January 30, 2008
The truth is you never know what people are thinking.
I was eating lunch alone in a Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown today—the order was a limeade and Bo La Lot over rice— when the waitress, perhaps seeing me staring out the window, asked what I was thinking about. How could I explain I was thinking of the bug trucks which would roll slowly through the backroads of my Texas hometown? They would appear at sunset spraying a fine mist of mosquito repellent in the air. I wasn't thinking of the trucks themselves, but rather of the kerosene smell and how we would ride up along side the trucks on our banana bikes holding onto ladders on the tanks with one hand so we wouldn't have to pedal. We would look back through the spray at the sunset which, because of oil, would flare into countless oily rainbows. We would call to each other. "Marco"
"Keep on truckin' dude."
Jay would flick matches back at the spray hoping to ignite a fireball. Having convinced ourselves that one day he would succeed creating an Evel Knievel Snake River Canyon style propulsion, we held the ladders with only our fingers ready to peel off at any moment. He could light and flick matches with one hand. It was an impressive skill which we chalked up to the fact that he was both double jointed and six months older than the rest of us. We would ride the trucks until twilight or until we were kicked off or until someone started coughing too much. Sometimes even a few days later you would still have the smell in your nose. It was hard to wash off.
Jay died in a car accident right out of college. He fell asleep at the wheel on one those long straight country highways and drifted off the road. And today sitting at lunch down on Baxter Street I was thinking about how I wished that just once he had managed to set the spray off and propelled that bug truck down the street like we had imagined because it would have been something to remember. But this was all too complicated to explain to the waitress so I just said I was thinking about the limeade and how delicious it was on a rainy winter day even though limeade is a summer drink that evokes Texas and August sunsets.