The long grass in the field by the side of the road shimmered like the sea and shadows stretched and lengthened, like a cat waking from sleep. Darkness rising and waiting to take over the whole ground, but at the moment only a contrast to the last, glorious huzzah of the day, a counterpoint to the spectacular light show in west.
The car tyres hummed on the road, the engine quietly growled along, like a slightly perturbed dog. Light bounced off the bonnet, refracting, dancing around. Intensely bright, the driver of the vehicle, squinted through dangerous dark shaded glasses – care worn hands, scarred and battered gripped slightly tighter the steering wheel. He, a large, slightly running to fat, slightly greying man, shifted in the drivers seat, unintentional making the car shimmy and shy like a young horse before a jump. It did not stray over either line, but the mistake made him grimace in disgust at the lack of control.
Fortunately he was alone, both inside the automobile and on the road. No one was beside him to admonish him, no other driver to flash their lights in alarm, no policeman to haul him over.
Just him and the sun, quietly setting across the wide flat landscape at the end of a long hot summer's day. And Miles Davis playing. The beginning “Flamenco Sketches”, starting in that unwinding and cool way that was at once a rush to the head and a release of tension, like that first sip of dark red wine, or the hit of water from the shower as the cares of the world were washed away, the tension between his shoulders and in the small of his back eased. The noise in his head turned off for a few moments and was replaced with calm.
He should hit shuffle on the mp3 player; change the music and the mood to something upbeat, to keep him alert and focused; He should not be thinking, reflecting, shooting glances to his left to admire the beauty of the great ball of fire slipping gently behind the horizon.
He should have left earlier, he should have arrived earlier. He should have planned better; so that at the end of a long day, he was not driving, tired and hungry the two hours from home.
Lots of things he should have done. Hundreds, thousands. This was why he was where he was, not somewhere else, though he was realistic enough to not think that somewhere else was on his own luxury yacht being hand fed peeled grapes by some scantily clad ex-super model.
But right at this moment, at this sudden apex of his life curve, because it was an apex, a highest point, he was driving along a quiet, blissfully traffic free and untrammelled by repairs, road, with Miles Davis playing and the warm summer sun, softly, caressing the day goodnight.
He exhaled, blew out the worries and fears of the day, pushed them out of his mouth with his breath. Took them from deep within himself, placed them in his diaphragm and pushed them away, in on long steady exhalation.
The bills, the passing years, the job that took too much from him both physically in time and emotionally in care, the ageing relatives that seemed to exist between life and death now with no joy or interest in the world, the sad disappointments and rank unfairnesses.
Gone, or at least pushed away in the exhalation. Put aside; 'parked' as that annoying, peppy, polished but above all young middle manager would say. No longer part of the moment.
Because the high point was now, he was on an open road, comfortable sat, listening to some nice music and enjoying the sunset.
He toyed with the idea of pulling over to watch it.
He dismissed it.
Not because he was late, or that there was no where to stop, or that it was self-indulgent. Though these were second, third and fourth thoughts that notice what he was thinking and rushed into the decision making process late, all a splutter, demanding to be heard, far too late as the decision was taken.
He did not stop.
The moment was an apex, a high point for all the constituent parts of the situation.
The open road, with the car moving at an acceptable, progressive but above all constant speed – not stopping, starting, bouncing around with our impatient road users in their urgent demanding efforts trying to get where they were going, endangering or impeding him. No sea of red cones, no flashing 40 signs, no pathetically chirpy young woman explaining on the radio, that due to a broken-down-lorry (now one word in the English language) there were “severe delays”. The car moving, the feeling of movement, of progression, of transit, of the transitory nature of the whole situation and life was tied up in the fact that the car was in motion.
Whilst the sun setting was the perfect backdrop, in this apex scene, the perfect moment. Not quite literally driving into the sunset, but some director- of a particularly cheesy melodrama - would have sat with with his camera filming frantically as the car sped along the road, gold and red sunlight all over it, the closing moment.
The end of the day.
Sadly unlike cheesy melodrama there was no closing moment, apart that rather final cold hard closing moment, in life. No happy driving away with the setting sun.
But the moment had that, the beauty and the tranquillity and the calm to it.
The music was a great soundtrack, though he probably, knowing his budget it would have to played by someone else, not use the original as here.
Bill Evans starting the tune, improvising over the cord changes, with Miles Davis coming in at just the right moment. The perfect mix, of reserve, of sadness and melancholy but with a “heh that's okay” shoulder shrug in there as well. Jazz, born of the blues, knowing sadness as well as joy, this encapsulated the end of the day feeling, the slight tiredness, the weary sad smile.
The last track on the album.
He must have played this tune so many times.
Actually now he thought about it, as the road began to come to a bend, he had played this at other sunsets, sometimes deliberately sometimes accidentally.
Escaping Birmingham, after a hellish day, the sun hitting the hills as he scudded down the M5, with only a few other drivers around. The nasty taste in his mouth after the unpleasantness of the day's business, the ache in his fingers from writing, the mobile phone firmly off. He had put the CD in the player, skipped forwarded, and carefully still of his speed and road position went past Tewkesbury toward Gloucester, the Sun on his right, the road painted red. The end of the day and all the stress and time stopped, or at least paused. Out of the loop and at peace.
Or sitting on the patio, a cool glass of something in front of him, cats hunting in the flowerbeds, the wood at the back of the house, full of summer noise, the music slowly reaching out its tentacles from in the house, so he was distracted from listening to the friends around him, but still captivated by their faces, animated and smiling and talking as the music filled his head.
Or the harsh winter, cold and stark coming back from work, and walking from where the car was parked, miles from the house, and the tune popping into his head, as the snow and ice that frosted the cars and roof tops went pink and red with the setting sun.
He pushed the clutch dropped out of gear, down two gears, lifted his foot, slowing the car smoothly, calmly in above all pleasingly controlled way. Checked right, nothing, slowing still, making sure.
Then away, accelerating, round to the second exit, up a gear and off on another section of unblocked, uncluttered, lonely road.
Then rushing toward him, familiar buildings.
The tall towers of the disused power station, with light shooting through the rusting girders, the broken building sad and old, but some how less sad, with the soft dying sun light, the summer breeze moving the heavily leafed trees near it.
Flamenco Sketches finished, and something else on random played came on.
Something upbeat and poppy, with a repetitive and grammatically incorrect chorus but above all no soul, that had somehow found its way on to the player.
He turned off the music, sighing that the moment had now passed. Sad, that it was over, but happy that it had been good.
At the end of the day, it was just the end of the day. Like any other of the 13000 or so he had witnessed, many he had not really paid much attention to at the time.
The end of the day, with the night waiting.
The car sped on leaving the open road behind it.