Conor Cawley: A Long Drive

His back hurt.

Every car he had ever owned hurt his back. There was a certain consistency to it that would have been soothing if it didn’t hurt so much. TV shows get cancelled, favorite bands break up and first loves move on but at least he has that ever-present lack of lower-lumbar support to comfort him.

He felt the tightness shoot down his right leg every time he pressed on the gas. It was the kind of tightness that feels like it can be fixed by someone walking on your back; as if a fist was constantly resting against the bone in between his back and his butt. The ball of nerves that he assumed rested at the base of his spine was begging him to pull over and do some road-side yoga. No such luck.

Like anyone driving in a car for more than an hour, the pain didn’t stop him from fidgeting. He adjusted his posture, fiddled with the radio, repositioned his legs or moved his hands on the steering wheel at least once every two minutes. That’s a lot for a 12-hour drive. Every time his body moved, he felt the stagnant fluids in his body jostle and shift like luggage in an overhead compartment allegedly does. Knowing he couldn’t go to the bathroom made it that much harder to hold it.

The size of the car made these ailments much worse. The ceiling hovered mere inches from the top of his head and the seat was just barely large enough to house his larger frame. The arm rest was just out of arm’s reach. His right leg rubbed against the bottom of the dashboard every time he used the brake. There would have been just enough room to feel comfortable if he wasn’t insistent on leaning his seat back far enough to see out the back passenger window.

He soon became immune to music. Not that he wasn’t hearing it but even songs he had never heard before started feeling repetitive and stale. The radio dials, unlike the arm rest, were within reach, so he turned down the music to a dull buzz that was muffled by the sound of the wheels on the road. The drive had started to take a toll on his mental state and he tried to turn that sound down too. Again, no dice.

The road is surprisingly smooth. Either because the many states he had driven through had made infrastructure a serious priority or because his brain had lost track of every pothole, bridge and construction zone he’d driven through. He wondered how many annoying sounds and inconvenient instances he had blocked out of his memory during this seemingly endless journey.

He can’t remember the last speed limit sign he’s read or obeyed. There are billboards lining the highway and they’re much brighter than the road, which seems kind of dangerous. Every single one says “food” in one way or another, at least that’s all he can read. He subconsciously giggles at the ones that say something vague and forward about Jesus and how you should feel about him.

The cars in front of him are fading in and out of vision. It’s late so there are only a few and they are far off in the distance. At least he hopes they are. He’s worried his windshield has the same rules as the rear view mirror: “Objects in front of you are closer than they appear.” There are only so many times you can rub your eyes before it starts making things worse.

He wonders how he can make time go faster. The unflinching repetition has stretched his tolerance for boredom in the most focused and banal way. His eyes were wide open but were barely seeing anything. The road began blurring with the sky. Then he remembered…

His back really hurt.

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