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Bridge over a City

ACCELERATION

August 31, 2014

Two years after arriving back in Australia after a two-year stint in London, I was still feeling listless and displaced. So I went back to uni in 2014 to do a Journalism Masters, to learn more about writing and maybe get a job afterwards. I took a course called Writing The Short Story. Acceleration was 1 of 2 stories I wrote over the semester, and the first story I ever finished. My lecturer said it was a couple word changes away from a 7 (out of 7) so I changed them.  Raw and flawed as it may be, it was my first, so will always hold a special place in my heart.

Acceleration: Work

(Imagine everyone in their underwear)
I love driving on an empty highway at night.
The only sign of life is the occasional passing car. The only suggestion you aren’t just a lone individual, coasting along a barren road attached to an uncaring earth, revolving around a distant sun, in an indifferent universe.
I’m protected, my consciousness absorbing every minuscule sensory input.
My speeding exoskeleton on wheels – I’m safe, smoothly rolling along, feeling the nuances of the road entering through the floorboards.
(relax)
I smoke another hand-rolled cigarette; at least I know I’m not going to die from smoking.
I jammed the accelerator down and… nothing; my car was a piece of shit. Oh well, slow and steady acceleration Aesop, just for you. I was passing the lights on the freeway in time with the music; I love it when that happens.
I drove past the exit for my childhood home and ticked my mental checklist; cigarettes; acid; cocaine and beer, but most importantly, speed. Enough speed to get me over the bridge’s barrier and back into the earth’s womb.
(be yourself)
Daytime is for arseholes; there’s too much light, too much opaque beauty. It makes me sick. I like the night time so much more. Acute beauty, where certain elements are briefly illuminated, and shadows become sinister. But the city ruins the stars eventually; the light pollutes the exquisite splendour. It’s too much. I’m leaving before it gets worse.
 It started raining, hard. I cursed the windshield wipers for not performing the one job that they were designed for. It was bucketing down; my eyes were filled with tears. My tear ducts exploded. I felt the liquid trace squiggled lines down my face, some spilling onto my shirt, the rest into the corners of my mouth. They tasted sweet rather than salty and the benign topic of the five different tastes consumed my mind. I knew tomato sauce had all five tastes. I took another sip of beer.
 Even with my self-impending death looming, my mind explored that gamut of human thought from the most intricate and existential to the everyday mundane.
(know your audience)
 We’re not all unique. We can’t all be a delicate snowflake. If everyone is special, then no one is.
My mind drifted back to primary school and onomatopoeia. What a stupid word. I’m not certain of the etymology, but it was clearly created to confound school children. Bam! Pow! Thwack! Take that kids, Zoop! Zip! Bam! Take that!
(know your material)
Traversing endless streams of knowledge, I felt a small pang of regret that I would never pass this pertinent information on, to my non-existent child.
I was carrying the possibility of life around with me right now in my one remaining testicle. 
(go on, be funny)
I sped past my old high school. It was filled with condescending, elitist pseudo intellectuals who would only converse in the pompous, pretentious dialect contained in this very sentence.
I searched the car for the ejection button - the big red evacuation button that would launch me into space towards the sun like a wingless Icarus. I couldn’t find it, just like I could no longer find hope. Hope to me, was a silly concept, silly like the word silly itself. It is what it is.
The small bag of white powder in my top left pocket felt reassuring. I felt the need to evacuate my bowels, but the paramedics could take care of that.
I drove past the mall where I landed my first job. I worked as an usher at a movie cinema. I used to do the late shifts. It was rad. Ripping tickets for the insomniacs, loading up on sugar-laden frozen beverages topped with candy and sitting at the back of the theatre watching movies and getting paid for it. Life was good, simple, but good.
I inhaled deeply, took a swig of whiskey (kids don’t try this at home) and drew a deep flume of sweet smoke into the depths of my lungs.
All at once, my synapses fired, and my heart threatened to explode. My lungs tightened, and I went into a coughing fit. The stars in my eyes danced with the stars in the night time sky. Again, my eyes filled with tears. Maybe they just wanted to escape their host before drowning in the river and losing their individuality in the murky depths with a plethora of their liquid brethren.
Folks, if you look out the left-hand side window, you will see the prestigious University that I attended for three arduous years. Christ, what a huge waste of time that was. What was I going to do with an economics degree? The economy wasn’t just in the toilet. It had traversed the sewage systems, and then spewed out into the ocean to be eaten by krill. 
(fake it ‘till you make it)
My parents forced me to study economics. Even if it were my choice – it wasn’t. After I was accepted, the little twinkle in their eyes sealed my fate. That fucking little twinkle. How I’d love to rip it out and throw it into the stardust.
I hoped that when they dredged my car out of the river that it would have miraculously attached itself to some dinosaur bones. Yes, unearthing an awesome undiscovered carnivore ten times better than a Tyrannosaurus Rex. My death’s work. 
