Monday, July 13, 2009

Waiting at the Light

I see the stoplight fifty feet ahead of me change from yellow to red. I press on the brakes and pull up to the white crosswalk at a crawl. On the other side of the street is the pole of the steel stoplight, holding out its blaring red circle like a still wizard. He commands my patience. My muscles tense as I sit. It’s just a few minutes past nine and the morning air is full of cold mist and whisper-light gusts of fog. The sky high above is a force of thick gray and white. My body shrinks slightly. There is annoyance, there is the deadness of wasted time. The forced motionless wait. I look ahead, at the street beyond this intersection. There is a silver car on the right side of the road, double parked next to the long line of cars standing still next to the sidewalk.
And then, something ruffles my attention. Something faster and more subtle than consciousness or thought. A force quicker than lightning, a movement so fast as to be close to indescribable. I look again at the double parked car, at the yellow blinking headlights.
The street is lined with one-story box-like houses, packed so tight and neatly that they touch walls. Yellow touches white, white touches beige, beige clings to blue. The yellow lights keep blinking. The street ahead rises at a slight angle for five hundred feet and then at a stop sign in the distance, drops abruptly out of sight.
Ten houses past the blinking car… I watch a man walk down the front stoop of his box house. His head is slightly lowered, watching his feet and the stairs. The distance between us has turned all his colors black. His skin, clothes, hair, all his features, he is one movement of blackened limbs. He walks across the street and disappears from sight. A moment later, a man begins to walk out his front door and down the stoop. Didn’t I just see this? Is it the same man, did I watch the future from this vibrating car? Is it his brother, following him out the door? How many people live in each of these houses?
Warm walls that protect against the cold of this air. They seem extra important on a day like this.
A red car starts to my left and moves to the right side of my vision. It zooms past, unhindered by a red light. I stare ahead. The yellow headlights are blinking, there is no one in the street, the houses sit quietly in the fog. From the world beyond the stop sign, a white car ascends the hill and approaches, passing the car with the hazard lights.
Two cars cross the field of my vision, one red, one black, they cross parallel paths in the asphalt square of the intersection. In my peripheral vision, I see two cars coming to join me at the light of patience. They settle into stillness on my right and my left. I do not turn my head, but I am completely conscious of their arrival. I feel the strength of their idle mechanical parts, the humming of their churning engines.
I see myself from the outside… the girl dazing off…she does not even blink. What thoughts dance in her mind?
But no, I am aware of them all. Conscious of every movement that has passed my body. Every car, every sound.
I am really here, only here.
My own past is non-existent, my future is a blur of white, even my immediate destination is far beyond any thought.
The car beyond the stoplight keeps blinking. I am with them all at this moment. Completely immersed.

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