Saturday, April 26, 2008

Red Light

The bright light of early afternoon has blanketed the one-way city street. There are an assortment of semi- tall buildings and skyscrapers, some are sleek and new, their mirrored windows reflecting the perfect blue sky. Other are smaller, only ten stories high, remnants from an early period of architecture and city planning, the building faces are decorated with colorful tile work, geometric brick patterns, and wrought iron gates. The street is composed of three lanes, and I sit idling in the center lane, waiting at a red light. My hands are resting on the top of my steering wheel, gripping it out of habit. Within the small cab of my black truck, I feel the heat of the day amplified by the windshield. I am wearing a low cut T-shirt, and the exposed skin on my chest is warm and red from the sunlight. To my right is a man in a silver car, his hairy arm hangs out the window, his pudgy hand holds a burning cigarette. The smell surrounding me is a mix of smoke, car exhaust, and asphalt.
To my left is a liquor store, a black man in a black beanie emerges from the store with a poorly disguised vodka bottle in a paper sack. A short white man wearing a gray sweatshirt stands outside the entrance, smoking a cigarette. He looks up and down the street often, squinting his eyes with each inhalation. On the other side of the street is a small office supply store and an abandoned-feeling real estate office. Men in business suits move quickly on the sidewalks, a woman in a knee length brown skirt pushes a baby carriage toward the city center, and delivery men come and go with carts full of perishables.
My car window is open, and the sounds of accelerating cars and muffled ranchero music enters the space. There is a man pressed against my car. He is leaning in my window, his hands holding onto the steering wheel. As our eyes lock, he alternates between a human form, with distinguishable features and then, into a shadowy body with no face. He wears all dark clothes, black pants and a black hooded sweatshirt, and atop his bald head is a black hat. I smell his clothes, dirty and reeking of staleness. His face alternates from one of blackness without any shape to one of olive skin and a vague, stubbly beard. When he has eyes, they are dark brown and piercing, his eyebrows are thick with many long stray hairs turning away from any clear formation. He holds the wheel firmly with no intention of letting go.

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