By Talia Schuyler
My sister fills my father’s cup with ice
and places it in his right hand while his left
hand loosely grips the wheel.
That is his water,
the ice dissolves on the way to his lips.
In the backseat our white faces glow red
and the opened window makes our hair dance.
Our mini-van’s air-conditioner broke
this morning en route from Las Vegas
to home. Today we are confronted
with the desert heat
we boasted of but didn’t feel any longer
than a walk from the porch to the car.
We pass hazy fields and bare earth
on abandoned highways.
The dust that rises from the small, isolated towns
is palpable. It makes the land faded and drowsy
even under a spotless sky.
But we’re not home.
We step out of the car into a McDonald’s
parking lot. I see our reflection on the advertisement-stamped windows;
we are that white family
with thin tendrils of hair sculpted on our necks
and sweat stains that creep from the pits of our shirts,
our skin pulsating lobster red
as if fresh from a Mexican vacation.
But here it’s more likely we’ve walked
from home or worked hard
under the sun.
I used to see them
in the RVs, tents, and forts of Slab City
and in the churches of Niland,
filled on Friday nights with children
for a hot dog dinner,
the only difference between them
and us being that our air-conditioner
will get fixed.
And when I get home I’ll jump in the pool.