Friday, March 28, 2008

In a Parked Car

The street is drenched in sunlight. The slight breeze that rolls up the hill is blocked by the surrounding buildings, leaving this particular street to a heavy stillness, a quiet pocket of dusty air covered by a blanket of dense heat. The sidewalk is covered in cracks and forgotten symbols, slight attempts at immortality from sixteen-year-olds in love and little kids in ripped jeans. A driving sign cautions drivers not to turn left, its metal is bent and warped, faded by the sun and brought down from the ideal to the particular by a thousand little defects that now cover its once pristine surface. The grass at the edge of the sidewalk is overgrown, tall weeds extend outwards to the street, finding hope in the noise of infrequent cars and the grainy, dark blue asphalt. A forgotten little toy car has found a resting place in the middle of the tall leaves, alongside a discarded can of beer and a piece of oil stained cloth. The smell of boiling stew seeps out from a window, along with a woman calling a name that can only belong to a little boy. Other voices fade in and out, as if finding secret pathways through the little currents of air that make their way across the heavy blanket of heat.
The building is three stories tall. There’s a stairway leading upstairs at the corner. It is made of stone planks, connected into a sequence by a dark metal skeleton. Facing the street are four sets of windows, each large and dirty. Some clothes can be seen hanging from an upper one, the reflection of a TV can be seen on one of the lower ones. The walls are covered in a discolored maroon and the edges of the windows are bright yellow. The lowest level of the building is an open garage with enough room for four different vehicles. Only one slot is filled with a parked car, two are completely empty and in the fourth there is an old discarded light brown couch, covered in broken plastic wrap. It is covered in marks and holes, some from exposure to the elements, some from mischievous little hands. The couch is propped up on rotting wooden planks. There is a tiny table next to it and a forgotten empty bottle of wine propped up against the wall.
The single parked car is an antique, a large curvaceous monster covered in fins and bright colors. The metal decors are mostly in their original place but the colors show gaps of white and naked metal. The windows are darkened by the angle of the sun and the shadow of the garage roof. Only one window is rolled down and slight noises can be heard coming from inside. The car shifts slightly every once in a while, revealing movement in its darkened interior.
Two women sit inside, looking at each other and talking continuously. One sits in the driver seat and the other one in the passenger seat. They have their arms over the tall front seats and they are so fascinated with the sound of each others’ voices that their surroundings seem to vanish around them. They are both a similar age, around 40 years old, they both show the signs of married life, motherhood and many years of daily struggle. They are both Filipino and both wear a similar kind of faded dress covered by a dirty apron. Their arms are thick and their skin is brown. Every so often, they lean forward to catch a whispered phrase or to deliver a specially conspiratorial secret.
The inside of the car is drenched in their sweat and flowery perfume. They open and close their eyes in a silent sign of trust and secret confidence. The latest news of the woman next door, the last we heard of the nephew, that postcard from the one who left a year ago, the stories of the single man that lives a few doors down… it all slides back and forth. Listening and talking. Talking and listening. A rhythm of whispers and staccato statements of rumored fact and factual rumor, a music of broken phrases and never-ending stories that only pauses when someone walks too close. Then one of them turns, looks at the sidewalk, waits for the intruder to walk away and turns back to her companion. The concerto of intense quiet stories then continues and the electrical currents flow through the sweat and the perfume and the heat… once again.

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