The Cars Beside You

dehumanizationIn front of you is a Town Car. Behind you, a Jeep. On your left, a Mercedes. On your right, a Caravan.

Wait . . . the Caravan is now in front of you.

You slam your palm against the steering wheel to communicate your displeasure. In response, a hand with bright pink nails emerges from the Caravan in the form of an obscene gesture. You return the favor.

A heaviness sweeps over you – this is not who you are. Outside of your car, you try to show a little more civility. If you didn’t, well that’d be awkward . . .

On your left is a man with a white shirt and polished shoes. On your right, a preteen girl and a woman with unkempt hair. In front of you, a gentleman with a shuffling gait. Behind you, a young woman holding tightly to a young man’s hand.

The woman and preteen are in front of you now, making a beeline for organic honey, and slowing your progress toward the peanut butter.

“Heyyyyyyyyyyyy!” you screech, sounding more like a distressed parrot than a human. Without a glance your way, she waves her longest finger in your direction and continues toward the honey. You do the same as you reorient yourself toward the peanut butter.

Before you can compare the prices of creamy almond butter and dark chocolate peanut butter, the gentleman shuffles toward the crunchy peanut butter options.

“Noooooooooo!” you shout.

Then, accepting your plight, you peruse Facebook while you wait for his clouded eyes to decipher the price per ounce on five varieties of crunchy peanut butter.

“Mooooooove!” moans the shiny-shoed man as he attempts to squeeze past you without toppling a display of Jell-o.

You scoot forward ever so slightly.

“Owwwwwww!” howls the gentleman by the peanut butter.

You catch a glimpse of his face – his eyes are joyless. You breathe in the scent of tobacco, as it stirs up memories of your grandmother. . . she made the best peanut butter cookies . . .

The gentleman massages his elbow, and squints at you through his glasses. Gradually, his frown softens. You meet his gaze, and melt under the omniscience of human eye contact.

“I . . . I’m v – very sorry, sir. Are you all right?”

Before he can answer, the Jell-o display crumbles to the ground as the shiny-shoed man finally manages to squeeze through the gap. His face reddens as he bends down to gather the wreckage. Without a thought, you kneel down to help.

The messy-haired woman bends down as well, motioning to the preteen to join. The gentleman begins to lower himself, but the young woman and young man quickly take his place.

On your left is a man searching for meaning in the midst of failed relationships. On your right is a woman trying to love her daughter, though she’s desperate for love herself. In front of you is a gentleman longing to share the wisdom of his long and wild life. Behind you, is a woman hoping her fiancé is the man she thinks he is.

. . . as your road rage subsides, you peer out your window and glimpse the man on your left throwing his head back to croon the chorus of a love song. You smile as you begin to see humanness melt the sturdy frames of the cars beside you.

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