Forward motion

February 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

You’d think the traffic would have calmed down by now.

The woman in the estate car is wide-eyed and her hands grip tightly on the steering wheel as a lorry swings round too close at a roundabout; moments later she is waiting for the lights to change, then surging forward as if fleeing from the cars that queue behind. She is not afraid of the road itself, but of the other drivers, as seemingly invisible to her as she is to them.

The programme on the radio cuts through her preoccupations, as a sonorous voice details a journey of a different sort, through high passes and over mountains towards Tibet. She is moving faster but the narrator is getting higher, wheezing in evocation as his path ascends – 17,000ft, 18,000ft.

The woman slows on the motorway, braking towards the traffic jam that stretches out ahead. The man on the radio is saying that opportunities for quiet contemplation are fewer than he’d hoped for, that the going is tougher, that he must snatch his serenity at odd moments. Our woman is nodding at the radio; she glances across at the man sitting in the next car, barking at someone on his hands-free kit, who is perhaps not listening, perhaps not hearing.

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