Monday, December 29, 2008

Maneuvering Over The Wreckage

My body rests in the soft contours of a plush Oldsmobile seat. I am in the driver’s seat, in front of a clear windshield and a long cream colored hood, a hood so long I can barely see where it ends. In the rear is a long bench seat covered in maroon fabric that resembles velvet, but is not. Behind the back seat is a slightly tinted rear window and the long tail of the car that also curves beyond the horizon of my sight. The front seat is also a singular bench wide enough for three people, but in the car, there is only me and a 10 year old Korean boy who sits close to the passenger window, the right side of his body leaning into the car door. A fabric seat belt clings to him, stretching diagonally from the far end of the passenger door to the shiny buckle on his left side. The front seat is upholstered in the same faux velvet material, but its color is different than the back. Along the edges is an outline in maroon, but in the center, covering the middle of both the backrest and the seat, is a mixture of silver and brown threads that have been knitted together. Both my hands on the thin plastic wheel, slightly above center. We are in a wealthy suburban neighborhood on a very bright day. Although there are no clouds in the sky, the sky is not blue; it’s almost like the sunlight has taken over everything, turning every color into a yellow hue that’s so bright it borders on white. It is the brilliance of a candle flame, so bright it hurts to look at it. The light has colored each house into the shade of bleached sand. Each home in the neighborhood is large and spacious, they are mostly two story homes with wide steps that lead up to an impressive oak door. Each house is set apart from its neighbor by ample space and also slightly away from the street. The land between the street and houses is barren, there are no trees, no flowers, no cars or signs of life. The road that cuts through the neighborhood is wide, large enough for 6 lanes of traffic, but there are no other cars. Along with the black asphalt, all the traffic lines have disappeared beneath a thick layer of trash. Most of the debris is industrial, white plastic tubing, sharp pieces of chrome and aluminum in a thousand different sizes. Bricks add their color to the heavy chunks of cement and balls of wire. There are tires torn to shreds and pieces of paper that float slightly above the litter whenever a breeze picks up. Scattered every couple of feet are huge upright refrigerators made of tarnished metal, the kind used in commercial kitchens and bakeries. They are scattered along the road like orange cones without intent, without any uniformity or clear indication of purpose. As I drive, I swerve through them, sometimes needing to veer to the right to avoid hitting one, then needing to move back quickly to the left to avoid hitting another one that stands in our path. My foot is barely touching the gas pedal and the car crawls over the junk like a tortoise. My eyes are completely fixed on the road and I make every effort to avoid the corners of sharp objects, but I feel anxious, I’m afraid the tires will pop at any moment, I’m afraid we’ll hit a refrigerator. There are dings and dents in their sides, scars from other cars. Some of them have doors that hang by a single bolt. The little boy beside me takes no notice of the wreckage, he stares out the window in a posture of slight boredom and familiarity. This bumpy ride is nothing new to him, he has traveled the obstacle course of his neighborhood many times, staring through the window without any interest in the sights beyond.

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