Traffic was thick, but moving as I approached an underpass when, ahead to the left, like an enormous harpooned whale, an 18-wheeler began dumbly whipping its tail back and forth across the traffic, sending eight, nine, ten cars behind it crashing against the underpass walls before finally coming to rest, just beyond the underpass, in its great clumsiness, taking another 18-wheeler in its wake.
Great plumes of fire and smoke erupted into the sky as motorists rushed to pull off to the side of the expressway. I, too, found myself in that number - first, counting my blessings, but then, wondering when, if ever, I'd be able to leave this great shadow under this bridge.
My patience would not let me wait to go where I was going, though I didn't quite know where that going might be. But I knew I had to keep moving - car or not, freeway or not - and I began walking back the way I had come - which would be regressing - though away from the smoke and fire.
I didn't get very far, not even from underneath the shadow of the bridge, before I saw cars moving again. I turned around and saw that, not only was traffic zooming beyond the speed limit, but the underpass was not as I had remembered it. Instead of drab concrete walls holding up the bridge, there were now construction and windows with dazzling displays of chic mannequins and mod furniture. Wet cement for a sidewalk, even.
I stumbled into the area where I thought that I'd left my car and found someone official-looking.
"My car," I said. "Where is my car?"
He looked at me dumbly, his face covered in construction dust.
"There it is," I said, locating my car, now, too, covered in dust, but surrounded by store walls. Could it even be gotten out?
"What? I have a ticket? How can you give me a ticket? There was the accident... I only walked away for a few minutes! How was I to know that it would only take minutes to clear?
"There was fire." I pointed to where there was no fire. "And all of the smoke! And now all of this construction? How dare you give me a ticket! Who do I need to talk to get this removed? I wasn't even gone five minutes! You g*ddamned government official! How the f*ck was I supposed to know..."
And, like a broken record on full volume, I continued my tirade until the tendons in my throat were no longer taut, until long after I was out of breath.
And I had to make a choice:
Go back and get my ticketed dust-covered car, which was now surrounded by four walls, or keep it moving - on foot.