On the Man in the Middle of the Road

Yesterday, there was a man in the middle of the road.

Let me back up. I awoke a little groggy, but I had slept okay, thanks to the premium bedsheets I had recently purchased that swaddled me in a substantial thread count. As I stumbled to my morning shower, I enjoyed the upgraded carpet we selected for the master bedroom, although the cold bathroom tile, brilliant in its gray hues, reminded me that the next house will most definitely have radiant heating in the floor. I perked up in the shower, though, thanks to some pricey shampoo and soap; it’s so worth it in the end.

I glided into my Brooks Brothers dress shirt and suit, only pausing momentarily to select the right purple tie. Stripes? Too square. Plaid? Predictable and worn three weeks ago. Ahh, yes, my lucky purple tie with the subtle but not-too-subtle light blue Brooks Brothers sheep mascot. Perfect!

My steps down to the kitchen fell easily, thanks to the orthotics I’ve been wearing for some time. They would have been expensive, but my comprehensive health insurance took the sting out of that cost. The ping of my spoon against the granite countertop seemed to me to echo off the stainless steel appliances and signal another great, practiced morning.

I threw my gym bag over my shoulder on the way out the door. Located in my office building, the gym is fantastically convenient. And, after the multi-million dollar remodel, it’s taking my workouts to a whole new level. I set the house alarm — I know, I know, but you can never be too safe — and I jumped in the new SUV. Sure, we had spent more than expected, but have you seen the panoramic sunroof? I fired up the satellite radio, GPS, and back-up camera, and eased out of the garage. Hey, there’s Sally and Tom. That stroller must have cost a fortune, but, boy, they sure put in the hours. Good for them!

It was a warm morning, but the vented seats insured my back was cool and my slacks would arrive to work perfectly creased. Traffic’s pretty light, today. I sailed through green light after green light, and some not so green. I really hit my stride once I found just the right radio station. They give you so many choices, it’s actually annoying. I’m sorry, but I don’t need to hear the Top 10 hits from Central America in 1973. I’m sure they’re all wonderful, but, I mean, really.

I had just opened up that beautiful sunroof when I looked up to see him.  What? He’s standing in the middle of the road. He’s just…standing there. What is going on? I slowed down before the crash mitigation safety feature warned me I was about to hit him. The orderly row of town homes slowed down in unison. The trees stood up straight, the other cars bowed out of sight. The radio faded.

He was ten feet in front of my car, and I inhaled as I fixed my eyes upon him squarely. He was leaning slightly to one side, hands swaying around him slowly. Sweat fell down his face, pooling on top of his upper lip. His trousers were dirty but not torn, hiked slightly higher on one leg. Shirt untucked, his torso was formless underneath it. I leaned my head to match the angle of his body, but it didn’t help. It didn’t correct the juxtaposition between his stout, squat body and the street around him. He was leaning slightly. My hand rested comfortably on the lock button.

My eyes met his face, but his eyes did not meet mine. Our eyes were on the same plane, but he looked right through me. Right through me! What the hell was he thinking? Obviously, he wasn’t. This is a busy street, it’s rush hour, you are in the middle of the road, sir! He didn’t move. He didn’t blink. His lips did not form words. He didn’t see me or my expensive car. He just looked right through me. Right through me!

Instinctually, I knew he was high on something. More high than I had ever seen anyone. An unanimated totem to drug use and wasted lives. Still looking right through me, I could only guess he was looking for the next hit. The next medicine for whatever ails him. He’d probably been high for hours. Days, even. Why would someone live like that? Why aren’t you at work?  Why are you making these choices? Don’t you feel a responsibility to contribute to society? Don’t you want vented seats?

I was now the leader of a stalled parade. Horns honked staccatto indictments of the man. Did he not see this? Do you not see that I am important? I have important work to be done. Work for the citizens of this great nation. Serious-minded work. People are counting on me. Wednesday mornings are not leisure time for me, like they obviously are for you. A great nation for me and for you, that’s who I’m helping. Come on! Why are you not moving? I am very sorry you are in this shape, but I cannot help you.

The car three back must be resting his elbows on his horn now. Sir, he’s got important work to do too! What are you looking at?  Can you not see me? Why are you looking right through me?

Okay, now pedestrians are slowing down and looking. The sun had intensified, and I felt the heat through my window and my magnificent panoramic sunroof. More horns now. Hey, sir, you know, this is your fault. I made the right choices. The Right Choices! You did not. Do you know I never skipped a college class? Not once. That’s right. I save my money too. I plan. I plan, and you don’t. Why are you like this? I cannot move forward until you move out of the road, sir.

Can you not hear the horns? They are all blaring now. Why don’t you hear them? I do not need this today. I have a morning meeting. I have allotted enough time for my commute, a morning beverage, some fun banter, and then my meeting. I have this down to the minute, and I’m not changing my smartphone calendar for you sir. I cannot be held responsible for your choices. I made the right choices. Look, I’m sorry. I can’t help you out. You made your choices. How am I responsible for those?

The horns were now constant and profane. It was so damn hot. The man in the middle of the road didn’t move. I’ve been considerate. I’ve been polite. I’ve shown restraint and sophistication. What do want me to do, sir? What are you looking for? Why, how can you look right through me? It’s choices, sir. Choices.

I firmly placed my hand on the middle of the steering wheel, capped so perfectly by the finely polished wood.  I sat up, furrowed my brow, ready to join the chorus.

Yesterday, there were two men in the middle of the road.

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