I remember when I was a kid and just learning how to drive and my dad would make me sit up front when we drove at night so I could get used to it. I remember thinking how crazy it was, with two lanes in both directions and he’d just slice through traffic like there no other cars, like the way fish swim and don’t hit each other. I couldn’t see a damn thing because of the glare of the lights and everything passing at double speed and everyone else was a blur. He’d just rest on hand on the back of my seat and his other wrist would be flopped over the wheel and he’d talk about yesterday’s game when I missed a catch or last week’s history test or whatever bull Ma was handing him that day. All the while he just kind of glided along. All there was between us and the other cars were stripes of paint. I remember asking him why he acted like all that traffic was no big deal and he said, “It’s no problem. As long as everyone stays in their own lane, there’s never a problem.” So I think about that, a lot, you know, because there I was asking how he kept from freaking out and jerking the wheel when these other cars were like a foot away and he gives me this huge staggering commentary on life. Just summed up the whole world. If everyone stayed in their lane, there’s be no problems. No matter how distracting or dangerous other drivers were, no matter if they had their high beams up blinding the hell out of you or if it was rainy and the ground just swallowed your head lights up or if someone passed you on the wrong side and you never saw them in your mirror and you were just about to switch lanes. One little twitch of your hand and the wheel would spin and you’d veer off the road and smash into potholes or poles or people— Just stay in your lane. Follow the rules. Do what you’re expected to do. Don’t mess with the flow of traffic. Don’t get in anyone’s way or crawl up their ass end. Stay in your lane. Just fucking stay there. Such good advice, you know? I wish I listened to him when he said stuff like that and really thought about it. But back then, I didn’t think about stuff. Not like now, when all I do is think. But, man, he was smart. He knew all about the world and I would probably know about it too if I had only listened, instead of wondering how easy it would be to just drift a little and cross that flat painted yellow line. ’cause you’d never feel it. But that’s life, right? You never feel the line until after you crossed it.
Pushcart Prize nominee Ash Krafton's work has appeared in journals such as Absent Willow Review, Expanded Horizons, Silver Blade, and Bete Noire. She's also the author of novel-length fiction, including the Demimonde trilogy as well as The Heartbeat Thief (under the pen name AJ Krafton). She's a member of SFPA, Pennwriters, and RWA and is a staff writer for the QueryTracker blog.