Road Side Reflections

Her eyes are tired. Her face is like the desert landscape, like the canyons carved away by eroding wind and sand, the wrinkles make fine grooves upon her skin.
She stands beneath the roadside stand, fanning herself with a bronzed hand, the ensuing breeze she creates playing at her stark, black hair that reflects the sun like raven’s wings. Like asphalt.
All around her lie glimmering stones, polished rocks in vivid hues embedded in their sterling silver casings. I try on a ring, but my fingers, swollen in relentless heat, won’t give. It gets stuck at the knuckle, and goes no further. I tie the clasp of the painted beads around my neck, their glass circumferences sparkling in the sun. She holds up an old, streaked mirror. I gaze upon my face, where streams of sweat have carved out little one way roads curving down towards my jaw. My hair an unkempt mess. The air conditioner is broken, and I’ve been driving down these desert roads with the windows down. It shows. I reach my hand up, play with the beads, smooth the rough pads of my fingers on their polished surface.
I’ll take this one.
She gestures to the little piece of cardstock, upon which is written prices in an illegible hand. I give her what I feel is owed. She nods once, briefly, her clear cut, stony eyes meet mine for just a moment.
And I’m there. I’m removed from time and place and I’m sitting in the old adobe, the fires of the stove where the glass is formed roar forth, igniting my skin. I weave the beads with tired fingers, my ancient eyes searching for the fine holes formed for the fine thread. A lethargic dog lies at my feet, his lolling tongue grazing up against the sandy earth from between his teeth. His tail thumps against the ground in slow, melodic arching.
I’m holding the painbrush, the never ending line of clay plots stretching out into abysmal continuity. I make fine strokes, the little hairs engraving the whisping patterns of my ancestors upon the earthen surface. They call it tribal. Native. Western. I merely call it home.
I’m tired. I’m tired and yet this fire still burns and these beads still yearn for string and these pots still yearn for paint. And I still yearn for something that the world cannot offer, because it has gone ahead, and left me behind. In my little adobe, where the mournful cries of desert prey ring out amidst the silence of the night.
And suddenly I’m back. I’m standing here before a roadside stand, beneath the sweltering heat of a hellish sun. And she’s looking at me with curiosity, with questions that I cannot answer pouring forth from her sandstone eyes.
I mumble out a thank you. Turn away, towards my car. And I can feel her eyes burning into the sinewed flesh of my back, where sweat erupts in flooding torrents. My body aches, suddenly, with age. My fingers, once swollen by the heat, now feel thin and knotted by arthritic patterns of repeated motion. A dog lingers beneath the shade of my car, his lolling tongue grazing up against the earth from between his teeth. His tail thumps as I approach.
The woman whistles.
I reach out to open the door and pause a moment at the window, where the dust clings. I look at my reflection, hazy against the streaked surface of the glass. I reach a hand up to my face and trace the wrinkles that line the corners of my eyes. The little feet of crows that imprint themselves upon the sandy skin. The fine strands of blonde hair have become something else entirely, and I find that I do not recognize the face now looking back. But the necklace is there. The glassy beads resting in the grooves of my collar bones, spilling forth from around my neck in the dazzling displays of a dying sun. I open the door. Sit down upon the scalding seat and pause. The key halfway to the ignition, my foot mere inches from the pedal. And I get a strange feeling of desolation; a sudden feeling, as if the world has left me behind.

14 thoughts on “Road Side Reflections

  1. As a reader you grabbed me with the two opening paragraphs. The last line made me go back and re-read. And the middle swept me away until I could feel the heat and the sweat and the dry air…and left me longing for beads and a past. Beautiful words.

    Liked by 1 person

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