On Guadalupe Bridge
Seven thin concrete slabs with the Virgin’s visage
guard the east exit & I need no review mirror
to tell me the Virgin has turned her back to us.
Joe, the homeless vet that rides my bus sometimes,
balls up his dirt crusted fist & pounds on the hood
of my Olds as he crosses between idling cars. White
smoke blooms from the cracks between body & the hood.
“Your car’s too goddamned loud,” he shouts towards my
cracked windshield, then spits on the concrete near my front tire.
I nod & yell back “What’d you say? Can’t hear you over the engine.”
He pushes his face close to the slit in my front window
& says “I ASKED FOR A GODDAMNED CIGARRETTE.
YOUR CAR’S MAKING MY LUNGS JEALOUS.” I laugh
& show him the empty pack riding shotgun. He snarls & shakes
his head, starts knocking on the car next to mine.
The heat is intense & I’ve stripped every layer of clothes I can
without getting arrested. The car has no air conditioner, the side
windows’ glass has broken off the busted tracks so they refuse
to roll up or down on command. It shouldn’t be legal to keep us
in traffic so long during desert summers. Kendric says people
die this way. Marco, the paletas pushcart guy weaves his way along
the median, selling cold sweets, water, & large bags of chicharrones
to the victims of the evening commute, our tires stuck like they’ve melted
permanent to the pavement, only those on foot getting ahead on Guadalupe Bridge.
My jaw’s locked & I grind my teeth, drum my thumbs against the
sticky driving wheel. Once again I wish my stereo still was still mine
even though I maxed the speakers out trying to hear music over
the loud clacking of the engine. Today Carlos is sitting nearby in his
low riding Lincoln, playing Tejano to drown out his boys fighting in
the back. I can barely hear more than the loud bursts of bass but I watch
teenage fists fly back and forth as Carlos shakes his head, rolls up the window,
speaks & motions with his own fist in the review mirror. Everyone stuck in
Tejano hell or maybe just this particular traffic purgatory, their hearts tired
of pounding, tongues swollen all thirsty & hot, spending the rest of eternity
on the overpass of Guadalupe Bridge.about the author