Street Scenes

Our street was a desolate, one-way suburban enclave smack in the middle of the town center. Next to it lay the busiest main road at the time, the susurrations of the neverending traffic lulling me to sleep at night. Down the road was an airport but the only time I heard the planes overhead was when I couldn’t hear myself on the telephone for their insistent roar. Our street was almost always empty of traffic or pedestrians and the constant din above and beyond soothed me and reinforced the isolation of our surroundings, leaving me with a life-long dread of utter silence.

1. I drive hastily into the street after a silly argument with a silly girl and the little one darts onto the road from between two parked cars. I have just about second to stop and step on the brake with all my might and the car halts inches from the child. I hurry out of the car. The little girl is about four or five. She has no idea what is going on. Her mother runs out into the street and embraces her. I look into the little girl’s eyes and she stares into mine. We are both confused. The mother is just happy the girl is all right but I am still stunned. The mother has a friend, a mean-faced woman who immediately starts scolding me. The little girl looks at me, more with curiosity than fear or anger. The mother asks whether I would like to sit down and have a glass of water or something. Her friend goes on with her scolding, angry at me and the world. The little girl and I just stare at each other as her mother holds her warmly, all three of us indifferent to the friends’ scolding.

2. I remove the skis from my rocking horse which has red glass eyes like rubies and place my horse of hardest plastic at the top of the stairs. My rocking horse has no name. I sit astraddle the horse with no name and push it forward, The two of us tumble down the stairs but in a flash I’m rolling down on my own. I land on the stairwell with a thud. Then the horse with no name falls right on my head.

The next day I watch the garbage truck from my window. One of the garbage men is carrying my horse. He puts it into the truck. I run outside howling and crying. The garbage truck takes off and drives down the road as I run after it shrieking, crying for my horse. The truck continues its inexorable path and disappears into the indifferent traffic and I stand in the middle of the street, dumbstruck, the image of my horse’s ruby eyes glinting in the dark belly of the truck edged in my mind.

3. I’m told to come to the hospital right away. I drive down the street at a breakneck pace. The postman or boy strides leisurely along the middle of the road. I almost mow him down as he jumps out of the way.

It is already too late.

4. The other kids playing in the street are older and their game today beyond me. I trundle home dejected. Cousin Steini comes to pick me up. His Kawasaki motorcycle is the most powerful one in the country at present, although there is another one just like it. He tells me to get on and I hold on to his back for dear life even before he revs up. He ties some leather strap to the wheel and takes off. We thunder down the street and the sensation is like flying, I cannot feel him, myself or the machine, just myself hurtling through thin air. The kids part before us like the Red Sea and the leather strap snaps with resounding whiplash as we disappear down the street and I can feel every eye on my back and the silence in our wake as the older kids stand there, mouths agape.

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