April 01, 2014

no mans land

To prepare for the driving test I'll be taking this month, I've been paying more attention to the road.

It terrifies me.

Dividing lines are a suggestion. Honking fills the streets. No one looks over their shoulders or even uses their side view mirrors, and "I was here first" means absolutely nothing. Did that woman just stop in the middle of the expressway to get something out of her purse? Yep.

150-year-old women dart out in the middle of the road because their bodies are healthy enough to dart about, but their eyes are thick and pale with age and can't tell a bus from a poodle. They come out of nowhere.

If it weren't for my husband, I wouldn't even dream of getting my drivers license over here. But he's right, our kids are older now and involved in things all over the city and it's too dangerous, time consuming, and expensive for me to be dragging them around in traffic looking for a cab six times a week.

And so I'm studying the driving app Daniel downloaded for me. It's basically just memorizing a bunch of nonsense, and it's taking up all of my free evenings! I'll be so happy when this test is over.

But then I'll have my license and I know Daniel will actually make me use it. Oh dear! I already have enough culture stress just living here. Now I'll be driving around in it. What is that place called on a compass where East meets West? Nothing. It doesn't have a name. Sometimes it has a cool design, but not a name. That's because it's a no mans land.

That's where I exist. That's my life.

Still there are moments when East doesn't seem so far from West. Moments when it occurs to me that people are just people, with thumping hearts and things on our minds. One such moment was the other day when Daniel was driving and I was paying close attention (of course). Daniel yielded at the small opening of the parking lot in order to let an exiting car come out. The car didn't come out, though, but rather stopped, like a mouse peeking out from a hole at dusk.

"Come on out," Daniel said mildly. The car didn't move. When the driver made a hand motion to indicate that he needed more room, Daniel (who could park a freight train on Broadway) slowly let out his breath. We both knew the guy didn't need more room. And anyway, there was nowhere for us to go.

And then, just as mildly Daniel said, "Come on buddy, we all need the road."

Isn't that just it?

Because everybody is headed in one direction or another, and it can't work if we are elbowing each other out of the way. We all must give a little. We all must live in that starburst place where all the arrows meet, that part which belongs to no one, has no borders, and cannot be claimed.

And you know what? That's the prettiest part anyway.