Story – Crosswalk


Judy used to like driving her car. A little power in her hands, moving along. A sense of getting somewhere she was headed toward.

Then the animals took over the streets and lately driving had become an urban mano-à-mano experience.

Pleasure had been replaced by other people. Other people in other cars who induced in her a feeling of rational paranoia: she knew they were out to get her.

A for instance. No one any longer knew how to use their blinkers. Cars right in front of her turned abruptly left or unexpectedly right without any warning as though part of Judy’s job experience as a car driver was now mind reading.

Then there were those other numerous idiots who fantasized they were race car drivers and just could not resist racing her, even though the traffic light just ahead was red. Many major bozos functioning solely with their primitive brain pan whizzed past her driver’s window, cutting right in front of her at the last moment. As though receiving extra bonus points or able to go to another level on some game Judy had no idea about. Then would come their rear lights, reddening up as they stomped on their brakes to sit at the red light waiting for the green to turn up.

And Judy sat in her car, now behind them, thinking spit and knives, one-on-one terrorist acts festering in her glove compartment, roaring images of not stopping her car, of continuing driving right up their car’s backside, rolling on top, squashing down on them, ridding the world of one more urban idiot with a valid driver’s license.

She also wanted to flash her lights, honk her horn, scream and scream. She also wanted to get out of her car and go knock on their window and wag a finger in their face, and give them what for.

But she behaved herself with only her hands making damp squeaky sounds as the flesh of her palm ground around the steering wheel, working out the tension.

And she saw that it was always, inevitably, a guy, some young male with no doubt a low sperm count and big inarticulate needs with dirt underneath his fingernails whose dreams consisted of successfully waking up in the morning, all ambitions of his narrow life already met.

Judy had her moments. In her imagination. Other scenes. Full of illegal urges. Beyond running into them to teach them a lesson. Or at least ruin their day. Get them off the road. For a while. The impulse passed. Barely. Yet returned often. Often.

It was just no fun to drive her car in city traffic any longer. All the aggression, rudeness, all the effort of controlling her anger.

In minor revenge, people on pedestrian crossings became target practice. Here she would be the boss and make people jump back on the curb when she drove up. Glowering, tense, alive with some sense of power.

When there was no rush to get somewhere she thought she had to get to quickly, she would sometimes stop and obey the law, letting people without cars cross the crosswalk.

Judy’d rev her engine a little just to see them pick their pace up a bit.

Last week she had come upon a young black guy who looked half-asleep, slouching at the curb, waiting.

She was going to go straight across the crosswalk, without even slowing. This was one guy who could wait.

But getting closer, she could see he was holding something close. Judy thought it looked as though it was a baby wrapped up in different colorful small blankets his chest. He was hardly glancing at the traffic, a little to the left, little to the right, without much hope or real interest. He was laying-back.

As Judy approached, he placed his right shoe tip onto the first white line of the crosswalk. As though testing the water before going in. He stayed this way, looking neither left nor right.

These days someone starting to cross the street was no reason for Judy to stop; more a reason to speed up.

Magnanimously, Judy slowed. Stopped.

The man still did not look up. Not at Judy, not at her car, as he put his other foot onto the crosswalk. She watched his slow, sleepy movements, the bundle of cloth containing a baby he held. Then as he passed the front of her car, she saw an unfolding of his hand that faced her. Fingers appeared. She watched as he made a casual, hip-high peace sign in her direction. He held it as he crossed, keeping his eyes on the white lines ahead of him and his hands supporting the baby. Then the fingers curled back to hold the child tighter as he reached the other side and stepped up and left the crosswalk.

She sat there, feeling strange, until someone honked from behind.

For the next days, Judy stopped fairly regularly at crossings, seeking more peace signs.

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