Jun 22, 2006

Calm jam

The black smoke billows up into the purpling sky and the cars collect along the lines of the lanes. I’m pushed up next to the rail, the concrete wall running a division between the twelve lanes, and when I turn off my radio I can hear the mumbles of stereo systems reverbing off the pavement in rap and talk and rock. All the cars sit there, idling and playing music and putting out exhaust in shimmering waves and all the noises come together like the tuneless hum of a distracted kid. The grasps of heat are letting go on the highway and the last of it rose off and somehow all the calmness came together enjambed.

A little boy looks at me and grins, hiding his face behind the car door so only his eyes showed, and grins again.

There are, I think, 17 ways of cutting and eating and orange. I have no way of knowing this and have only ever used two, but it seems true. I prefer a knife. I like to cut off the ends and score the sides in triangles, peeling them away so they make the sound of released roots and all the white hairs reach out breathing into the air where you can smell nothing but the smell of citrus and when I'm done there are seven equal and symmetrical sections. Then I'd push my thumb through the center so it will split into an offering of pulp-skinned slices. I don't have a knife though, on the highway, and so I do it by hand.

I gouge a pit in the center of one side with a finger nail and work out from there, tearing off uneven pieces of peel that are shaped like countries bordered by rivers and forgotten out in some back country. The peels stack up in my empty passenger seat and then tip over, spill over the baking brown vinyl.

The black smoke grays and then goes white, like a cloud the color of paper, and then weakens into wisps of steam as we edge forward over to see the empty van with its door open to take the water from a hose. A fireman walks away, taking off his jacket.