The Car Window

Thursday, September 24, 2015

In the backseat of Aj’s mother’s green truck, we looped our way back around California hills in the pitch dark, studded only with the stray lights of houses in the distance. This was before her mom’s hips and knees started aching too bad, before the injury and the swelling stopped her from getting out entirely. I was a little kid by anyone else’s standards – but Aj and I held on to the word ‘preteen.’

“What if there was a guy on the road?”

“What if there was someone tailing us?”

“What if a hand came out of nowhere and pressed up against the window?”

I grabbed Aj’s shoulder hard and we both turned to look. I could see the paper-white hand reaching out of the darkness. It was worse than the horror movies that I couldn’t bear to watch because my imagination didn’t know when to stop embellishing.

“What if—”

My shoulder collided with the hard front seat. I heard Aj squeal and her mother let out a breath like a pressure cooker. Then the slow crunch of gravel as the truck rolled gently forward again.

“Did you see it?” Aj’s mother asked.

“What?” Aj said, her voice hushed.

"That little raccoon! Damn near sent us over the side.”

She whistled and snorted with laughter and we couldn’t help but join her. I glanced out the back window, but by then the dark was complete.

In the past few months, I’ve been writing a lot of creative non-fiction. It’s been refreshing to return to fiction as a different type of storytelling, but it requires so much more follow-through. Generating material is always the exciting part, but then I have to add in transitions. By the time the rewrites and edits roll around, I’ve already bitten my nails down as far as they’ll go.

With my novel project, I’ve become more and more interested in the effect that place/space has on social practices, and on the way that’s changed over time. Specifically here in Dhaka, things like transport and access to public facilities (restrooms being a big one, but also parks and places to sit for extended periods of time) really change the way that people interact with the city. Though that’s only from my limited observation, I’m excited to start investigating what other folks have to say on the matter. Research can sometimes overshadow my drafting process, but right now it's leading me down corridors that I haven't yet explored -- I'm enjoying the thrill of it.