A Character

A Character

A Story by J. Elsie

The '93 Geo Metro shoots down cracked pavement at a shaky thirty-seven miles per hour. This particular road does not have a limit posted, however if…it certainly would be no higher than twenty-five.  This is called "Living on the edge."


A hand – squat palmed and thin fingered – emerges from the driver's side window just quick enough to flip the ash from the end of a half-burned Parliament (chosen by the name out of spite- a long standing, previously harmless, intolerance for the U.S. government's choice of assembly. Watch out!)  She doesn't smoke, except for today, mostly because cigarettes were on sale at the liquor store in Bor…no, Briar…no, Blairstown,  yep.


She doesn't drink either, but this last month, with it's procession of progressively negative events providing innumerable excuses for escape, had led her to believe she may start in the next few years.  A trip to anywhere, has no pre-defined conclusion, and so wherever it was she was going, could wait while she browsed aisles recording mental suggestions for her future addiction.


This frizzy-hair beauty, full equipped with sixty extra pounds, rough-patched elbows, and feet that don't fit in cute shoes, knows how truly remarkable she is, and would even admit it to you…if only she could remember.


Wildly idealistic – believing in getting back to the basics – appearing pretentious and often caught up in cynicism – she is actually quite happy with her life; Besides the year she was born, her career choice, the premature dementia and insanity of all the men who've loved then left, her lack of blending, her desire to blend, the smell of tuna, the sound a stapler makes when adjoining papers, the state of the economy, questions that seem to be open ended but really have a wrong and right answer, or worse yet, no right answer at all, and well- a few other things, but you get the point: really quite happy.


She has read her favorite novel six and a half times. That "half" time she got two pages into chapter thirteen when she decided it was too soon to read it again. Next time she reads it, she will of course have to start from the beginning, so it will always be "something" and a half. The book sits inside her glove box and she references it like the Bible. Its lead character inspires her own life, though she is just a little too lazy and complacent to change the world as her hero does.  Change of scenery…she can accomplish.


A violent branch enters her passenger window and exits at the same speed, leaving crunchy brown leaves in the floorboard, seat, and her hair. "S**t", she says, startled, and slows down pulling to the side of the road in a grassy ditch.  It may be safer to read the map while not driving.


She doesn't know where she's going and so doesn't care where she is, but would still like to know what part of wherever she's at, she's in.  Eleven days on the road, sleeping in a car, no connections with anyone, no one knows your name.  She's okay with that. Maybe she even prefers this lifestyle to the previous one. But something doesn't feel right.

There is something about being alone that makes you feel non-existent.  Sure people at the gas station take your money, they may even smile at you, but when you disappear from their shop they don't wonder about you, they don't miss you.  If no one sees you anymore, do you become invisible?  If no one hears your voice, do you become a mute?

If a smile shapes, and there is no witness, does happiness become insignificant?


Driving through hours of darkness can be an uncomfortable peaceful.  It is the stillness of night's latest moments that make her regret ever taking on this journey.  The world, however alive it may be, appears dead when at rest. And tonight there is no wind, no clouds, nothing moves.  If she stops the car, she stops every bit of motion outside of herself. For now, the engine is the heartbeat of the earth.


Alone. Hope you never know the truest sense of the word.   You may need "alone – time" to sort through your feelings, to discover yourself and your intense emotions, you may need some rest from the chaos of everyday life.  But like the balance, yin and yang, 'alone' can only be appreciated if you have the choice of being accompanied. 


Discovering yourself can be overrated. The only reason you need to know who you are is to find your place among others.  Understand yourself, to understand how to co-exist. If it's just you, who will you ever need to explain yourself to?  Seems kind of exhausting, all that evaluating, all the relating, all the conversation – but existence is more than boring without it. 


A tree. A rock. Grass. Another tree. Trees. Trees. Trees. Some sky. Endless f*****g sky.

But do they see her? Maybe. Can they prove it? Not really. 

There is life, life as she knew it, at the opposite end of a phone call, but that would be surrender.  You say "goodbye" if you intend to say "hello" again.  She didn't tell anyone she was leaving.  Why move on if you intend to move back? 


