Quadrangle 68 prose

Birdcage
Yeardley Mruzek

I used to hate driving.

I didn’t like the anxiety it gave me––how I always feel like the car slowly creeping up to pass me was just going to get a funny idea and see what it’s like to run me off the road, just like the movies. Especially the big giant trucks. I hated when I realized I was driving in the wrong direction. How if I had to turn around, I could never decide which driveway to pull in and out of––no, can’t be this one, I didn’t see it soon enough, wouldn’t want to have to slow down that fast, I probably don’t want to bother them anyway. Like I expect a big empty lot with a big-ass neon sign with “DESIGNATED TURNING-AROUND SPOT” in three-inch high letters. You never know, I guess.

I always dreaded becoming a car guy. I hated hearing other people talk about cars like they’re children––I still do, really. I don’t really care to know how the dumb machine works, and I don’t want to sit around with other guys and discuss, fuck, horsepower? I don’t even know. I think, really, it makes me the pretentious and rude one because I’m judging these people just for having a cool interest that harms no one. Maybe I need to be more accepting. “Maybe I should become a car guy,” I sometimes tell myself, usually after a successful parallel park. But I think it’s still not for me. I used to hate the idea of being a car guy as much as I used to hate driving.

So I forced myself to hate driving. And I would hate driving as I sat comfortably in the front seat, with total control over where I was going. And I told myself that, yeah, I do hate driving, even if it’s kind of nice to glide down the highway like a bullet.

And for years I convinced myself that the nice feeling you get in your gut when you go far faster than evolution ever thought humans would ever go was motion sickness.

I told myself.

And no, there isn’t any subtle beauty in how these machines can be piloted so deftly at such high speeds, human after human turning the pavement into equilibrium. Flawless turns around corners perfectly choreographed by three colors and sometimes an arrow. We all speed up upon passing the orange “Road Work End” slab so coveted, synchronized in a way that humanity still has not achieved with other means. Driving really is like a dance because both are some of the few activities where our feet do more work than our hands, and neither exist if we do not take the time to master movement. Elegant machinery that asks us simply to stare forward, and in return offers us the chance to explore wherever we please. A vast array of colors swarming down the streets, different breeds of the same mechanical beast glide and turn and merge and parallel park their way from Point A to Point B. Windshields gobbling up bugs and other pests, and lick themselves clean with the grace of a tiger. Green Nissan needs to move over one lane. Black Toyota to its right speeds up while the Gray Honda behind slows down. Green Nissan fits perfectly; the only communication these metal behemoths have is a miniscule red light that’s hard to see in the daytime. Incredible. I follow my mom on Twitter and I don’t even get along with her.

Ugly. Right fellas?

I always preferred being driven around, anyway. So I could stare out the window and not get motion sickness, like I always told myself I got.

I’d stare out at a flock of birds migrating back up here for the spring, watching them all swerve back and forth as a single intelligent organism, as if every bird in that group made the exact same decision at the exact same time. I’d remember all about how we think of birds. Such a fucking cliché. Ooh, a display of beauty and unification, the absolute freedom that we humans associate with birds for some reason, but really, is it like that? Do they choose where they migrate to? What can any individual bird do if he doesn’t like where he’s going? Does the goose at the front of the “V” want to be there? Do they have an avian outlet for their emotional needs? Probably not, I thought, wishing I was a bird because I hated driving.

I’d watch them all dance around over our clunky autos and wonder to myself: 

“How in the fuck do they all do that?”

And this was back when I told myself that I hated driving.

But, to be honest, I think my problem is I just didn’t like where I was driving to.