It was a September Sunday morning in the Denver suburb of Westminster, and my girlfriend and I were driving down 104th Ave to Lamar’s Donuts. The sun was bright, football was gonna be on all day, and the sprinkles and glaze would be the sugars we’d needed all week.
And the migrating birds were out. Black silhouettes against the blue sky, flying towards a common direction. The bittersweet sign of summer’s end.
There were also a lot of cars out. Even tho it was Sunday. Which was becoming more and more normal for the Denver area.
One pulled up behind me at the next traffic light. It was just a normal car, normal size, no fumes or noises, but it gave me a bad feeling anyway.
I tried to ignore it and concentrate on the birds. What kind were they? What was their final destination? How did they just know when and where to go?
On a Sunday you expect to be able to think about these things in peace. I was not supposta be at a certain place at a certain time for money, and it didn’t matter how long it took to get the donuts. They’d still be there, they’d still be good.
But the car behind me disagreed. It soon became clear they wanted to go as fast as they could even tho there was a car in front of them. They made sure there was absolutely no space between us. And I couldn’t ignore it.
“He’s right on my ASS!” I told my girlfriend. “Even tho it’s Sunday.”
He stayed stuck to me, swerving to the sides to try and see ahead why I wasn’t going faster. It almost looked like he was about to say “Fuck it, I have no choice but to just drive right over this guy like a monster truck.”
“I’m actually going well over the speed limit,” I said. “Where could he be going in such a rush?”
“I bet it’s one of the new people,” my Colorado native girlfriend explained. “They came from the other places. They heard it was laid back here, and now they want to destroy our pace and way of life for the fun of it.”
The car behind us had had enough by then and with a loud roar of the engine he veered to the right shoulder and blasted past.
“Did you get a look at him?” I asked.
“Yes,” my girlfriend said. “It was a guy who looked…”
“No… he looked… normal.”
We watched as he pulled in front us and suddenly didn’t go any faster than we were going before.
“Why did he do that?” I said.
“He just wanted to be in front,” she said.
I shook my head and looked at all the brand new luxury apartments and shopping centers. And lots and lots of cars. In every direction, jockeying to get ahead of each other, trying to leave me in the dust.
“I’m the slowest one,” I panicked. “I just want it to be alright to be slow, just for one morning!”
But the cars didn’t care. By the time we were almost at Lamar’s, they’d multiplied into a full jam. Drivers were swearing and pounding their steering wheels, and they looked so normal, like you could know them, like you could work or live right next to them.
“Be less normal!” I yelled.
Then I noticed some more birds fly in, a large flock in the sky, dancing together like the avian ballet, all moving together but somehow not crashing. They were soaring effortlessly and purposefully south.
And as they passed over the car, they suddenly came to a coordinated mid-air halt. And just as suddenly they 180’d around straight back to the North like the planet and the seasons had decided to tilt the other way.
Many of the birds even started landing gently around us, and the parking lots and landscaping and businesses of Westminster were soon hidden beneath them.
“Wow, look!” we said, “They’re coming back to us, ahh.”
Meanwhile all the lights turned green for the normal looking cars of the modern Denver metro area. They all started driving as fast as they could again, so fast they actually used the roads as a runway and began launching into the air like scrambling jet fighters. With all their gasoline and ambition, combustion and nerve, they zoomed upward, outmaneuvering each other to be the first to reach the southern horizon. Soon becoming a perfect formation of dark little silhouettes.
“Wow, look!” we said, “They’re leaving us, ahh.”
And then it was just us and the birds, and they followed us to Lamar’s, where we got an extra dozen just for them. We broke off the crumbs and tossed them out the car, and sweetness and sprinkles and custard rained down in the middle of the Westminster shopping center for as long as we fucking felt like it. There was no hurry anymore.
– September 2016, Westminster, CO
Listen to “Sunday Drive”!
For more from Book of Food