Commuting to work takes roughly three hours, although it feels like the time passes in seconds. The repeating yellow-dashes and silver-sedans as they interweave between lanes, as well as the perpetual highway hum, all layer over each other, creating a trance-like experience, subduing me into a deep unconscious state.
This morning there was a crash that halted the unconscious trance. Two vehicles collided, melding their metallic bodies into a single entity. A man and woman, bleeding down their necks, crawled out from the wreckage. Still inside their car there was a teenage boy, motionless, buckled in the back.
An oversized SUV consumed the families sedan. The man driving the SUV opened and revealed himself completely unharmed. The hood of the SUV acted as a shock absorber, leaving the rest of the car intact. He stepped out from the car and began yelling uncontrollably, a thick vein throbbed against his forehead.
There’s nothing unusual about crashes, in fact they occur daily and frequently. Highway patrol quickly responds and blocks out several lanes as they push the crushed masses of metal to the side of the road. The victims, whether dead or alive, are dealt with after.
Unfortunately this crash was fresh. Thick black fumes poured from underneath as the engines rattled. Cars attempted to squeeze themselves through the opening spaces, hurrying to get somewhere. I had no option but to watch until help arrived.
A paramedic spoke with the woman. I couldn’t hear what they said but she immediately sank to the ground that was covered with fractured glass and scraps of metal. The man, who I assume to be her husband, sat down, slowly, in disbelief.
Eventually the mess got resolved but the drive to work felt it would never end. The continual chain of experience had broken. Previous repetitions became disjointed and unwilling to converge. The drive broke up into a million distinct memories, each object demanding its own attention.
At work, my usual tasks became impossible. I had no clue where to begin nor what to say. My boss called me in for a meeting asking if everything was fine. Interaction felt like a churning of gears and my own were struggling to keep up, but I somehow managed to suggest that everything was indeed fine and he happily sent me back to work.
The day went by unbelievably slow, and when each time looked back at the clock, hardly a minute had passed. The monotony became unbearable.
When it was finally time to leave, I found myself jammed in the elevator with several colleagues. People I knew intimately. For some reason they now felt like strangers as we stood compressed between the elevators metallic walls. They asked how things were going and if I had plans for the night. I nodded and tried to ignore their questions until the elevator doors slid open. They wished me goodnight and I rushed to my car.
Upon entering my home, I experienced a wave of vertigo and fell to the ground, knocking over an empty vase. My kids were in their rooms upstairs and my wife hardly reacted to the breaking glass as she continued watching TV. There was a note on the kitchen counter, mentioning that someone had moved in next door, although nobody knows who they are or where they came from.
According to my wife, there wasn't any evidence of anyone moving in. All that is known is that this person has a habit of standing at the window for hours with their blinds half-opened.
At night when the children were put to bed and my wife passed out on the couch, I went up to the attic with a pair of binoculars. The man stood there just as my wife described, motionless. From the half-opened blinds he appeared as a series of disjointed images, I struggled to fit the pieces together and concluded that he was indeed a mystery. Each night we watched each other and I would eventually fall asleep comforted by the enigma of their being. They never left, they only watched. Many of the neighbors moved into other suburbs, in fear for their lives. I decided it would be a good time to invite the man for dinner.
Me and the figure corresponded over letters. I’d write one and slip it under his door and a letter of his would magically slip under mine. He wrote in a fragmented prose, devoid of anything suggesting personhood. But between the lines, I could sense that he was interested in meeting. I sent a letter inviting him to dinner, he sent one back in agreement, under the single condition that dinner be held in the dark.
The next day we sat at the table with our food prepared, the front-door opened and a chair was dragged out beside me. Not a word was said. Frankly, I had no desire to know who they were, their name, nor what was on their mind. I preferred if they remained as an unknowable entity. After eating he got up and before he left he said “Thank you.”
I told him he was free to come tomorrow, at the same time, under the same conditions.
Where I live the homes are all practically stacked on top of each other. You could drive for hours without spotting a difference outside of the golden numbers plastered above the entrance doors. Each house in my suburb beige and two-stories. Their lawns are populated with slogans of their favored politicians. Inside you’ll hardly find any difference either. The furniture is bought from the same stores, arranged in the same fashion, often leading to persistent feeling of Déjà vu.
The man has neglected his outer home and there's no longer any grass. It appears desolate and reveals the concrete sediment underneath. His home has been stripped of the beige paint and and used as a graffiti wall for troubled kids.
In some sense, I find him to be the least bizarre person here. Despite his outwardly strange behaviors, there’s a sense of comfort in the unfamiliarity he breathes. I’ve been to many of my neighbors' homes, have had dinner under the brightest lights revealing ever wrinkle and pour, have exchanged memories, graduations, birthday parties, yet I come out with only the vague impression of who these people truly are.
The next day I was eager to arrive home. Dinner was prepared, just as planned, and the lights were shut off. As we sat in the dark the creaking front door was was heard. A chair was dragged by my self and after several minutes of chewing, he said “Thank you” and left.