CARA BENSON – “Civilians”


We’re driving and we’re late, but not as late as we have been other trips. It’s ridiculous, how close we cut it – like we have all the time in the world. One red light, one slowpoke we can’t pass, and we don’t get off the island for 24 hours. Soon as high season’s over, the ferries don’t come but once a day. We’ve tried to befriend more than a few boat owners out here through the years, but that doesn’t get the car over. Besides, the locals aren’t the easiest to get to know.
“Next year,” he says, “let’s leave the car on the mainland.”
“We always say that,” I say, “but then we always bring it.”
Even on an island we’re car dependent. Shameful, really. Killing the planet and so on. We get to the terminal in the nick, the mechanized arm lifting for us as we roll into the line of cars driving on board the massive ferry. We inch forward slowly, each car gruffly pointed at and directed into place by Victor who’s got no patience anymore, if ever he had any. We wave to him and he gives us his chin, which is as close as we’ll get, we figure, to feeling like natives.
“No really,” he continues as I manoeuvre us into our designated spot. “We can bring bikes.”
“I don’t know,” I say. “It’s such a vulnerable position to be in on the road.”
For some reason we’re both slow to get out of the vehicle, which we’re supposed to do for the duration of the ride. We know Victor will see us before too long and force us up on deck. We also know that we will, eventually, comply.


Cara Benson’s writing has been published in The New York Times, Boston Review, Best American Poetry, Hobart, The Brooklyn Rail, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and elsewhere. She’s at work on her second book, an autofiction set in late capitalism. You can find her on her site (, on Twitter (@cbenson67), or on Facebook (

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