Her biggest regret is ever regretting anything. Her biggest fear is to be afraid.  It is too dark now to see her eyes in the mirror. She can see her hands on the steering wheel, but they are puppets on strings; Operating because her brain wills them to. Eyes, the window to the soul:  If the curtains to that window are drawn, is the soul still in there? Resting? Or has it left the building?


Panic.  Where has she gone?  Questions. So many unanswered questions she never knew she wanted to ask, and now it seems she'll never have a chance to.  For a minute or two she believes this is what death is like.  Endless driving, in a car with a broken radio, a cellphone (a cellphone!...s**t…no signal) with no signal,  no signs of life.  A moon, but the moon doesn't even create its own light! It's just a mirror, just a reflector!  A reminder, yes there is life somewhere, but it sure as hell ain't here, and guess what…You're here, the no-life world.  What have I done?!


But then… headlights come around the turn ahead; someone driving in the opposite direction.  The brights click off, but it's still too blinding to see a shadow behind them.  Even so, this is enough for her. Life is still alive.  Within her, and also around her.

She takes a deep breath into her wonderful lungs, and spends the next fourteen minutes or so, pondering whether the other driver was as relieved to see her as she was to see them.   She wonders if that person is as self-assured, self-reliant, as she, but if they too have intense moments of doubt.  If they do not, they should.  Because: like the balance, yin and yang, you cannot appreciate who you are, unless you forget, every now and again.

© 2008 J. Elsie

Author's Note

J. Elsie
I'm not worried about grammar, punctuation, style... just want to know warranted emotions, or relations, or nothing... :)

My Review

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The energy flew off the page, from the car hurtling down the road. This woman is wonderful, f*g smoking, speeding, rootless child from the land of couldn't care less.
The dementia angle is really interesting. THe charachter is afflicted but not a victim of the condition. She does not want to be pitied or put in a cosy retirement home where her family arrive to spend time filled with sighs of self pity. It is wonderful to see and imagine an person taking control, no matter how shakily and heading for the hills.
I don't think there is too much wrong with the grammar. but I am not that fussed about it myself. Never bothered Joyce did it? If there are grammar whoopsies, they can be dealt with once the soul of the story is in place. The polish comes at the end, the idea is much more important.
I really liked this story. The ideas come thick and fast including all the blips of memory and moment that must be part of dementia. Sense of place, sense of self, future, past and present all revolving round and round. The branch coming through the window was great. Don't know why but I loved her non reaction to it, like branches come through the window frewquently and one mustnt get too uptight about it.

Posted 1 Year Ago

I really enjoyed this it kept me interested from start to finish, I am the same with my grammar and punctuation I ask people just to rate the story I have written, grammar and punctuation can always be improved on at a later date and it is the story that matters and I really enjoyed yours a look forward to reading more

Posted 1 Year Ago

I really like this. I like the depth of the writing. I like the questions that she is asking herself. I like how it makes me wonder the same things. I like how it makes me feel lucky for what I have. Have I said I like this, yet? Most of my reading is for enjoyment, it's just entertaining, but occasionally I will read something with depth, like this peice, and it's an awakening. Very well done.

On a side note, I would like to thank you for putting specific details in. How it starts out with telling us exactly what type of car it is was a good start (maybe it's because I'm a bit of a gear head). My uncle has a Geo Metro that I have rode in, and I can totally relate to what the car is like as she is driving. It makes me see the story as well as feel it.

Thanks for sharing.


Posted 4 Years Ago

It's difficult to review this without mentioning style. It's the one thing that I think has to be mentioned for a review to be good. I do see a few problems with flow and etc, but as requested I won't touch one them. I think the emotion works well, and I really like this. You show a good mastery of the craft.

Posted 8 Years Ago

Hi. I was doing a random search for people, stumbled upon you and read this. After reading this I read more and decided to add you. :)

I like this piece a lot. There's a blunt truth about it and I think of the same questions sometimes. For me, it was very relate-able(sp?).

Posted 9 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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5 Reviews
Added on October 14, 2008


J. Elsie
J. Elsie


10/31/2017 My contributions to this site began in 2007 and mostly ended in 2011. I made several close friends here, but life took me elsewhere and I thought writing was a pasttime. Recently, while .. more..

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