It’s the never ending construction of the 405 that can make even a saintly woman lose her mind. And Lord knows: I’m not a saintly woman.
Oh, no: I tread really closely to my insanities — a diameter of a hair away, to be exact — tippy-toeing at the edge of my flaws that are enough to drive a man crazy, as well.
And I like taking a peak at that side of me: It is permanently fearless.
It reminds me of wild passions in nature, and of other untamed women in my family’s previous generations. They too drove their men crazy, with their moody hair and contradictory temperaments. Some of them rode horses; I — straddle the seat of my car. And since they have never spoken to me in my nightmares, I assume these women communicate to me — in my waking dreams and acts of courage.
And it is not the congestion of traffic, due to the never ending construction, that can make even a saintly woman lose her mind. It is the aggression of others, always negotiated through acts of sickly cowardice; and it crawls under my clothes and starts nibbling at my capillaries, like an army of fleas I’ve picked up at some brothel in Reno.
There is noting more ridiculous — and nothing more reckless — than a man flipping out behind his wheel, honking and screaming with his crooked, slobbering mouth spraying spit. He seems to jam his whole body into the joint of his honking arm, as if punching his girlfriend in the jaw. Or his child. And then, he speeds around: first, yanking his car into traffic, then zooming past the cause of his entire life’s unhappiness, as it seems.
“This could be — where you die,” I catch myself thinking, calmly.
But he finally takes off — liberated! — wagging his middle finger in the air to point out yet another injustice in his life.
Or another’s stone face as he pretends not to see me when I attempt to merge onto the freeway, in front of him: No fucking way! He stares ahead, hideous in his acting unaware; and I know there is no emotion more cancerous than his glee at getting in my way. No fucking way! He would rather I crash and take him with me — than give me room.
No fucking way!
For as long as I have now lived in this city, this freeway has been sitting here as a parking lot of the worst in human behavior. At first, I would try to comprehend what exactly made these other drivers commit such schizoid acts: Haven’t they ever been affected by tenderness or humility? Was there something about this demographic, or the hour of the day?
But that can make even a saintly woman lose her mind — and I’m not a saintly woman!
Still, I would wear these fuckers’ aggressions on my skin, like an army of flees nibbling at my capillaries; and I would walk into meetings and auditions, to my friends’ houses, looking for the closest bathroom, to rinse myself off. And then, I would wonder why there was no joy left in my art.
Nowadays, I breathe through it. I watch my aggression trying to rise up and I push it down and out with an exhale. I sit back, muttering prayers of forgiveness. And if lucky, I lock my eyes with the guy in the midst of his private exorcism, going berserk in traffic:
“This could be — where you die.”
One got to me, the other day, in 110-degree heat that only that side of the 405 can accumulate. We had all been sitting in the parking lot before the merger, unanimously late to our meetings and auditions, to our friends’ houses.
“Sepulveda,” I thought, suffering from a lapse of judgement. So, I got off — and there, I got stuck.
Slowly, we were climbing down the hill along the congested boulevard, due to yet another never ending construction related to the 405, when I noticed a white van inching toward my bumper. That type of a vehicle is always creepy: with no windows on its long, dented body with chipping paint, it surely must be up to some sketchy contraband. The red, puffy face of its driver seemed constipated; and he scowled in my rear-view mirror every time I stepped on my breaks, before a red light.
For a least half a mile he would jerk his face into that scowl, inching toward my tail; stepping on his breaks with enough abrasiveness to make that whole thing bounce on its wheels. And I could see his screaming with that crooked, slobbering mouth.
“What the fuck does he want me to do: sit in the middle of the intersection?!” I got caught up, I confess, and I felt my own aggression rise up.
Inching toward Wilshire, melting in my seat, I noticed a middle-aged Middle-Eastern woman, timidly trying to merge into my lane from a side street. Letting her in would mean missing yet another green light. But the woman’s face of a basset hound would get stuck with me for days had I ignored her. I knew that — so I let her it.
“YA FUCKIN’ BITCH!”
I heard that! The whole of Brentwood heard that!
In my rear-view mirror, the red, puffy face started going berserk: He was swinging his whale-like body, clutching onto the steering wheel, as if trying to tear it out.
I parked my car.
Pulled out the keys.
Walked over to the white van.
The only thing I could feel was the sweat that had accumulated between my thigh in this 110-degree heat and began crawling from under my miniskirt and down each leg.
The coward’s window was rolled up. I knocked on it.
“This could be — where you die,” I caught myself thinking, calmly.
He stared at me, stumped for a good while, blinking his bloodshot eyes above the open, crooked mouth. I knocked again. He blinked — again.
Who knows what I had in mind: The coward never opened his window.
And even though I walked away thinking, “This could be — where you die,” I knew that I just rode out the courage inherited from the insane, untamed, wild, passionate women in my family’s previous generations, mad enough to drive a man crazy; and in that mode — I was permanently fearless.