Het leven van een vrouw verandert grondig tijdens de ochtenfile.
TEKENING – VERO BEAUPREZ
VIDEO (met openingsfragment verhaal) – ILSE COCKX
FOTO – KRIS LAMBRECHTS
A DAY WITHOUT NEWS – translated by DEREK VAN DASSEN
The morning rush hour into the city has started early today. In the beginning of the week there’s always traffic, but not on a Friday? Can’t begin to figure it out. Thankfully the work week is almost over. Tilt the rearview mirror. Put on some lipstick, drag my fingers through my hair and yawn. It feels good in the mornings to sit in my car half asleep, hands on the wheel and my head still in bed.
I was awakened this morning by the insistent buzzing of the alarm clock. I poked Mark. We stayed in bed another fifteen minutes, not speaking or moving. When we finally did decide to get up, I washed myself with half-closed eyes and applied to my face, for the first time, an anti-aging cream while Mark shaved. I sprayed some perfume behind my ears, quickly pulled on a pleated skirt and blouse and gave Mark an airy kiss on the cheek. Skyler and Cody were already sitting watching TV. Without trying to engage them in conversation I made up their lunch boxes, gave them each a piece of toast and a nuzzle, and slipped out the front door. A single word could cut the threads to my warm bed.
I snuggle into the seat as the VW’s heater breathes out hot air. My right hand rests in the warm valley between my legs. To my right a delivery van edges by. I pull my hand back quickly. The driver in one of those high vehicles can see everything. Last week one of them honked at me. With one hand I reach for the plaid blanket on the back seat.
A thinnish man is draped over the steering wheel of his Mercedes reading his newspaper. He lifts his head and throws a sullen look over at me. The window on my passenger side is completely open. The man’s gaze has wafted in with no resistance. Fortunately, the traffic on that side moves on.
The morning sky is a soft red today.
I pull the checked blanket over my thighs. Years ago when I was still a child, I’d always sit under a blanket in my father’s car. It was wonderful, when we went on vacation, to look out the car window. The whole world would be reflected in the glass. The vibration of my cell. Mark. Immediately I’m awake; my husband never calls me in the mornings when I’m driving to work.
“Mark, is there something wrong with Skyler or Cody?”
“Nope, I brought them to school, everything’s fine.”
“So why are you calling, then?”
“Just because,” he says.
“What do you mean, ‘just because.’”
“I want to hear your voice.”
“You want to hear my voice? I left home barely half an hour ago.”
“I just want to know how you’re doing.”
“Why do you want to know that?”
“It was a strange morning,” he says.
“What do you mean, Mark?”
“You and I in that bed, how this morning neither of us could decide to get up.”
“Even so, this morning seemed different than usual,” he says.
“What are you talking about?”
“Nothing. My imagination, probably. I’m really tired these days.”
“You shouldn’t let yourself get so worked up, dear.”
“Easier said than done,” he mumbles.
“It’ll be alright. I’ll see you tonight. OK?”
“Don’t forget to book our holidays when you’re at work, Marty. Till later.”
Today I’m going to block off our vacation days. Camping at Myrtle Beach. For years Mark and the boys and I have gone camping in July at the Myrtle Beach campgrounds in South Carolina. We used to use a three-person tent, but over the last few years I haven’t felt safe anymore at night under only a piece of canvas. Last year we bought a trailer. A trailer has a hard body that keeps the world out. A hard body, like a car.
The brake lights of the Nissan in front of me light up. Always braking; by what convention does everyone constantly brake in traffic jams? Should I have taken the train instead? When Mark’s car has to go in for service, I sometimes take the train into the city. It’s awful having my breasts pressed up against the bodies of people I don’t know while standing in the aisle. And when I do find a place to sit, I hate it when a strange knee bumps up against mine. I always carry a newspaper with me on the train, to shield myself from the stares of other passengers. Once I forgot to buy a paper and the trip seemed endless. A bald man sitting opposite me was trying to make eye contact. To avoid his gawking, I looked out the window. It was dark outside, the glass shone like a mirror. But constantly there were his searching eyes. After a while I couldn’t do it anymore and went and sat in the washroom, until the train stopped.
Away with those unpleasant memories. I scratch my nose with my finger. Ah, the wonderful smell of daffodils. This morning was the first time that I tried that perfume. A seductive fragrance, according to the ads. A careful stretch. High in the sky an airplane leaves a drawn-out trail. I would love to disappear into that rose-colored heaven.
Traffic has come to a complete standstill. No sirens. So no accident, one would presume. What’s happening today?
The car in front of me starts moving again.
The red sun puts me in mind of the ocean. I would now so love to be walking on Myrtle Beach with the sun on my bare body.
Yawning, I close my eyes. When the spots in front of my eyes finally disappear, I see them. Two eyes are looking at me in the rearview mirror of the Nissan driving ahead of me. I grab the steering wheel with both hands. I never knew that you could see the rearview mirror of the car in front of you so clearly.
They’re the eyes of a man. He’s looking straight in through my windshield. How long has he been doing this? [FRAGMENT]