhonda turns back towards the traffic in front of her, trying desperately to ignore the whistling and lip-smacking now coming from the other car.
Suddenly the traffic in front of her moves forward, and eagerly anticipating a break in the grid-lock, Rhonda removes her foot from the brake and slams it into the accelerator, already relishing the distance between herself and the oversized letch. Realizing too late that she has overestimated the movement in traffic, Rhonda braces as her car crashes into the bumper in front of her.
“Shit, shit and more shit!” she screams at the top of her lungs. Beside her she can hear the loud guffawing of the fat man. Throwing the car into park, she swivels in her seat, her eyes throwing daggers at the massive form rocking back and forth in his car. “You sound like a sea lion being raped you fucking idiot” she bellows and throwing off her seat belt, begins to exit her car. The driver of the car in front of her has swung open his door as well, and is unfolding his long, lanky frame from the vehicle. As her turns to face her she can see anger distorting his attractive face.
“What the hell is the matter with you?” He closes the distance between them in two long steps. Resting one hand on his knee he bends to assess the damage.
“It’s hardly a scratch, really. I just barely touched you” Rhonda pleads, her hands beginning to tremble. Behind her drivers are honking their horns in irritation at the further delay. She swings around on them in a seething heat. “Shut up, just shut up all of you. You fucking morons, just SHUT UP!”
Turning back around, Rhonda can see the expression on the stranger has changed. No longer angry, his face is a mask of something close to interest. “It’s okay lady, just a scratch as you said. Nothing to worry about”. He smiles at her, and begins to walk back towards his car, leaving Rhonda standing on the steaming highway with her mouth gaping like a fish. Suddenly the traffic begins to move and the man, slipping his car back into drive, moves away. Rhonda wrenched from her stupor by the cacophony of blaring horns jumps back into her car and begins to drive. Slowly her hands stop shaking as she watches the back of the head in front of her edge into the distance.
Two miles up the highway, Rhonda pushes her way across three lanes of traffic and makes her way towards her exit. The accident now completely forgotten, she has resumed her erratic and angry driving, daring other drivers to hit her car as she effortlessly cuts them off. Each blare of a horn is met with a smile and an outstretched middle finger. “Eat me, retard” Rhonda calls to one poor, elderly lady as she careens off of the highway at break-neck speed, taking the off-ramp on two tires.
Behind her, a silver car has quietly slipped out of traffic, and is now following two car lengths behind her. The man behind the wheel watches her with curiosity, as she jolts her car to a skidding halt at the red light, while screaming obscenities at the pedestrians crossing in front of her. The light has barely turned back to green, when she jams her foot back onto the accelerator, launching her car forward like a multi-ton bullet. The man winces as a young mother pushes a young child in a stroller out of Rhonda’s way, just as the bumper whizzes past her.
Three blocks and several expletives later, Rhonda turns onto her street, and screeches to a halt in her driveway, leaving two perfect, black tread marks in her wake. The man in the silver car pulls up to the curb, two houses down, and shuts off his engine. He has watched this unbelievable display of road rage since he first met Rhonda on the highway, almost 45 minutes ago, and as he watches her now, slamming her car door and stomping up her front steps, he smiles to himself. Now it’s time to take out the garbage.
The next day several people mill around a coffee maker in a small, brightly lit office kitchen.
“I don’t know, she just didn’t come in” a middle-aged woman is saying. “Does anyone know where she lives?”
“I have no idea” responds the man beside her, as he subconsciously adjusts his tie and pats down his hair. “I barely even said good-morning to her most days, she always seemed like she was in such a hurry.”
“Ya” chimes in another man, slightly wider and older than the first. “She was an enigma….is that the right word? Anyways, I’d love to stay and chat, but I have e-mails and phone calls to return, and the paperwork is not going to sort out itself.” The group slowly dissolves, each co-worker silently making their way back to their respective desks and lives.
Across town, on a quiet suburban street a garbage truck rolls slowly along, stopping briefly to pick up cans and boxes in front of the houses. Half-way down the street the truck comes to an abrupt stop, as two city workers gape from their trucks. Parked askew in the driveway of one small, Tudor-style house, is a green sedan. All of the windows have been broken out, and spray-painted across the side are the ominous words “road rage warrior”.
Hours later, a rookie police officer finds himself revisiting his breakfast, as he retches into the kitchen sink. Sprawled behind him, in the sparsely furnished livingroom is the body of a woman, her face contorted into a death-mask of fear, eyes wide and disbelieving. And as the sun streams in through the picture window, a glint can be seen from her gaping mouth, as the rays gently touch a set of car keys jammed unceremoniously inside.