The Man in the Silver Challenger

It started a few months back when the weather began to improve and the mud and grit of winter disappeared from the streets. Since moving to the big city a year ago, this was her first real spring in the heart of the bustling metropolis. She watched from her balcony as the snow and ice melted, and the people began to come out of wherever they chose to hide throughout the winter months. She watched as ladies in short shorts on rollerblades skated along the riverside, and she wondered if they had a real destination or of they were just skating for the purpose of skating, which in her mind seemed irritatingly circular and irrelevant. And then she figured it was an attention seeking gesture, she hated gratuitous attention seeking gestures, it had to be, no one bothers buying shorts that short without wanting to be stared at.  But judging by the general male reaction to the undulating flesh, there is shallow success to be had.

She watched more and more as the sun began to make the few city plants grow again. She missed the green of the country and found the pathetic attempt at bringing nature to the streets of downtown dismal and ultimately ironic. They had destroyed all the original environment to put all this steel and concrete here, bringing small bits back seemed sort of mean. She saw more and more people taking tiny pets out for walks, riding strange low-riding bicycles and even started to hear the ringing of the ice cream truck. It’s a weird wild and wonderful world she thought. But she didn’t see herself in it; she was watching it like a film, waiting for the plot to become slightly more interesting. And then one unsuspecting day, it did.

Spending afternoons sipping tea or coffee and reading at the cafe downtown was one of her favourite pastimes. It had dark brick walls on which hung beautiful local art, and relaxing music played over the speakers that she found she loved more and more each time she visited. The cafe also had a big open patio that allowed her to look out onto the bustling street through a couple of lonely trees planted in the sidewalk. The dark lighting inside the cafe made the bright strip seem ever more like a screen where the world was being projected for her. She watched the crazy locals walking by, mothers and children, invalids on their motorized scooters, and on Friday afternoons everybody seemed to want to walk up and down the main drag.  Soon she began to notice the cars going by, or more so the people in them, as with the warmer weather people drove happily with the windows down with their music cranked for the world to hear. She always wondered why people did this, as if whatever it was they were listening to was so important and the best thing ever composed, that it took societal precedence over what the people on the street were trying to think about.  She hated having her thoughts interrupted by some young thing with the latest spleen shaking, bass loaded, autotuned disaster they have the nerve to call music, booming out of their car. She wished just once someone would be listening to Wagner or Tchaikovsky, but that was never the case.

One early weekday afternoon as she was reading a book not worth mentioning, and a Silver Challenger with black racing stripes cruised past the cafe, windows down and with the music at what couldn’t possibly have been an audibly pleasing decibel. She mentally “guffawed” at the happening and made note of strange people like that for future conversation. She went back to her book and vanilla nut coffee and that should have been the end of it. Not even several minutes later, she could hear the booming bass of another attention seeking vehicle approaching from the same direction. She paused from her book to mentally curse the driver for interrupting her novel, and as it rolled past and stopped at the light she saw that it was the very same Silver Challenger, with black racing strips. This time round she had a change to see the driver, fully expecting it to be some arrogant self possessed twenty-something looking to pick-up some unsuspecting pretty young thing with the IQ of a potato, but no, this was not the case. Turns out, he appeared to be a middle-to-late aged frumpy man. Now, this is not the first time she has seen a middle-aged man in a mid-life-crisis car, this was not a shock to her nor would it be to anyone, but the music that was coming from inside it was the appalling gut wrenching rap music popular among boys with pants around their knees and hats not quite on right. This man had both the mid life crisis car as well as the tunes. She made her mental note more detailed and then decided he was perhaps just lost and had to circle around twice to get his bearings.

Throughout the next thirty minutes she remained in the cafe, the Silver Challenger circled around another ten times. At which point she had had enough of trying to read and then getting interrupted every three minutes by the booming monstrosity, packed up and left. On the street he passed again, not noticing her, but she got a better look at him from behind her dark sunglasses. He wasn’t anything special to look at, just your average dark haired, medium build,regular height man. His repeated presence bothered her, but she wouldn’t let it ruin her day. She scurried home to the safety of her apartment and tried not to dwell on it too much and get on with her day. “People drive around all the time” she said to herself. “It’s not that abnormal” she repeated. She tried all evening but she could not satisfy her curiosity about the strange socially obscure happening. “Does he not have a job? a family?…Why is he driving around town in the middle of the day?….He’s not going to pick up someone at that hour…better to wait until midnight when they’re all hammered…maybe he’s afraid of the police catching him trying to scam girls at night…maybe he’s a sexual predator…maybe he’s looking for his next victim….”.  She could not quiet her mind, and it kept running all over the place trying to figure out why this one person in such a populated city was causing her so much distress. Maybe she was paranoid, but it didn’t fit with the way people work, and the recognized pattern of how life is supposed to go. Eventually she got to bed and through the miracle of sleep she forgot about it and went on with her days.

Three planetary rotations later, once she had completely got over the Silver Challenger incident and pushed everything to the back of her mind…it happened again. She was on her way to the drug store in the morning and there it was, windows down, music playing same blank look on the drivers face, watching the road. She dove into the closest public establishment she could find and hid in the shop for a while, thoughts running through her head about what he could possibly be doing out again, was this just a coincidence and had he not been out since the last time…or was this a regular thing. Over the next week, every single time she went outside it seemed, her was there…in that Silver Challenger, just driving around…and around and around, never stopping to get out of the car. WHYYYY!?!?! It was starting to drive her crazy. Was this what he wants? To drive poor curious girls absolutely crazy by repeatedly performing a perfectly mundane task obnoxiously with absolutely no purpose! Well it was working!

Over the next month, she kept seeing him, morning, afternoon, evening, and she was sure he was out at night, yet she was too scared to wander the streets at night alone.  She seriously debated asking shop owners who worked on the strip if they knew what was going on, but at the risk of sounding absolutely insane and stalker-y she decided against it. She would think about the reality of the situation…he likely had no idea who she was if he drove around so often…but she, on the other hand, began to panic the second she saw a Silver Challenger anywhere. How is it that you can recognize someone so easily, see them on such a regular basis, yet they have absolutely no idea who you are. Tis the nature of modern society she supposes.

The remainder of her summer was spent on constant lookout for the offensive vehicle, wondering if and when she would see it next.  When she looked left and right to cross the street she was secretly checking to make sure that the Silver Challenger was not there. She could not wait for the cool winter weather to return and force all the leisure vehicles back under their protective winter covers, freeing her fragile mind for a time.

And so for the rest of her life this unsolved mystery would be present in the corners of her mind, every time she saw a Silver Challenger her stomach would jump to her throat, and it would anger her, with thoughts of “WHY!?” because this mystery is never solved. He never leant his head out the window to explain why he was there, never even hollered a hello, just drove around like it was the last day of his life and couldn’t think of anything better to do. This is why life is such a mystery. Because things like this don’t get solved. Because people no longer talk to each other to communicate, just use confusing gestures, accessories and actions to paint a picture of themselves for society to see. He wanted to be seen, he wanted to be noticed, in the flashy car with the loud music, but WHY!  He never stopped to talk to anyone, was never on the phone, just alone with his loud and aggressive musical anachronism. This is the future of society, and through the wonders of societal evolution we all will be left wondering about everyone else, trying to communicate without speaking real words, and most people won’t even notice.

The End

-Miss Hailey Jane

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