Thursday, July 01, 2004

PASSENGER SEAT (a short story)

Outside the window I stare serenely at the dark, ominous clouds that hang on the mountains like a hat tilting over one eye, suggesting that the wearer has a certain amount of swagger. The twisting force of shadow and light threatens to swoop down through the valley until it overtakes us where we hide in our automotive refuge. Though, from this distance, it has a calm, gentle effect on me. It reminds me of cheap paintings that you find at an outdoor bazaar occupied by congregated tourists full of delectation toward the wondrous gathering of culture found in Amerika’s town squares. The paintings, filled with blue gray swirling back to black or white and occasionally streaked with yellow or red to create dramatic effect, are too perfect, yet somehow not quite right, not good enough for my wall. They’re eventually sold to gasping middle-aged families with skin that is too large, piling into oversized vehicles until they reach their suburban country two-story-six-bedroom homes with lawns pristinely manicured by other hands and rooms with plenty of wall space for schlock mistaken for Art.

What are you laughing at?
She glances at me sideways.

I wasn’t laughing.
At least I didn’t realize that I was laughing.

You weren’t, but I could tell that you wanted to.

Her eyes gleam at me and I knew that she could see right into my soul. I know that sounds ridiculous because what is a soul really? Do we even have a soul? Whatever it is, I know one thing, a soul is an extremely personal part of each of us, not meant for others to see or understand. She could do both as far as mine was concerned. This scares me and excites me at the same time, deeply, to the core of my being. That’s why, whenever she looks at me that way, my heart shrinks and slides into my penis giving me a fast erection. It was there, pushing at the crotch of my jeans before I can even react.

I shift in my seat, putting my feet up on the dash and look back out the window.

I realize that I was giving the view I perceived an improper analysis. This sky could never be as horribly perfect as those paintings. It had the passion of reality. It was flawed, angry and hungry. It had the hand of the universe to guide its turbulent motion. It forced open like an umbrella and dumped its sadness over the land giving life. It makes you sink down into the that deep, warm spot at the center of your being that is extremely thankful that cars come with heaters.

I wonder how long it will take for the storm to catch us, which makes me look to Amanda for insight. Her eyes remain locked on the landscape that she skillfully navigates and beyond my thoughts I hear the quiet immersed in the moment. So I secure my voice somewhere near my belly where all thoughts left unsaid go to be devoured and I begin to listen.

I hear the hum of the asphalt greeting the heat collecting in the tires. I hear the swish of the air as it plows over the front grill and effortlessly changes directions swooping, skidding, swerving, spinning, climbing along the surface of the car, twisting and twirling with new perspective until it escapes beyond the back-end into the car’s jet stream and is pulled along for a few meters until our inertia finally lets it go where it hovers, completely new but older, changed until it encounters a new force that will alter its perception forever. I hear the signs by the road whipping past, stating their greeting for a quick moment, letting you in on their vital secret that is always informative, sometimes helpful. I hear the grass in the fields that holds a dialogue with the wind that is aged beyond words or any form of articulation that we can ever imagine. I hear the grapes bursting on the vine, screaming to be drunk so that it may fulfill its mission of drinking humanity and making us slaves to its delectable delights that bring joy, sadness, humor and despair. I hear the trees whispering for the rain that will soon be visited upon their heads. I hear the lost cry of prehistoric birds that flew through the valley when it was free from the choking dust of industrial growth that spews out of our tailpipe. I hear the low grumble of the plates in the earth. I hear my heart swimming laps throughout my body, from my brain to my toes, along the lining of my stomach that isn’t quite finished with the quandary of when the storm would consume us. I hear Amanda’s soft, strong hands gripping the steering wheel and long for the memory of them clutching my back with devout intensity. I hear the hum behind her tongue seeking a melody from her childhood that lies at the edge of her thoughts, jumping away with its juvenile game of hide-n-seek. I hear her hair delicately caress her shoulders where her muscles ache beneath a scar purchased from a large expensive belt buckle that was bigger than the heart of the man who wore it. I hear my heels digging into the vinyl of the dash, which yields comfortably to the pressure bearing down on it. I hear the voice in my soul begging for me to listen.

Outside the window the world floats into the past at a remarkable speed and is forgotten instantly. Amanda and I, in our clanking time machine and our minute thoughts, will be forgotten just as quickly. Patient and malleable, this world will outlast our technological era that makes ghosts out of what is real. And the dream of humanity will fade from life. We only have a moment to really listen, to find our small space in this universe. A fleeting, quick second to understand our hearts and find the rhythm that beats in this earth, this world, this vast macrocosm that we are now a part. It’s a challenge, I know, but it’s all we have before we are gone.

I look over at Amanda. She cuts a quick peek at me and smiles so that I’ll feel better. Sometimes I think her heart is in that place that understands all that the universe is trying to tell us. Maybe that’s why she can look right into my soul. My eyes drift away from her, but don’t really see anything else. Not the instrumentation on the dash or the way her hand reaches out and touches mine delicately or the darkening world that still exists outside the window. My eyes drift down within my essence and the tranquil meditation begins. I sink into the nether world of sleep.

As the first of the rain splatters on the windshield, I am not there to see the answer to my question. I am lost. My eyes are closed and the world simply doesn’t matter.



Post a Comment

<< Home