Like a Hole in the Head: A Suburban Story
Here's a little story about the suburb in which (a lot of us) grew up. I have a Day of the Dead theme art show this week, so I have been working on stories about near-death experiences. There's another in the short story section of this page, but the blog seems more accessible. So here you go.
Me and Cindy back in the day.
Like a Hole in the Head...
By Auriane de Rudder
Columbia is the kind of place you’d want to raise children. A planned community, the small suburb is sandwiched about halfway between Baltimore and D.C., and boasts well-maintained greenery, a decent public school system and a sort of sanctuary from the drugs of Baltimore; the violence and politics of D.C. The city was built by one James Rouse, a man who spent most of his life planning the construction of mega-malls. Because of this, the city is, actually, laid out a lot like a mall. There are boroughs you can’t seem to help but end up in, but all in all it’s quite navigable. The streets are all named after bits of famous poetry or prose, and as a kid in Columbia my friends and I lived on streets like Cordage Walk, or the comically misspelled Satan Wood Lane, which was eventually changed to the less controversial Satin Wood Lane. Columbia was pretty idyllic. Crime and the imminent threat of the city didn’t make its way into Columbia. Kids could roam free and not worry about being harmed. And roam we did.
One afternoon, Cindy and I decided to take a drive. This was a pretty typical ritual, as Cindy was freshly 16 and one of my only friends with a car. The thrill of cruising around the suburbs’ endless circles was more appealing than hanging out at the Lakefront, or getting pizza bagels at the Bagel Bin near school. Besides, I loved hanging out with Cindy. We had similar interests, and equally dark senses of humor. We liked to smoke cigarettes and we liked to smoke weed, which our parents of course couldn’t know. Cindy’s boxy, red V.W. was the perfect escape for our minor offenses and provided a great place to blast Sublime songs and corny dance-music mixtapes while we got high. We drove through neighborhoods like Clary’s Forest, looping around and around the cul-de-sacs, talking mostly about school, and now and again about boys. We cruised with the windows down, a hot spring-into-summer breeze rustling the Dogwood flowers from their branches.
As we cruised from Clary’s Forest into another neighborhood, King’s Contrivance, Cindy started to pack a bowl.
“Roll up the windows, hootchie,” she suggested playfully. She flipped on her A.C., and the little red car sputtered. We drove from stoplight to stoplight, circling a village center where—after baking the car—we could grab some ice cream from the Baskin Robbins.
The car filled with smoke. I coughed, and opened the passenger-side window halfway. I wasn’t as die-hard a pot head as Cindy.
“Oh hell no. Roll that shit up,” she was still being playful, but she was also serious. We waited at a stoplight, and I rolled the window back up.
“Damn is this light ever gonna’ change?” Cindy asked.
At that exact moment, I heard a loud “SNAP!” as if a giant rubber-band had been broken, or someone had been slapped across the face HARD with firm hand. Maybe a belt had broken? The A.C. belt? Was there an A.C. belt? Is that a thing?
I looked at Cindy. It was quiet in the car now, the only noise her sputtering A.C. Seemed to be working fine.
“Was that a seed?” I asked. The noise was too loud to be a seed, popping in the lit bowl. I stared at Cindy—she stared back. But she wasn’t looking at me, she was looking just over my shoulder. I turned.
“Dude, what the fuck!?” Cindy exclaimed as we both examined her passenger side window.
The glass was shattered into pieces, but the pane still held in place. Embedded in the window—lined up directly with my temple—was a jagged gray rock about, oh…about the size of a quarter. Just lodged there.
I turned to Cindy again, and after another moment of silence, the window collapsed. Broken pieces of glass fell into the car, covering me and my seat and with shiny little puzzle pieces. The rock landed in my lap. A landscaper holding a weed-whacker stood not five feet from us, looking quite panicked. Someone behind us honked, the light was now green.
“Cindy, that would have hit my temple. That would have hit my fucking temple!” I was having a moment.
Cindy had already put the car in drive and was having a moment of her own.
“Dude, what the fuck! That guy just shattered my fucking window!” She pulled forward and hung a right, pulling over on surely a ridiculously named Columbia street. “Hey man, your weed-whacker broke my window!”
“And almost killed your friend,” I yelled out holding up the rock that had been directly pitched at my skull. “Thank God we were smoking weed,” I whispered to myself, hitting the still-smoking bowl as I crouched down in my seat. There was no glass left to protect me from flying objects shot STRAIGHT FOR MY SKULL, after all.
The man working spoke no English, and it seemed we were out of luck when it came to getting the window paid for. Cindy was pissed, but really was it his fault? I didn’t think weed-whackers could pick up rocks that big? Right? Aren’t they made with fishing wire? Cindy threw her arms up in frustration, and marched back around to the driver’s side of the car. She plopped in, and slammed the door. A few more shards of broken glass fell into my lap. I held up the rock, looking at her, my eyebrows raised. She let out a big exhale and looked back.
We both bust out laughing.