The Road

A short story containing metaphors.

The road is a highway, an interstate. There are exits for food and gas. Overpasses, underpasses, cloverleafs, occasional knots of concrete, marvels of modern engineering. There are lots of other traffic; everyone uses the road. Sometimes I’m the driver, sometimes I ride shotgun. I’ve even hitchhiked a few times. I’ve been in at least 40 vehicles, some for years, some for just a night.

I’ve made wrong turns and hit dead ends. I’ve narrowly survived fiery crashes. I’ve suffered breakdowns, flat tires, and run out of gas. I’ve been ejected from the passenger seat. I’ve always gotten back on the road.

The sound on the road is the hum of the wheels, the heating and air conditioning fan, the vibrations of this rolling steel, glass, and plastic cocoon. The sound of another car or truck passing. The sound of conversation with my partner, laughter, maybe even a fight. Music plays on the sound system, or talk radio, or an audiobook. The sounds of civilization. 

I am always going somewhere. Home, maybe? Or on an adventure. I’m not really sure of my destination. But the road will take me there. That’s what the road is for. Everyone is on the road.

I must have made a wrong turn again. The road has gotten narrower and narrower. The pavement has fallen away. Beneath the tires isn’t even a road any more, just sand and gravel. Rocks, really. Boulders. I’m at the end of the road. Ahead of me is only desert.

I’ve been in such desolate places before. The only thing to do is turn around, backtrack, get back on the road. 

I stop the car. The background hum I’ve grown so accustomed to ceases abruptly, replaced with unfamiliar silence. I hear the creak of the parking brake, the tinkle of keys, the muffled rubbing of upholstery against my thighs. I catch my breath. There’s a metal sound of unlatching my seatbelt, a zip as the webbing slides back into its spring-loaded housing. The door goes click-clunk as I open it.

And now the sound of wind, and a blast of fresh cold air, as I lower my feet to the crunchy gravel. That sound of the car door closing, metal latching into metal, almost a slam but not quite. 

I do not know where I am. I am not getting back into that car. The gravel crunches beneath my feet as I head into the desert. I have walked back to the road before, but now I am walking away from it. It’s cold and desolate, but the whole world is out there. I will keep walking, perhaps find trees and water and food eventually. Who knows what I’ll find. I have the rest of my life to wander, I’m in no hurry.

I have never gotten anywhere on that damn road, in spite of trying for 30-some years. I may be nowhere now, but at least I’m not in a fucking car.


Author: Nina Paley

Animator. Director. Artist. Scapegoat.

3 thoughts on “The Road”

  1. It reads like a dream. I kept wanting to cry out “get out of that car Nina” and then you did!

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