Vikram Singh stifled a yawn as he drifted lazily along in his 2005 Honda Civic.
Sure, he was up and on the road at this ridiculous hour, well before the sun was even considering rising on this early summer day, so that he could avoid the worst of Rush Hour traffic and get to the Vienna Metro station at a time that would allow him to only be a few minutes late for work in DC, but he wasn’t in a hurry.
So he eased up on the gas as he approached the green light at Belmont, and decided to pump the brakes a few times, ultimately finding himself pleased – though he couldn’t say why, exactly – to see the light shift to yellow, and he knew that if he pumped the brake one or two more times, he was guaranteed to be stopped by the red light.
Two cars glided to a stop behind him – he had been sure, though, again, he wasn’t certain as to why – to stop nearly a car-length back from the line. A line of cars extending back nearly a quarter-mile came to a halt in the two lanes to his left.
He glanced in his mirror and was dimly aware of a car moving out of the center lane and into his own. The car – though he couldn’t see any details in the darkness, there was something familiar about it – approached at a rapid, but cautious speed, prepared to stop if any of the other cars in the center lane ahead of it suddenly decided to perform a similar maneuver.
As the car stopped, Vikram was aware of what he could only call a presence, and a voice that simply said, “You’re up.”
With those two words, he understood it all: the driver of that car was Jon.
This was it: Vikram’s turn to shine.
All the drivers in Northern Virginia awaited the call from the Universe, the one letting them know that they had been presented with the opportunity to set the tone for Jon’s day as he made his commute to work in these pre-dawn hours.
Vikram didn’t know anything about Jon, wouldn’t recognize him if he saw him, and didn’t even know his name, but he knew this much: fuck him.
Swallowing nervously, he looked around at his fellow drivers, and though he couldn’t see their faces, he knew that they were nodding towards him respectfully and encouragingly. They all knew their roles, just as Vikram knew his.
“My turn,” Vikram said, aloud. “My chance to shine.”
He suppressed his excitement. This wasn’t about him, and it was no occasion for excitement. This was a solemn duty, this was a higher power calling upon him to fuck with Jon, whoever Jon was, and for whatever reason.
As he considered the significance of what he had been called upon to do, his excitement gave way to anxiety. “What if I screw it up? What if, out of habit, I just floor it as soon as the light turns green?”
He shook his head. “I won’t. I won’t do that. And the others….let the cars behind me slow him down. I don’t have to…” his words trailed off.
He was the chosen one. The Universe and his fellow commuters were counting on him.
His course was set. Every moment of his life had been leading inexorably to this one.
“How will I do it? Wait until the light is about to turn green, then suddenly decide to bend down and pick something up off the floor on the passenger side? Fiddle with my cell phone? Sent a text? Tweet about fucking over Jon?”
With a laugh, he said, “Maybe I’ll do it by spending my time here figuring out how I’m going to do it.”
He dismissed the idea, and settled on a sensible course: just taking his own sweet time to finally move his goddamn ass after the light turned green.
At the last second, just instants before the light changed, he was struck by a thought: Why not go for at least a little glory? After all, the Universe had to have chosen him for a reason.
He barely had time to finish the thought before the light changed, and the drivers in the other lanes – content in the knowledge that Jon wasn’t behind them – instantly took off at top speed, dozens of cars whizzing past before Vikram even considered taking his foot off the brake.
At least, that was how it was supposed to happen.
Instead, keenly aware of the disapproving eyes upon him, Vikram reacted with the same alacrity to the changing of the light and began to speed forward.
“Trust me, my friends,” he said to the disbelieving drivers all around him. “I know what I’m doing.”
Too stunned by his actions to think to respond any differently, the two cars behind him also surged forward with a sudden jerk.
Jon’s hopes, Vikram knew, were rising. He wasn’t going to be left waiting while all of the other cars on either side left him eating their dust.
As the hopes built up, Vikram could feel them washing over him, and, as he neared the center of the intersection, he grabbed hold of those hopes and threw them under the wheels of the cars in the other lanes by suddenly slamming on his brakes. The two cars, understanding what Vikram had done, did the same, leaving Jon with no choice but to slam on his own brakes and watch the line of cars, that had grown to extend over a half a mile, move steadily forward along Route 7 and leaving him behind.
The disapproval of the other drivers instantly turned to adulation.
The day was off to a shitty start for Jon, and Vikram knew that, if only in the collective unconscious of the drivers of Northern Virginia, songs would be sung about the magnificence of his glorious achievement.
With a smile, Vikram took his foot off the brake, punched the gas, and left Jon, shaken by the jolt of the sudden stop, shaking his head and swearing behind him.