how to behave at a traffic signal :: rohith sundararaman

As your car strands itself
before a red light, prepare
your fingers. Flex them. Curl
one set around the knob
and keep rolling like you
were winding up a clock.
Palms will press against
the window. Some will tap
the glass as if they were patting
the back of a choking person,
gentle and insistent till they get
the answer of life. Others will
half-cup their fingers over either
eyebrows in such a manner
that the nails of both hands
touch each other, producing
a silent music to the slow blink
of their eyes. But do not move
your head. Keep staring straight
at the road like it would disappear
in a moment of distraction. Train
your ears to catch the throb
and thump of the music from the back
of the car. If other sounds intrude, breathe
deeply. Count till a hundred and feel
the steering wheel peel away
from your hands. When images of old
women hobble across the windscreen,
read safety instructions. Turn till you find
the page on how to secure the seatbelt
across your heart as you plow into an accident
of lives. Fasten those words and lurch away
from the light. Adjust your rearview mirror
and slowly roll down the windows till half.
Now feel the air hit you.

From Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Issue 8