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A Fictional Account of Reality
Baron von Nikolas,, Mar 11, 2004

The highway curves around an old grain mill, then opens into one of the small towns next to the metropolis in which I live. It is a suburb, but is neither rich nor poor, lavish nor antiquated. I come here I don't know why. It is the most neutral of places, like settling dust on an unusable object. I downshift my car as the highway turns into some main street. The are several exits for the nearby air force base, the town's only common workplace. I imagine all the secrets they hide there, like alien bodies, or nuclear weapons, or the plans for some offensive strategy in some country I can't pronounce. Or perhaps there are no secrets. Perhaps the air force personnel are always looking for secrets, bored by the drudgery of their government positions, So I hear Cathy's hiding the Sweet N Low next to the water cooler, don't tell anyone!

The dark clouds roll in, like they usually do in this part of the country--only as intimidation today, no lightning, no hail, just mean looks. I see people in the shops, but not on the street, unless they're entering their car. The busiest places, the most frequented, are the ones most saturated with enuii: bars, grocery stores, video stores, pizza pick up places, child day cares, liquor stores, nursing homes. I come here I don�t know why.

I finally pull into one of the strip malls. I get out of the car and look at my options. A cell phone store, a baby clothes store, a frozen custard parlour, a golf accessory store, a pawnshop. I enter the pawnshop to the sound of a small jingle attached to the door. No one is inside, not a customer, not an employee. I look around to see what people have been selling for money. Any musical instruments? No, but a fine selection of electric blankets. Any car stereos? No, but a nice display case of clown accessories. Any appliances? Any jewelry? No, but a fair amount of stuffed mountain rodents and one of those flat display cases with dead butterflies. Any guns? Let�s see, uh�Oh, yes there they are. I guess it is an average pawnshop. I was worried there for a minute.

I find myself driving down the street again and eventually enter a downtown type of area. Buildings higher than one or two stories with glass all the way around and a little piece of corporate art out in front. I immediately realize I have to use the restroom and pull over. The nearest building reads "Panda Modules Inc. est. 1946." I know it's probably not customary for an office building to have a public restroom, but I cannot wait. As I enter, a woman walks quickly out the door. The place looks a little deserted, and I realize it's just after five o'clock. I find the restrooms, but the men's room is locked! It seems like a big enough building to not have just a single use restroom, so I assume the janitors must have locked them up already. I try the women's room. It's locked too. As I take a drink of water from the fountain next to the restrooms, a woman steps out of the ladies' room. She walks past me and I catch the door before it closes. I enter cautiously, and check under the stalls for feet just in case. No one around. I enter a stall, lock it, and continue with my business. As I finish, I hear the door open, and hear a pair of footsteps. I freeze, but don't panic, for I know all they can do is throw me out of some office building I won't want to come back to anyhow. Eventually the person washes up and leaves. Close call, but no big deal. I'm not a peeping tom or anything. I leave also, but not before checking my handsome mug in the mirror.

Driving again. This time a nice park, no bigger than a square block, but I stop. Parking places for a public park. How novel! There are no children in the park today. Perhaps they are inside somewhere, playing video games. As I'm exiting my car though, I see a beautiful woman who is wearing a homemade dress of some kind, walking a chia-pet-like dog. Something about her reminds me of a girl I liked in the first grade. At the time, only seven years old, I didn�t know what my feelings meant. Only that I wanted to do something for her, or save her from some inevitable circumstance. I could save her from the class bully, I thought. But the class bully never bothered her, he only took my lunch money. And passed gas. He passed gas during class. For that he would get in trouble, but not for taking my lunch money.

I decide not to visit the park after all, and I get back in my car. The woman with the chia-pet-like dog is no where to be found. I start to wonder where all the people go after they are done being a part of one�s life. There are so many. All the schools, all the neighborhoods, the friends, the enemies, the lovers, the hated. Some are dead, I�m sure, there must be some. And some must be very happy, somewhere where the nightly stars are the same nightly stars of this place. And what about my generation? Can you label it, just like the other generations? The Lost Generation, Generation X, they are all the same. My generation, like the others, buys and sells each other. They will marry, and they will work, and they will make another generation, telling them everything they know. They will serve food, and they will buy food. They will die young, and will live long. They will fight in wars that every former generation has already fought. They will jump on bandwagons, play politics, make art, sing songs, waste time, make mistakes, fix mistakes, dress up nice, stand naked and accused, point fingers, cast ballots, cry, suffer, laugh, scream, create, destroy, drive their TV off a cliff, order it medium well, take you out to lunch, take you for a fool, build it up, tear it down, fold it up nicely, wrap it all in a box and try to sell it to you for less than their competitors. They will have plenty of reasons to revel in some kind of escape. Escape from something invisible that they cannot explain.

When I am done thinking, I notice the light is green and I am still stopped. Horns are honking and the world is speeding past. What kind of holiday can I make out of a day? Can I paint it any color I want? Can I spell �colour� with a �U� like the Brits do?

I order a large soda from a local burger joint instead. Sixty-six ounces but I only need twelve. I don�t need any at all actually, but I have it nonetheless, with no proper motive. Screw it, I don�t care. What does an extra nineteen cents matter anyway?

The clouds are still rolling in, like spilled ink across an indecipherable document. The rumble of the nearby highway drones, and the words of the masses are still too tired to be heard. Perspiration collects on my forehead and the gas gauge rests just above the �E.�

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time, I think as I pull out of the drive-through lane onto the street, looking for the onramp out of town. You can drive somewhere new, where people you�ve never met are also filling the hours of their days. There too, you will find the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. The lonely pass each other on the street, unable to come together.

"What a waste of time," I think, as I switch into the final gear, turn the radio dial to something cheerful�pre-packaged and mundane, I don�t care. Bring it on. Give me something to help the miles pass. I think about what must be done. Pick up a prescription. Call my mother. Check the weather on television. Pay the bills on the counter. Feed the cat. Contact my broker. Clip my toenails. Heat up some leftovers. Prepare for the workweek. Prepare for the workweek. Do it again next week.

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User comments

joe   Mar 24, 2004 12:11:18  
wow, yr story is incredible. i feel like i lived there for 6 years, and now im ready to meet up with you and we can set the town on fire, burn it up and leave for california. whaddya sya?

jack   Mar 11, 2004 20:45:27  
Buenisimo! nik, you're a genius. that town sounds familiar. i think i'm swimming in all that now. almost time to escape.

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