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Somewhere Between the Windshield and the Steering Wheel

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“Late,” she said as the door shut.

“I realize I said I’d be home earlier but…” I started while shuffling out of my sneakers.

“Well I’m so glad you realize.” Her lips softened into a smirk. “Come let me warm up the dinner so we can eat,” she said as she got up from the couch.

I took off my jacket and followed Nell into the kitchen. She was wearing her blue satin dress that played with the air when she walked. I always told her she was tempting even the birds when she wore the dress and every time she replied she was only tempting me and I was just jealous that others got to see. She was partly true.

Nell walked over to the oven and flicked the light switch hovering over the stove. The green-yellow fluorescent light fell on the stove, and she adjusted her brown rimmed glasses. I moved over to the kitchen table to get out of her way. There was one silver pan on the stove. Nell removed the aluminum foil that covered it. She looked inside the pan for a moment, then replaced the aluminum foil and put the pan in the oven. She turned a dial on the oven and walked over to the table to join me.

Nell sat parallel to me but didn’t look at me. She placed her glasses on the table and closed her eyes. I was late and didn’t want to bother her. I slid a cookbook closer to me. The cookbook had a chocolate cake on the cover. It looked very tasty.

After about five minutes Nell rose, took two plates from the cabinet, and retrieved the pan from the oven. She emptied the potatoes, steak, and broccoli onto the plates and placed the pan in the sink. She then opened the refrigerator and got a bag of salad and dressing.

“Do you need help,” I asked, feeling a little awkward and useless. She didn’t reply.

Nell walked our dinner to the table and arranged it in her usual painstaking manner. She sat down and lifted a fork to start eating.

“You know you could’ve eaten without me,” trying to make the table more comfortable.

“I would feel so lonely in this big room if I did.” She tried to smile. “Anyways I love our dinners together. We don’t get to do this very often.”

She raised a potato to her mouth and bit it looking at me still trying to smile. I moved the cookbook and also raised a potato while raising my eyebrows. This got her to laugh.

“So what’s wrong? You’ve been quiet since I got home.”

“Oh I was waiting for you to start up a conversation.”

“Penelope, now I know something’s wrong, you never wait for me to talk,” I said. “Tell me what’s happening.”

“No, it’s nothing, it would be boring for you, don’t mind it.”

“Come on, I’m starting to worry,” I said smiling

“Oh all right, just for you.” She moved her chair up to the table and leaned towards me and began. “Your little sister called me again this afternoon. She was supposed to be working but you know Tara and the idea of her working is profane.” Nell picked up a little broccoli and ate it. “So today she called to ask me about my idols and what sports were popular in Brazil when I was growing up. I told her that soccer was pretty popular and my grandmother was my idol but that’s what everybody says, you know” She cut a little bit of steak while still looking at me. Her face was focused and her bright eyes started to pierce a little bit. “But I forgot, I forgot my idol. You see I didn’t remember until I hung up the phone. And I just couldn’t stop thinking about it.” She looked down on her steak targeted it with her fork and raised it to her lips. “I totally forgot.”

“So who was it?” I said trying, to clear the space between us.
His name was Senna and he was Brazil’s champion racer, Brazil’s pride. He was who I wanted to be, I wished for his speed, his carefree and quiet determination, his ability to stop his life and just race . It felt like, I don’t know, like realness to me I guess.” Her eyes kept their focus. “I would watch his every race with my family. We would roar with joy when he won and whenever he made a turn we would feel it. It was like an unease that comes to your stomach, you know like when you bike down a steep hill. You’re falling down the hill, your speed is increasing, your hair is flowing to the wind, your shoelaces start to untie, and you feel it.” Nell pushed her hands in the air. “The feeling that you aren’t sure what’s about to happen. Of course you’re about to see but you’re not sure if you want to. You’ve broken the limit, your mind is free; and you don’t want the moment ruined. You grip your handlebars and you hit you brakes and you’re safe.” Nell looked back down at her food and finished her dinner. She then looked at me. I hadn’t eaten much at all. After I took a bite she continued.

“Senna was encouraged to live close to that line. But he crossed it one day. I don’t know, he was leading the race, he was winning, but he missed a turn and crashed. All of Brazil had him in heart when they heard he didn’t survive, but I was still at the T.V. I was watching confused. I didn’t know what really was going on. Senna was going for the turn and…I was at the top of the hill on my bike. I kicked off the curb and started to descend. As his car started to spin, I tried to find the pedals. They were spinning too fast for me to regain my footing. I couldn’t stop and Senna crashed into a wall. He had stopped but I was still riding down that hill waiting to hit the line, waiting to see what he saw. My stomach stayed there for the next few days while Brazil mourned.” Nell looked up at the ceiling. “I don’t know why, but I wasn’t mourning. I was curious. What happened when he started to spin, did he know, was he content, afraid, was he even conscious, did he take a glimpse at the line? What about when the wheel shot up into the car and smashed against his helmet, did he see it coming or was he in a daze, could he feel it when the piece the car blew through his head and left him dead? Did he reach for anything? Did he pray or did his pride and all his dreams just expire into dust somewhere between the windshield and the steering wheel? I wanted to know.”

“Penelope…it was just a freak accident.”

“Freak accident? That’s kind of a funny phrase.” She looked at me and smiled for a second then looked back at the ceiling. “I suppose all puberty is kind of a freak accident,” she said laughing to herself. “Yeah, I think that’s the day I grew up—woke up rather. It wasn’t the death, though, I had seen my grandmother die by the time I was eight. It was the fact that we could all see him die. Even with most of the world watching and hoping he wouldn’t die, he did anyway. The world couldn’t persuade the reality of what was going to happen. He wouldn’t tell me what lied beyond the line. He left Brazil in a state of sorrow and left me on our hill. He left us chaotic and random searching for the answers and I’m not sure if we’ve found them yet.” She found me again with her eyes.

I didn’t know what to say so I finished my dinner as quickly as I could. I looked down at the broccoli, potatoes, and steak; they all looked so foreign. Like Nell was trying to trick me into forgetting what they actually looked like. I couldn’t help thinking of the cake on the cookbook.

“Why didn’t you ask me why I was so late?” I asked her after I finished my plate.

“I assumed you had a reason.”

“Like what?”

“You were caught up in an assignment or you decided to pick something up or something like that.”

“Aren’t you curious?”

“Not really. But sure, why not?” she said as she tried to smile again.


“Well, I wish there was something interesting. You know, I wish there was some force keeping me from here, trying to ruin our night but there wasn’t, it was just traffic. I was waiting and honking but no one would move. We were all there just waiting for one another to move a little bit so we could ease in.” I left the table to get a water bottle. “We were there just glazing our eyes to the red lights and night sky but I felt different. Ihad that thing you described that lies in your stomach. It was just there lingering because I was afraid. I was afraid I would miss our dinner and you would kill me. I was just stopped there, waiting and thinking of what you would do, waiting for oblivion to swallow me up so I didn’t have to face you,” I twisted off the water bottle’s cap. “Especially when you’re in that dress.”

“Waiting to be swallowed hunh.” She walked over to the stove and spun the dial again. I started out of the kitchen to the stairs, waiting for her. She flicked the switch on top of the stove and joined me. The green-yellow fluorescent light died out into dust as we walked to our room together, as we waited for the feeling to pull us back.





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JenniferCaraOctobe said...
Sept. 27, 2009 at 5:53 pm
:) cool...
 
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