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He had highway hypnosis. Maybe something worse. It was hard to tell. He sensed it coming when he could no longer feel the steering wheel in his hand. The ridges of his fingertips could not even make out the faintest tatter or rip of the worn steering wheel cover. He knew he shouldn't have been driving. His face felt longer and tired. He could feel how deep his eyes were sunk in. Then, all of that vanished into a replay of what had happened at a party a few weeks before. He was outside smoking, when someone charged up to him and yelled, "who do you think you are?!"

"James," was all he said, as he took a deep drag off his cigarette. He wasn't sure if being a smart ass to some unknown guy at some random party that he wasn't even sure if he was invited to was the wisest choice. Still, there was no backing down from it. To his surprise, the idiot kid just kinda laughed and asked, "you just think you're James? Or...do you know you're James?"

He paused for a while, not even mulling over the question in his mind, distracted himself by lighting another smoke and said, "yeah. I think."

The unknown guy stared at him blankly, trying not to look too puzzled, then simply turned and walked away. When he was no longer in ear shot, James added real quiet to himself, but outloud, "or maybe. I don't know."

That's all he could think about. He kept playing it over and over in his mind. Not so much that he dodged a frat boy-sized bullet and came out unscathed, but more the question and his answer.
It wasn't sarcasm. He wasn't trying to be funny or coy. It was a knee-jerk response. It was the truth. He wasn't sure. He didn't know, he only thought. He wasn't sure if it was his unknowing that vexed him so, or if it was the fact that some one he didn't know and didn't give a shit about, made him feel so unsure.

"Who do you think you are!?"
"You just think you're James? Or...do you know you're James?"
"Yeah. I think."
"Or maybe. I don't know."

"Or maybe. I don't know." He kept repeating that to himself over and over again. What did that even mean? He couldn't figure out if he sincerely didn't know or if he was just being a jerk about the whole situation. He couldn't stop it. It absolutely would not stop.

"Ya think?"
"I think."
"Or Maybe. I don't know."

He tried to rationalize with himself, concluding that he kept replaying it in his mind because it was so strange and he didn't mean it. The random guy thought he did, but he didn't truly mean it. He knew who he was. He was James (I think...). He didn't need anyone to make him feel otherwise (I think...). That whole situation was just ridiculous (I think...). He knew he had to stop it, but the more he tried to talk himself out of it, the more his mind kept repeating, "I think."

"Do you think, or do you know?"

He knew he didn't know. Yes, obviously he was James. His parents named him that. He'd been James for twenty-three years, but it was no longer a question of if he thought or knew what his name was. The more he thought it over, the more he realized the cause for his answer. Though he knew he was James, he didn't fully know who he was. Not anymore. Not at that point, at least. He wasn't sure when it happened. There was no specific point in time that he could name as the moment his existence fell apart. There were only situations and circumstances leading up to it. Those he could pin-point. Those he could remember. He just hadn't thought about them for so long, and with good reason. He knew why he felt so much less like James and so much more like "or maybe. I don't know." That was who he was now.

He snapped out of it when his car started to slow and sputter. The gas light was on. There were a pile of cigarette butts in the ashtray. It was dark outside. There were no street lights. He could feel that his shirt was wet around the neck and chest and realized that he had been crying. He had no recollection of smoking or crying or even being so low on gas. It was still daylight when he had started driving. He fumbled in the floorboards for a flashlight, found two empty packs of cigarettes and one about half-empty, grabbed his matches and a road map and got out of the car. He looked around, shining the flashlight here and there, in a surprisingly calm fashion. Cornfields. Dirt Road. Nothing. He was out in the country, and he wasn't sure how he'd gotten there.

He wiped his face with his sleeve, shrugged it off and started walking in the opposite direction. He didn't know what time it was or where he was. He didn't know how long he'd be walking or what would become of his car. He wasn't sure if he cared, really.
Or maybe.
I don't know.

Created: Feb 03, 2012


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