Wednesday, December 3, 2008

ग्लास एंड तह एंड ऑफ़ childhood

The freshly cut glass had a dangerous feel to it. The edges bit into his hands. The cuts it made were shallow, nearly invisible but painful. David was proud that day. He and his dad had spent hours rubbing the paint on their 1979 Toyota Corolla. The dull, chalky yellow had vanished under their sweat and beautiful hot-rod yellow blazed forth. They had defeated the merciless California sun, brought out the true beauty of the car and David wanted to apply an extra coat of wax to protect the newly exposed paint, to keep it safe from the July heat.

His dad needed to pick up a new window for the house. It was a perfect errand for the newly new car as it meant driving off base and showing all of Sacramento the fruit of their labor. David hurriedly washed his hands and put on his favorite Harley Davidson t-shirt. He glanced in the mirror briefly as he washed the powdery wax from his hands, feeling it go slimy as soon as the water touched it. He felt home here after years outside the country. His long hair turning blond, his dog, his skateboard all made him feel like he had returned from exile. No more mean old Germans, still stinging from the defeat of the Nazis after thirty years, conveying their displeasure with the American military presence to him through the blows of their children on the playground.

He hurried to look at the car again. He moved the glint of the sun by walking around it, leaning forward, squatting, feeling his hair fall over his face and back on to his neck. If he looked straight into the sky he could feel it between his shoulder blades. That was his favorite sensation.

“You’re gonna have to cut that hair” his dad said as he skirted the car and bounced into the drivers seat.

“I know” David replied, trying to time his landing in the passenger seat to coincide with Dad’s frame, so that he could feel like he was making the car sink with his weight.

He had no intention of getting his hair cut; he had learned not to oppose that command, just the action. Mom would be the one that had to take him, and he could charm her into letting him keep most of it. He would enlist the help of the Supercuts stylist to extol the virtues of long hair on men, try to extend the seventies a few extra years, appeal to nostalgia. He was confident that the hair was staying.

The Toyota felt agile, he waved to people they knew drawing as much attention to the car as possible. He liked that it wasn’t new, but remade, given new life through work and knowledge. The paint was desperately bright, he wished it didn’t have a vinyl top. That patch of fake, brown leather was robbing them of some wattage.

At the lumber store his dad produced a soft cottony piece of paper. The man at the lumber store looked at it with raised eyebrows and laid it down. He quickly cut the glass. It was fragile. Carrying it was a precarious operation what with trying not to slide his hands to protect them but having to adjust his grip to keep up with Dad’s longer and quicker strides. Dad held the glass solo when they got to the car.

“Get in and put your seat belt on.”

As David adjusted himself and his dad began to lean into the car it became clear that the glass was not going to fit in David’s lap.

“Put your seat all the way back.”

“It is, but I can lean it back a little.”

David’s heart started beating faster. The glass came in now, the front edge sliding on the dashboard while he propped the back edge and kept it from touching his face.”

“Lift your head up.”

David tilted his head back and with a final adjustment the glass fit, the front edge resting on the dash and against the windshield, the back edge nearly touching his neck. He started to say something inadvertently leaning forward and felt the biting sensation on his neck.

“Dad this isn’t going to work.”

Dad pretended not to hear and moved hurriedly toward the driver’s seat.

“I’m not riding like this.”


“Look how close it is to my neck, what it…”

“It will be fine.”


David started to move, lifting the glass up turning his head to so it didn’t hit his chin.

“Dad just put it in the trunk.”

“It will break in there.”

David had forgotten the bright yellow paint. The car was just a box where he was going to be decapitated.

“I’m moving” he said.

The sound of the glass scraping against the windshield seemed to propel his Dad back out of the car and around to David, he took it and gently slid it out. David remained in his seat touching his neck and fingers, feeling the little cuts.

“Open the trunk.”

David leaned over and grabbed the keys from the ignition. He slowly got out and moved to the back of the car. His Dad impatiently looked at the trunk, gesturing with his head and eyes to indicate that David should hurry up and open it. He did and then looked in briefly confirming that there was nothing in the way. He didn’t watch his father put the glass in. He got back in the passenger side and held the keys awkwardly, hovering them in the space between the seats.

When his father got in the car David did not look at him.

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