Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Zoe stepped out onto the fire escape and breathed the chilly air into her lungs. After closing the door behind her, she sat at the edge with her legs dangling from between two bars.

The brick wall of the neighboring tenement stood erect in her peripheral, but Zoe chose to look to the left – towards the street her apartment building faced. Zoe had spent long hours ignoring the cold metal of the fire escape beneath her as she watched lines of cars pass by. Sometimes they raced by, other times they slowed to a crawl and she could get a good look at their drivers; it all depended on the time of day.

A traffic light Zoe knew was just a block away was holding up the commuters, and she was glad for it. From her perch, she could look right inside the shiny silver BMW at the blonde woman whose face was hidden behind the widest pair of sunglasses Zoe had ever seen. The woman was yelling at someone in a mobile phone and Zoe thought she must be important, whoever she was.

The line of cars moved forward as the light turned green and Zoe could hear her mother turn on the vacuum inside the apartment. Her mother always cleaned when she was feeling stressed. Zoe figured the news about her brother was enough to warrant a floor-to-ceiling sterilization.

The traffic light stopped the cars again and Zoe swung her feet lazily as she looked over to see a black pick-up stopped right in her line of sight. The windows were down and, through the white noise of the city, she could hear the melody of an old rock & roll song coming from the radio. Zoe’s feet began to swing in time with the song and she hummed along until the words came to her.

runaway train, never goin’ back
wrong way on a one-way track
seems like i should be getting somewhere
somehow i’m neither here nor there

She had begun to mouth the words of the song. Zoe glanced back at the pick-up and was startled to see the young man in the driver’s seat watching her sing along with his radio. He looked amused. She closed her mouth, embarrassed, and he seemed to chuckle. Zoe felt the blush rise in her cheeks. He winked and Zoe felt her stomach clutch.

The car behind the pick-up honked angrily and Zoe looked up to see the light had turned green. She looked back, but the truck was pulling forward. He was driving away, and Zoe scolded herself for harboring a fantasy about a nameless face in the crowd.


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5 comments on “Traffic.”

  1. Momo

    I like all the details she notices, and how we don’t know what happened with the brother but we know it is serious. Also it was great how she, as the observer, was being observed too.

  2. Tina

    You spun a magical tale! I felt the cold of the metal underneath her, even if she didn’t. I want to know who the guy in the truck was, and also how old Zoe is. If she’s under ten, then the guy in the truck is creepy, and that changes the tenor of the story.

  3. angela

    I like how you’ve removed Zoe from her surroundings, in a way. I feel the way she’s in between the life she has and the one she might be able to have one day.

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