Introduction: Today’s story is a bit different. Rather than being inspired by a prompt, it’s inspired by an idea. The idea that you can write something in which not much happens, but it still grips you. One of the films that has lingered with me the longest in recent years is Paterson, a Jim Jarmusch film that follows Adam Driver as he drives a bus, takes his dog for walks and writes poetry. I loved it, and the idea that you can write real life and make it enthralling fascinates me. Let’s not pretend I have half the talent Jarmusch does, but this is my attempt to do something similar. Two people, a car and not much else.
‘Can we change the song?’ I asked, looking across at Clara who had her feet up on the dashboard and was mouthing along to the music, making my question rather redundant.
‘What? No! I love this album.’
‘It sounds so depressing. Road trip music should be upbeat, not melancholy.’
‘You only think it’s melancholy because you’re not listening to the words.’
‘Alright, what are the words about?’
‘Falling in love.’
‘Wow, original,’ that earned me a laughing slap to the arm.
‘Shut up, dickhead. No, it’s about the excitement and fear of falling for someone. That feeling in your stomach that this could be something special, and that jittery anxiety that it could explode at any second. Surely you remember that?’
‘Hm, maybe, were you there? I feel like you were there?’ That got me a second slap, complete with more laughter. ‘It still sounds depressing, though. I could be telling the funniest story in the world, but if I deliver it like this,’ I slowed my voice down, going as monotone and boring as I could, ‘no-one is going to laugh.’
‘I don’t know. They’d still be able to see your face, wouldn’t they?’
‘Ow, that’s a burn!’ I winced away from Clara, pretending to be in pain. ‘I am suitably beaten.’
She was smiling, pleased with herself despite my mocking. ‘They aren’t going for funny, though. It’s possible for excitement to not be bouncy and fun, but to be anxious and melancholic. The worry that you’re going to fuck things up sometimes overtakes the joy at getting the opportunity.’
‘Okay, that I do understand.’
‘Damn right, you do. You should be constantly worried that you’re going to fuck things up.’
As I laughed, Clara shifted round, curling up in her seat as we lapsed into a comfortable silence.
‘How long till we get there?’ She asked, about half an hour later, looking out over the same flat landscape we’d been driving across for hours.
‘A few hours yet, are you hungry or anything?’
‘No, I’m fine, but stop if you want to.’
‘I’d rather keep going, the sooner we get away from flat fields, the better.’
‘Are you sure we’re ever going to get away from them? It feels like we’ve been driving through them forever.’
‘Stuck, to forever roam across it, searching for something, but not quite sure what it is.’
‘Wow, are you getting poetic, my love?’
I shrugged, ‘I think you have to be more inventive than that.’
‘Maybe,’ she lapsed back into silence for a second before continuing, ‘it does feel like it goes on forever, though.’
‘It better not, I don’t think I can take staring at cornfields forever.’
‘You’d be fine. You’ve got my sparkling wit to keep you company. I’d have to spend forever explaining good music to you, that would kill me quicker than the cornfields.’
‘Maybe the cornfields will come and get you because you’re so mean?’
‘Don’t say that! That’s terrifying. Imagine being overrun by cornfields? Wave after wave of the stuff crashing down on you,’ Clara shivered in her seat, wrapping her arms around herself despite the warm car, ‘that’s terrifying.’
‘Well, that got dark quick, didn’t it?’
‘Sorry, it’s something about this place. It encourages thinking.’
‘Long roads and emptiness, yea I guess that makes sense. There’s not much else to do.’
‘Do you think all the people living in these little houses are philosophers? Solving the mysteries of the universe because they’ve nothing better to do?’
‘I think it’s more likely that they’re farmers, my love.’
She lightly kicked me, pouting as she did so. ‘You’re no fun. Coming up here with your facts and all, ruining my quirky dreams.’
‘I’m sorry, you’re right. The landscape around us is full of philosophers, all of whom have fixed the world, but haven’t got around to telling us yet because they have to bring the harvest in.’
‘Your words sound good, but your tone is mocking, lover. You might want to have that looked at.’
‘I’ll call a doctor when we get to the hotel, see what they can do.’
‘Better not, it’s expensive here. We’ve spent enough money already without having to pay to get your brain fixed.’ She curled onto her side as she spoke, looking out the window for a second before closing her eyes.
Meanwhile, I drove on, mile after mile disappearing beneath the wheels, and not a single philosopher to be seen.