Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Kenya: Getting Around

     I used up the majority of my vomit tickets when I was a very young child in the backseat of a car. Every person, I believe, is given only a set number to use at their leisure. After that, better hope its digestible ‘cause that’s the only way it’s coming out.
Future movie star/skunk. Mom: is that Dennis behind us?

     Once, when I was three or four, I told my step dad I want to be an actress. I pointed at Sesame Street and I said I was going to be those kids: doing up my buttons, counting to ten in Spanish, over-under-around-the-tree-and-into-the-burrow. I had a calling on my playhouse phone. Oscar-the-Grouch was on line two.

     “Sesame Street is in New York,” my step-father grumbled.

     I’m three. I don’t know where New York is.                   

     “It’s about a three day drive.” He rolled over and buried his face under the pillow.

     Three days? In a car? Was there an eighth circle of hell?

     Dream deferred.

     The memory of long drives haunts me still. To this day, I can’t stomach the backseat. Real or remembered, the nausea returns. It’s a ghost of my past that I will do anything to escape. I drive when I can. When I can’t, I sit shotgun.

     This has its plusses and minuses.

     I get to see where I’m going. I get to take interesting (if bouncy) driving videos. I get to not get sick.

     But I have to see where I’m going. And sometimes it’s better not to know.
A bus skeleton.

     Here, the big rigs play a mean game of chicken. The forest eats the evidence: charred skeletons of busses, a suitcase thrown clear, a rock painted red. All gone within a month. What the starvingly poor citizens don’t pick clean, the powers of rust and sun and rain (never, but in excess) will.

     I sink into the front seat and watch as the truckers face down the busses. My imaginary steering wheel, the one I grip in bloodless fists, is powerless. Good thing, I guess, I’d probably steer us right over the cliff in my desire to chicken out.

     After a month, you stop wearing your seatbelt. I mean this figuratively. In the United States, I can’t sit in a car without belting myself in and pulling the strap tight. Doesn’t matter I’ve only climbed in to smoke a bowl; it’s going to be a safe journey. But there aren’t always seatbelts in the rest of the world.

     The first few days are the most painful: I reach for an absent safety restraint and feel the lack of it on me the entire drive. “I’m going through the windshield,” I whisper sweetly to myself in a mad mantra. Time turns down the volume of reason, though and soon enough I forget to reach for a belt even when it’s there.
Okay, here they're stopped but they drive this way too.

     But the sight of that truck aiming its fat-grill-face right at mine is enough to make me call up the distant memory of click-it or ticket and I latch myself in.

     Then I remember trying to use a seatbelt on a certain island I used to live on. My driver stopped, actually stopped, in the middle of the street and turned to me.

     “Take that off. No seatbelts in my car. Too unsafe.”

     “Seatbelts are too unsafe?”

     “We go over the edge and you gonna wanna be able to jump through that window.”

     “Oh, well I hadn’t thought of that.”

     So I stare down at the cliff side and then into the trucker’s headlamps and unclick.

     Click, unclick.



     Which feels worse?

     The next time I buy a long distance ticket I specify a window seat. In the back please.

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