She could not drive if there were too many clouds in the sky. Or rather, if she could drive with many clouds in the sky, she could not have music playing if there were also passengers in the car. If there were two passengers, as well as a small caged animal, and many clouds in the sky, she could listen but not speak. If a wind blew shavings from the small animal’s cage over her shoulder and lap as well as the shoulder and lap of the man next to her, she could not speak to anyone or listen, even if there were very few clouds in the sky. If the small boy was quiet, reading his book in the back seat, but the man next to her opened his newspaper so wide that its edge touched the gearshift and the sunlight shone off its white page into her eyes, then she could not speak or listen while trying to enter a large highway full of fast-moving cars, even if there were no clouds in the sky.
Then, if it was night and the boy was not in the car, and the small caged animal was not in the car, and the car was empty of boxes and suitcases where before it had been full, and the man next to her was not reading a newspaper but looking out the window straight ahead, and the sky was dark so that she could see no clouds, she could listen but not talk, and she could have no music playing, if a motel brightly illuminated above her on a dark hill some distance ahead and to the left seemed to be floating across the highway in front as she drove at high speed between dotted lines with headlights coming at her on the left and up behind her in the rearview mirror and taillights ahead in a gentle curve around to the right underneath the massive airship of motel lights floating across the highway from left to right in front of her, or could talk, but only to say one thing, which went unanswered.
— “How She Could Not Drive” from Varieties of Disturbance (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007). Copyright © 2007 by Lydia Davis. Used with permission of the Denise Shannon Literary Agency, Inc. and the author.