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NARCISSISM

by

Nathan Leslie



Look, maybe I'm trying to justify why I don't drive anymore, but things actually happened. I mean, they did, you know. First, my girlfriend of two years, the so-called love of my life, well, she dumped me on my ass. She said we couldn't communicate anymore. She said that when I wasn't trying to get down her pants, all I did was talk in monosyllabic grunts about how I wanted to make love to her again. Personally, I don't see anything wrong with telling her that all I really wanted from her was the sex. The woman takes things waaaaaaaaaaaaay too personally. She said I didn't want to converse. I told her "I converse with you. I tell you to take your clothes off. I tell you I want to fuck you. That's conversing." She said she wanted real conversation, about you know, worldly issues, personal issues. I mean, she wanted everything.

She said I had turned into a male stereotype, as if not wanting "deep, meaningful" talks isn't a female stereotype. She said she was tired of getting five messages a day from me, saying basically the same thing: "I love you baby. I love you so much. Please don't dump me." It's true, that is what we'd talk about. We'd talk all day long about how she shouldn't get rid of me. I talked about how she shouldn't dump me so much I think I gave her the idea. So she rebelled against me, you know, like you do when you're sixteen and your parents say you shouldn't drink and have sex. They build it up so much you have to go ahead and give it a whirl. The next thing you know, you've got the school whore in the back of the family mini-van near a deserted construction sight, licking vodka and orange juice from each other's naked bodies. My girlfriend--I mean, ex-girlfriend--she took what I said and she just did the opposite.

So then I just started getting a bad taste in my mouth about driving, of all things. See, for one, it was a case of bad associations with the ex. My girlfriend didn't have a car and I spent the whole relationship driving her up and down the road. Instead of going out with friends like other couples, I'd take her grocery shopping, or take her to the dentist, or to get something from her parents' house. Anyway, after I got dumped it's not like I knew what to do with all the time, but I knew I didn't want to drive up and down the street any more.

But I didn't stop yet. I still drove to work. But it wasn't really working out due to the asshole drivers that almost killed me every time I pulled onto the highway. I don't recycle so I started collecting all my bottles, and I put them in the passenger seat, and when some asshole cut me off, I'd just open the window and toss a fucking bottle at his car. Who needs road rage? I wasn't angry. I'd just chuck a bottle at them. Take that! It was like dodge ball. But I'm telling you, I didn't really enjoy myself in the long run. It was fun for a couple of days, and then I got bored again. I get bored a lot. It just got played out.

Then, two things kind of hurried my decision to get the hell off the road. First, I started getting all these traffic tickets. It was like the cops decided to make June National Fuck Luke Up the Ass Month. I mean, I don't think seventy in a twenty-five is that bad. I'm a very safety conscious driver. That was ticket number one. Ticket number two was a joke: a measly fifty in a fifteen. So it was a parking lot! Who says you have to drive like a grandma in a parking lot? I told one cop that I think they are following me, and that I'm going to sue them if they don't stop infringing on my civil rights. "It's discrimination," I said. "You have an Irish-American quota." He didn't like that very much. Oh well, I'm not Irish-American anyway. The next day I got another ticket and my license was revoked. I kept on driving though, just slower.

The other thing was all of a sudden the state--or the county, or whoever makes these asinine decisions--they thought it would be a good idea to start construction everywhere at once. I mean that's what it seemed like. I went on 270: construction. 97: construction. I went on these little po-dunk country roads: construction. I started throwing the bottles at the construction workers. Except I usually couldn't speed up to make my escape. Once the bottle landed on a grassy median strip and didn't break. The construction worker threw it back at me and cracked my windshield. Oh well. That's the breaks.

But what really got my goat was the damn grooved pavement. Every one of these construction zones had that shit. I mean, you drive on it and you can't hear anything. You can't listen to the radio. You can't listen to anything except for that dull humming sound. HNNOOOOOOOOOOOO. HNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. And I mean, after I got dumped I moved into the city because I thought it would be a better commute from the city to Rockville than from Catonsville to Rockville. I was reverse commuting, right? But the thing was, it was still taking me an hour every day. I thought I'd be whizzing by everybody stopped coming into the city, laughing at them, pointing my finger and saying to myself "What a bunch of suckers." Instead, I was still sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, only I was going the wrong way! I was just sick of the whole thing.

Up until last week I was still driving. That's when I found out from the Feds that my car posed significant safety problems. Luckily they didn't know about my license--which is the first thing I thought of when they called. No, what they said was that my car was actually a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Test car. They said some car salesman in Kentucky doctored the bill of sale from the Government Services Administration and sold it to Koons in the Baltimore area, where I bought it. They said the safety people used to ram it into a huge concrete barrier over and over again. They were calling me to warn me! Fuck me!

It all made sense then. It wasn't my fault at all! It was the car. It was the piece of shit dummy car!

So that was it. I stopped driving. I'm leaving the thing out in the lawn like they do in West Virginia, and I'm going to let the thing rust to hell. And if neighborhood kids want to steal it, or throw rocks at it, or take axes to the windshield, or take a dump on the roof--more power to them. Until then, I'm taking the train.





ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nathan Leslie's fiction and poetry has appeared in over thirty publications including Amherst Review, Wascana Review, Poetry Motel, Connections, The Crab Creek Review, The Higginsville Reader, Fodderwing, The Sulphur River Literary Review, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Washington Post, and Daybreak. He completed his MFA at the University of Maryland this past spring, where he won the 2000 Katherine Anne Fiction Prize. He currently teaches writing at Towson University.


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