Red Lights Fading - Poem by Tara Teeling
In the black of a midsummer night, I drive.
The moon peeks in and out from behind
the cumulus shrouds of midnight,
softly illuminating the road with quick, teasing blinks
and I am in a veiled wonderland.
Green to amber.
Amber to red.
I lurch to a stop and
the engine murmurs low.
Divergent paths have lead to this intersection,
where the hums and purrs
of the four-wheeled rides
fill the blackness with the sound of the living.
For an eternal second, all is still,
and there is only the frozen moment
of a contemplative standoff,
waiting for the colours to light the way.
The hour is one of witches,
and all is cloaked in an onyx blanket,
smelling of dirt and wetness.
My intention is to drive in circles;
the magic of after-light air has always
mesmerized me, infusing me with
a sense of calm curiosity.
Never have I welcomed sleep in the summer,
when I could walk barefoot in a
garden as it glows in the tide of night,
overrun with the traffic of creepy crawlers and
other sun-shy beings, tiptoeing around them,
like a cat on the hunt.
This is the time when
I am more aware that I breathe.
In the car, driving on these streets
which belong to no one,
there is the sensation of secret freedoms.
A vacant road entices the weary and bedraggled,
urging them to reinvent themselves,
turning their backs on their daylight incarnations.
I wonder about the others on the road tonight.
To my right: a young girl
whose eyes are smudged with
tears and mascara. She dabs at them catatonically,
with a well soiled tissue she has fished from her purse.
I imagine she’s just discovered her lover with another;
she’d meant to surprise him with
an unannounced twilight tryst, taking herself to him
with dizzy notions born of spontaneity and
other romantic ideals, only to be met with
a revelation she‘d wished she‘d never made.
Here she sits, trying to understand why
tonight of all nights, she’d felt the urge to be impetuous.
She blames herself for acting on foolish impulses,
not understanding that on any other night
the result would have been the same.
The sputtering of her car reveals it’s age while
she stares ahead in a confounded daze,
her heart filled with splinters.
To my left: a man near forty, with a baseball cap
and paper-slit eyes, and hair in need of a wash.
He idles in a black pickup and shoots me a lascivious stare
but only slightly means it; he looks spent.
His radio wails in pain, drowning out
the happy chirps of roadside crickets
and I think, if I inhale deeply, I may smell
stale beer and cigarettes wafting toward me
with baiting, invisible fingers.
I guess that his wallet is empty,
having left all of what he had with dancers
with names like Venus or Star as
they twinkled and sparkled in his cosmos.
He feels needed, if only for a moment,
whenever they lean into him,
whispering voodoo into his ear.
To him, this is worth the money.
Straight ahead: a weathered old man with
a white moustache and dark rimmed glasses,
and he grips his steering wheel as though
his life depends upon it. He is
hunched forward slightly, looking intently at the lights,
eager to be shown the sign for advancement from this crossroad.
Perhaps the night opens the streets for him
to roam at his drowsy pace, where there are no bleating horns
bullying him to rush in a world he no longer relates to;
this is when there is always a parking spot next to the curb.
For a moment, we are all waiting,
taking note of each other,
wondering why the others are out
when everyone else is sleeping.
Then, there is a sudden bloom of awareness,
which has been hanging quiet overhead,
that there are those who find sanctuary in the night,
finding immunity in the confidentiality of darkness,
free to act out their strange whims
and ominous offences.
With this knowledge, the air becomes heavy
and I work to take it in,
silently pleading with the lights to take pity on me
and let me go.
I am a victim of adrenaline and suspicion,
of fear and curiosity, and I cannot fathom why
I brought myself to the darkened road,
far from the cover of my own bed.
I sit in wonder, as the lights take mercy.
Red becomes green, and
I become red lights fading.
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