Monday, May 16, 2011

The Salvation Shark, Chapter 43

We fight traffic down streets with throngs of people on either side. This many eyes are normally looking at me, and I'm fidgeting in my seat. Anton is preoccupied dodging cabs that dart in and out of traffic around us. Anton is nimble and doesn’t seem bothered, though some barely miss our mirrors.

“I prefer driving in the city,” he says. “You know every person is going to dart in and out around you at the slightest opportunity. When we get Upstate, you never know what they are going to do.” He pulls into a lot where a leering black man appears at our window. I cry out and Anton says sharply, “Knock it off.” He rolls down the window, and the sound floods the car.

The radio is on, so I didn't hear it before. At once I hear engines, horns, voices, and music. Anton shouts to the man, but I can't hear what either says. He leaves the car running when he gets out and doesn't say anything nasty when I get out of the car as well. The black man hands Anton a ticket and everyone seems happy. There is a momentary lull at the sidewalk but an army is marching on us, each man and woman looking down, holding clothes closed, most with a cell phone in their ear. A wall of sound hits me first, and I take a step back. Words curl together and I can’t make out any. Anton steadies me with his hand. A few people at the outer edge bump into us and none excuse themselves.

“These people think you are dead,” Anton yells over the wail. “They won’t give you a second look. It’s too cold to be standing still.” The people around me are so close I can’t see the sidewalk but for a few glimpses between their legs. Their hands hit me and their bags jostle me as they slide into the gap I create in front of me. The street opens into what I would call a highway at home. Even the main roads of Boston don’t compare to this. I haven’t seen it anything like it but from a tour bus window approaching Washington D.C. I didn’t think this many lanes of traffic could be allowed inside a city, but still this is separated into signals and intersections every few hundred yards as far as I can see, which is further than I’ve ever been able to see in any of the cities I’ve visited. Anton says, “They call this ‘the Canyons.’”

Blobs of people march around us. I’m waiting for anyone to recognize me. “There’s Becki Murphy,” echos through a crowd like a virus until everyone is pushing and crowding and screaming to be heard over the screams of the person beside them. Pens and anything that can be written on are held in my face until I can see nothing else. I don’t even need to be there. Once a woman died after she was knocked down in a crowd that gathered at the rumor I was giving a secret interview at a radio station. Even though I was touring in another part of the country, people on TV demanded I apologize for the event.

“Relax,” Anton says, and I realize I have been squeezing his hand. “Enjoy it.”

It takes a few minutes of walking before I’m able to walk with my head up. I’m wearing a hood. No one expects me. I can enjoy this. The afternoon sun is shining on my face, and even though the air is cold, I feel warm.

Go to Chapter 44

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