She is driving and there is a man in the backseat. He is carefully seated with his legs crossed gingerly at the ankles, his hands folded neatly in his trousered lap, in the chair behind the passenger side. I stare straight at the road and block out my peripherals so that I don’t have to look back and see him. Her neck is stiff and sore and locked up tight so that she won’t turn around, won’t see his wide, grinning mouth, bigger than the width of his actual face, all filled with gray and grayer teeth like empty tombstones, like a shriveled-up, humanized Cheshire cat. His eyes are large and round the size of dull, brown plums, sitting hugely at the base of his dried-out sockets like pool balls, as if they would roll out if she ran over a rock in the orange-lit street. His graveyard grin overtakes his entire face, wrapping wide around his skull and pressing against the windows, the sound of stone scraping against glass, his arms stretched out to either side pressing wetly on the panes and leaning forward with his toothy head bent sideways and pushing towards me, coming closer with his dull, brown, plum eyes peeling apart and glistening in the light of the outside lampposts and his grin growing bigger and bigger and bigger and swallowing his entire body whole and it opens, opens, opens and reaches towards me and I close myself as tight as I can and when I open back up to watch the road, he’s gone, having consumed himself entirely.
Flying down the pale black road, steering wide around a bend, I picture letting go of the wheel, letting it slip out of control through her fingers, and sailing through the steel and wood guardrails into the starry sky. What would happen? Would she die? Her hands loosen up the slightest bit, allowing the knots of the steering wheel to slide one at a time beneath her knuckles, only to steer it straight at the last possible moment, gasping at her unsightly brush with the unknown. I close briefly, imagining the collision with the barricade; the heart-stopping plummet to the clusters of pine trees below; the thrill of the ride.
Instead of bushes dotted along the freeway, I glimpse knobby old men, distorted and groaning with their mouths open in wet, glowing sneers. She grips the wheel in fear, her chest tightening as she strains for breath. The road is lava. The sky is whizzing to the ground in blazing chunks. Broken, bleeding old men crawl out from the sidelines, covered in snapped branches and dead leaves. The backseat is a cave, dripping with humidity and echoing through the cab. Bats squeal. Claws scrape. Voices whisper. I open and close, open and close, open and close, batting out the false images, eliminating the irrational.
She thinks: I have problems; and I blink in accord.