‘Drive’ by Cristina Henríquez

Drive by Cristina Henríquez, 2004

The magic trick:

Stylizing the connections between scenes, but doing so in a way that never feels too obvious

“Drive” beautifully unites 18 scenes (they’re clearly separated and numbered) to harrowing effect.

They don’t necessarily lead into each other like a perfectly linear narrative, but neither are they scattered and rearranged as some kind of postmodern experiment. The scenes or sections show up and fade, only to be recalled again later through another conversation or image in the story.

Every story has to find that confident balance between making its connections clear enough for the reader to understand but not so obvious as to insult the reader. “Drive” walks that tightrope perfectly.

And that’s quite a trick on Henríquez’s part.

The selection:

“No person wants to buy appliances,” he says as if he were the one who invented appliances and is taking it as a personal affront.

It’s like this all over the city. A few months ago two new highways opened here. They’re a big joke, though, and everyone knows it. The south highway runs through the city and is supposed to ease up traffic everywhere else only it doesn’t go exactly where anyone needs to go and it costs a whole $3.00 to even drive on the thing in the first place. Who’s going to pay to ride on a stupid highway when the other roads are free? The north highway costs the same and was built mostly to connect the airport to the city, so it was pretty obvious from the beginning that it was mostly for the tourists. To us that highway was like a rejection, like a mother shepherding her children quickly past the sight of a dead dog. The highway stretched for miles through nothing. On the old route, you would have seen the billboards for Café Duran and Daewoo and Adidas and you would have seen dirty people at ramshackle bus stops and walking the streets with shopping carts. You would have seen stray cats darting like tadpoles over broken streets and dusty, unpaved shoulders. You would have heard corrugated metal gates grinding down at the end of the day and horns bleating their impatience and men whooping at the putas walking by. You would have seen real life here. But I guess real life is often unsightly so they built a highway straight into the heart of the city to keep visitors away from what’s real, away from the heart of us. The speed limit on both is an insane 65 miles an hour, a speed unheard of in a country where being in a car means either being mired in a sea of traffic or navigating through small dirt roads. The very thought of shooting around in a car that fast scares the shit out of everyone. But it’s all very modern, you know. And it goes basically unused.

The highway, appliances. They’re the same thing, I want to tell him. The people here, it’s not that they’re not ready for these things, they just don’t want them.

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