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Left Lane This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     From time to time, Rob peered at the bumper sticker on the SUV in front of him which read "I'd Rather Be Speeding." He was on one of those peaceful sections of highway, the ones lined with trees on both sides, with little traffic and generously spaced exits. It almost felt like he was hiking through the woods on those mountain trails he so adored, but then he would look closely and see the low-income housing, fast-food restaurants and gas stations in the gaps between trees.

The additional 80 miles he was required to spend on the road pleased him. There was no sense of urgency, significance or responsibility on the endless path - the task of driving was involuntary at this point. So long as he averted his gaze from the edifices of civilization outside the shield of trees, Rob was safe from himself. He reached over to the passenger seat, grabbed a disc and placed it in the CD player; the lyrics* seemed to pierce Rob's soul: And you may ask yourself how do I work this? And you may ask yourself where is that large automobile? And you may tell yourself this is not my beautiful house! And you may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful wife!

Highway markers shot by the right side of the car at regular intervals like bumblebees. Rob found himself counting the white posts, growing uneasy each time the number increased, signifying progress in his journey out of the sheltered road. The song continued: And you may ask yourself am I right or am I wrong? And you may tell yourself - my God, what have I done?

He caught a glimpse of a family driving in the right lane. It was clear they were heading to Long Island for a weekend vacation. He noticed their mouths moving in unison, probably imitating some upbeat song on the radio. The boy in the back seat, who looked about ten, kept flicking his sister's ear. The mother seemed in her element, wearing a straw beach hat, sunglasses and a bikini. Rob caught himself staring at the pleasantly rare sight of a woman wearing a bathing suit in a car, but quickly averted his eyes back to the road when he realized he was veering toward the guard rail. The woman turned to scold the boy for tormenting his sister but the father couldn't have looked happier - he was leaning forward, as if he were trying to grasp the beach for himself.

He passed these cars while driving 15 or 20 miles over the speed limit, only to come alongside other cars in the right lane that seemed to tell other stories. Men in suits and ties returning home from meetings upstate; teenagers driving their prized girlfriends out to the shore, and squinting elderly couples who maybe shouldn't have been driving at all fell behind him.

Every once in awhile Rob would find a driver who resembled him. The lone man, on the border between a young adult and an established, middle-aged career man, driving a car that could be interpreted either as a luxury compact or one of those dull, safe cars that parents drive their families around in. It all depended on the way the sun's rays struck the paint and on the age of the viewer. Rob wondered if he looked like a washed-out grown-up to the kids in the backseat. At 27, he certainly felt like his life had peaked.

The Throgsneck Bridge exit appeared, the exit for Rob's apartment in the Bronx. He flicked on the turn signal to switch to the right lane, but his hands were paralyzed. He could not bring himself to ease the car toward the exit, so he continued on the parkway, straight toward an unknown, tree-lined asphalt paradise. Rob didn't realize the CD had looped three times; the song drew to a close: Same as it ever was ... Same as it ever was ... Same as it ever was ...

* from "Once in a Lifetime" by The Talking Heads

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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