Barely There


I was driving a Lexus through a rustling wind. This is a car assembled in a work area that’s completely free of human presence. Not a spot of mortal sweat except, okay, for the guys who drive the product out of the plant—allow a little moisture where they grip the wheel. The system flows forever onward, automated to priestly nuance, every gliding movement back-referenced for prime performance. Hollow bodies coming in endless sequence. There’s nobody on the line with caffeine nerves or a history of clinical depression. Just the eerie weave of chromium alloys carried in interlocking arcs, block iron and asphalt sheeting, soaring ornaments of coachwork fitted and merged. Robots tightening bolts, programmed drudges that do not dream of family dead.

It’s a culmination in a way, machines made and shaped outside the little splat of human speech. And this made my rented car a natural match for the landscape I was crossing. Heat shimmer rising on the empty flats. A bled-white sky with ticky breezes raking dust across the windshield. And the species factually absent from the scene—except for me, of course, and I was barely there.

Don DeLillo — Underworld

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