by Ravi Mangla
My wife worries about my habit of walking into traffic. We can be stopped at an intersection, the light red, and she’ll have to grab my shirt collar to spare some Uber fare the trauma of being an unwitting party to manslaughter. Whether my incaution is the product of a subconscious death wish or simple absentmindedness is anyone’s guess.
My wife proposes sewing straps onto my jacket, so she can take better control of my comings and goings. But the thought of reins, I tell her, feels infantilizing. Like a toddler with a hyperactive disorder. She explains to me that I would only have to wear the reins for several months, until I can learn to temper my impulses.
But what does it say about a man whose willful impulses require such encumbering apparel? One of the first things we’re taught as children is to look both ways before we cross the road. To the casual onlooker, my ambulations bear the classic hallmarks of suicidal despair. It doesn’t matter that my disposition (on most days) errs towards an easy affability.
My wife and I are on our way to meet friends at a wine bar that specializes in cheap wines priced steeply by the glass. Halfway to the establishment, a car horn sounds, disconsolate in volume. I turn to find myself stranded in traffic, a souped up Buick Skylark charging toward me like a riled bull. Without a moment’s hesitation, my wife bounds into the street and throws her body around mine. The car veers sideways into the shoulder of the road. The other vehicles follow suit, careening us around us like water around a slain log. My wife’s arms are shaking.
“Why would you do that?” I say. “You could have been hurt.”
Drivers blare their horns, grace us with profane gestures.
“You’re a halfwit. But I’ve grown somewhat accustomed to that half,” she says.
The signal changes. It’s safe to cross now. But we stay there, swaying in the intersection, neither of us ready to unpin ourselves.
Ravi Mangla’s most recent novel is The Observant (Spuyten Duyvil, 2022). His short stories have appeared in Wigleaf, American Short Fiction, Mid-American Review, Barrelhouse, and Salt Hill. You can find more of his work at ravimangla.com.