The sad part about all of this though is no one would care. Could you believe that? I mean, people will be sad for a while, but this feeling would be rapidly replaced by a sense of jubilation that it wasn’t them who snuffed it. They could continue to consume, destroy and become ever more concerned with themselves, until they were satisfied, bloated and gasping for air while transfixed at the vampiric cyclops that helped them to forget that they had wasted their whole pathetic life. 
(Breathe)  
By the time they do, it’s already too late. We shouldn’t be told what’s good or not. We should instinctively know. I guess that’s what ‘The Bard’ meant when he wrote, “There’s nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” or some bullshit like that. 
 You are a sheep. You are asleep. You will drolly follow public perception and determined validity. Don’t pretend for one second that you won’t. 
(Maintain eye contact) 
What’s the point of all of this existence? Constant pain and hardship punctuated by fleeting moments of beauty and wonder. It’s not enough. Not enough for me. 
If you watch enough late night infomercials, you’ll soon realise that you aren’t an adequate human being and are nothing but a slave to corporate advertising.
You’ll realise that you don’t have great abs, your juicer isn’t delivering enough goodness, your cleaning products are inferior, your mattress sucks.  Worst of all, you’re going bald and your cock isn’t doing its job. You’re pathetic and alone. 
 Your loans aren’t consolidated, and your kitchen knife isn’t cutting the mustard. Unattainable women are paraded in front of your exhausted eyes. You’re fat, and the moths that have eaten holes in all of your shirts are eating less crap than you. (Pause for laughter) 
I used to like movies, but they portrayed unrealistic situations. I chased a girl to the airport once, but she was already drinking in the lounge, and I didn’t have money to buy a ticket to enter the duty-free area. I tried to rescue a beautiful girl from her overbearing, abusive boyfriend and got seven shades of shit beaten out of me. I went to university, but there were no parties, no lecturers taking me under their wing. The only person who cared about me was me. I can’t say that with a straight face anymore. The downpour morphed into a fine, reflective mist.
My exit was coming up. No going back now. Past the point of no return. I’d come too far, and I didn’t have petrol money to get back. I wouldn’t need my wallet where I was going.
I sped onto the exit without indicating. I saw the camera flash as I shot through a red light. Joke’s on them. I’ll be dead before the violation is entered into the computer. I finally beat the transportation department. Don’t worry government. I’ll soon be joining you in the land of zeros. Even if you had a heart, you wouldn’t be sad.
The majesty of the bridge loomed ahead. All lit up. My salvation. A sense of calm washed over me. My body prematurely released all of the endorphins to ready me for death. My brain, gleefully scooped up positive vibes, synapses firing, receptors receiving. 
 Now for my premature evacuation.
(don’t give it away)
I almost saw her too late.
She was a defeated silhouette backlit against the bridge. Time didn’t slow; it stopped. I madly corrected the car’s destined path.  Even if I’d given up on myself and become a hollow shell; a modicum of empathy towards my fellow beings remained. I missed her and felt a palpable sense of relief; relief that was short lived as I realised I wouldn’t be shooting off the bridge, but straight into a large concrete pole. There was screeching and broken everything, glass, panels, bones, face.  If you’ve ever cut your face shaving, you know how much it bleeds. Now imagine hundreds of shards of glass exploding in it. So, this is hell.  Next thing I knew, I was surrounded by white, with beeping angels singing to me on a fluffy cloud, with tubes in every orifice.
(realise that people want you to succeed)
 I knew my limbs were there, but I could not feel them. As my eyes adjusted, I realised that this wasn’t heaven at all. It was an intensive care unit. For the first two weeks, I couldn’t even talk. I could only stare into her eyes as her professional yet loving hands applied bandages, administered morphine and tended my bed sores. Although I was up to my eyeballs in pain killers, the warmth I felt course through my bloodlines was love. I tried to tell her, but my mouth wouldn’t work. I was sure she could see it in my eyes. One day when I was sitting up and ready to go home, her eyes welled up, and she thanked me, “For what?” I asked. 
“The night of your accident. That was me on the bridge. I was ready to jump”. Boy, no wonder she wouldn’t let any other nurse look after me. “I couldn’t see that point of going on, but when you swerved away from me and crashed your car, I felt like someone cared. Like, I was loved.”
And that, ladies and gentleman, is how we met. I am humbled and proud to be standing here before you all today to witness my joining hearts with this beautiful angel and us becoming man and wife. An unorthodox speech, I know.  But you’ve already heard the rose-coloured pleasantries. Besides, this is real life. I love you sweetheart. 
Thanks folks. Put your dancing shoes on and enjoy the party. 
We drove away from the reception to the sound of drunken applause and rattling tin cans. The angel by my side, a shooting star caught my eye. So this must be true happiness. The skeletal frame of the bridge slowly revealed itself through the skyline, all lit up. She held me tighter. My joy increased. I accelerated. 

Acceleration: Text
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