that drive and the ones that followed...

i'm not intuitive

or any of that shit,

but when he suddenly

stopped talking,

i let the silence

settle through

the car.

it would have

been obvious

to anyone

(but not everyone)

that something was up.

it was on the

second trip when

he turned the volume

down on

the western music he

had gotten

for people like me

(not knowing that i wanted nothing more than to hear his music)

when i noticed that

the silence enveloped

us in the exact

same spot as last time.

i imagined him appreciating

me playing along,

not knowing why

and unwilling to ask

but realistically i

figured he didn't care...

i was nothing more

than the reason he

had to be away

from his wife and kids

on a weekend.

on the third trip

i knew exactly

what to do.

he looked at

me with eyes

that said he was thankful

that i had obliged

him yet again.

of course, i thought

still not asking why.

as if i had

passed all of his

tests and was

finally worthy

to hear the story,

he pointed

to the right side

of the road.

as i mentioned

before, i knew that

the sound disappeared at

the same place each time,

(just as we turned off of the highway and in to town)

but in avoiding

his eyes

and staring out

my window

at the men

surrounded by dead

fish and flies,

i'd failed to

notice the muslim

burial ground on

the right side

of the car.

"my parents. they are in the ground."

he said,

his english

imprecise yet perfect

(for a seventh language).

i watched as

he cried,

the man who

seemed tougher than

nearly any i'd met before

(especially that day he reached through the open window and slapped that guy across the face for blocking the road)

and i cried

with him

though i don't

think he noticed.

on the fourth trip,

i told the

other passengers to

cease their conversation

when i gave them

the signal.

"why?"

"just do it,"

i said.

"well, what's the signal?"

one of them asked.

"pay attention and it will be impossible to miss."

they stared at

me, waiting for

the punch line.

but this was

no joke,

and i secretly hoped

the male in

the backseat would

say something at the

wrong time just so

i had an excuse

to punch him

(i'd been wanting to do so for a long time).

as we approached

the entrance

to town

i reached down

and shut off the music

before the driver

could do it.

the woman was

first to notice

the signal

and she slapped the

man on the leg,

silencing him just

in time to save him

from a savage beating.

when we finally

parked outside

the cathedral,

a cathedral that was

as out of

place as we were,

the man asked,

"what was that all about?"

"nothing," i said

with a look that

must have convinced

him i would

never give up

the secret.

***

i knew that

someday i would have

my own silent spaces,

reserved for the people

who would (physically) disappear

from my life,

but i had no

idea the silence

would be so loud.

and when i drive

past those spots now

i think about

the lesson i learned

from my driver

in india

and i think about how

lucky i am that i have

people in my life

who notice the silence

and don't ask

any questions.

 


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