James was beside me in the van, whisper-hissing: “Idiot. Jeeessuzzz…..”
The driver was talking to a guy whose head was covered by a red-and-white scarf, a guy clutching an AK-47, a faceless being, with a gun, beside the driver’s window, talking to the driver.
“Idiot,” James hissed, strongly and very quietly.
Julian, facing the windscreen, feigning arm-stretched relaxation, resembled a statue facing the world.
“Jeesuzzzz…..,” James hissed.
The only things moving in the van were the driver’s hands and lips; and James’s lips that whispered: “Idiot!”
Because God wasn’t an objective fact, I had nothing to appeal to, my real magnitude becoming apparent: I hardly existed. The bloated ball of so-called awareness that usually floated behind my eyes had contracted into a microscopic dot in a vast moment housed in by blurred edges. There was nothing but nothingness in my insect vision.
We should not have been in that petrol station. We should have been charging down the highway between Baghdad and Amman. We should not have stopped anywhere. We should have been flying down that long, straight road, flying back into the world. But the driver, who didn’t speak English, had other plans. He should not have had those other plans. But he had those other plans.
Shrinking into a microscopic dot, I felt no past or future. There was only a moment – one that could last forever.
Chemicals, never before produced, surged up my veins, swirling from my feet, exploding in my head.
John was slumped against a door on the middle seat. He was trying to look as small as he felt. He and I had closed the curtains that covered our windows as the van had stopped on the end of a queue of cars that were waiting to fill up. We should not have been in that queue. We should have been moving at top speed down an asphalt vein of pure directness. We should not have been stopping for anything.
“For fuck sake,” James hissed, the driver talking and talking to a gun-wielding being that had no face.
Unshaven men were wandering around between the cars that sat in unmoving queues. Nothing was moving except those men and the driver’s hands and lips. The cars just sat still. Between the cars, unshaven faces with guns, roamed, like bandits in a concrete oasis of fuel.
An electron microscope would have struggled to have located my bloated ball. We were supposed to be charging down a long, straight road. We weren’t supposed to be in that petrol station. We were supposed to be flying along the long, straight road that past by this petrol station on its way into Amman’s pleasant restraint.
The driver’s hands, after flying up with mysterious exasperation, grabbed the steering wheel and we reversed, spinning around, reaching the long, straight road, hearing a loud, flat, hollow wallop without pitch, a sick coughing of noise, our heads looking around, searching for damage, Julian turning and saying: “A car back-firing,” Julian adding: “He was trying to buy cheap petrol, probably to sell in Jordan,” all of us yelling: “A car back-firing!”
We fled down the highway into the desert, the dot expanding into a ball of light, floating air that fled across the world’s dish, flying out past the horizon’s clear edges, spilling over the world’s lip, expanding at tremendous speed into the immense, blue heavens, quickly occupying the incalculable space of an interminable future.
James’s dosing head, resting on our backrest, started lolling around in oblivious unconsciousness, a head without a care.
Kim Farleigh has worked for aid agencies in three conflicts: Kosovo, Iraq and Palestine. He takes risks to get the experience required for writing. He likes fine wine, art, photography and bullfighting, which might explain why this Australian lives in Madrid – although he wouldn’t say no to living in a château in the French Alps. 78 of his stories have been accepted by 68 different magazines.