Closer Than They Appear

by Cary Rainey


All of this happens in the blink of an eye.† Literally, as my eyelids are closing, I see I-65 climbing into the distance and the hills looming like big grey shadows on either side, I see seven or eight or nine other cars between me and the horizon, and three of them are right here in front of me, on my side of the overpass, but theyíre moving quickly away from me. I see dozens of flakes of snow falling against the windshield of my car and melting immediately away; I see the world spinning away to my right as I turn to the left and I see the side mirrorís chrome housing coming off the car and the millions of drops of water either clinging to the mirror and its housing or flying away into the air; I see the mirror and I can sense my lids coming closer together more than I can tell by any change in my field of vision, and I can hear Simon and Garfunkel on the radio and that same spot on the back of my neck is itching again, and Iím wondering what kind of name Garfunkel is, and I see in the mirror on the side of my car that the next two lanes are clear, and thereís an eighteen-wheeler in the far lane but itís still a pretty good way back and as my lids meet, the last thing I see is what I at first see as a scrolling message along the bottom of the mirror, like the ones on the cable news networks, the words CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR, and then my eyes are closed and Iím already turning my head back straight so I can merge into the next lane and get across this overpass and get this thing done so I can get on with my life.

When I open my eyes, Iíve already begun to merge into the next lane, although the onramp doesnít run out for another thousand feet, I guess.† I donít know how far it really is, but the lane runs out about a quarter of the way across the overpass and itís not any more abrupt than any other onramp Iíve ever seen, but itís one of those that makes me just want to get the hell over as soon as I can, and as the car crosses onto the first plate of the bridge, I glance quickly back to the mirror on the side of the car and see there a static set of black printed letters, the same message thatís always been there: OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR.† I let myself stare at the letters as I slowly press the accelerator.† Theyíre the same letters, the same ones I see every time I look there, but I think now what I saw a second ago wasnít a trick of the light or my mind playing games.† I donít know why, or what it could mean, but I think the letters were different.† I think the first line, the first four words, were gone and the last four were moving across the mirror with the eighteen-wheeler in the distance.† I can see the truck behind the letters.† Itís closer and it will probably catch me and pass me by the time I get to the other side of the overpass, which isnít very long.† Maybe a hundred feet or a hundred yards or something.† Maybe a thousand yards.† Iíve never been the best judge of distances or time, but the overpass isnít very long.


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