Last Sunday, I caught sunset by train, a brownpaperbag crammed with strawberries in lap. Sniffed deeply, the sweet perfume recalls childhood trips in a white Camaro, as family cruised out into deep Californian country, leaving behind Orange County tanned flesh, strip malls, and broad avenues scorched pale and shimmering.
Beyond them were miles and miles of dusty telephone-poled road, imprecisely measured as we count, one by one, out-of-state license plates and farmer's stands, stocked fat and high with squash, apricots, peaches, new summer fruit splitting open and soft with their blackearthbred abundance. When Mummy and Daddy finally rolled down the windows, we gasped and waved hi, hello to the truckers and bicyclists.
This was, of course, the summers before my vocabulary expanded to include the words "pesticide", "migrant", "labor", and "exploitation". Before I heard about a man named Cesar Chavez and the phenomenon of corporate farming.
So simple, then. I was six and sweat-slick, frantically hiding from Mummy and Daddy the Crayola Disaster of '83, August-only minor catastrophe, pools of wax, primary color already staining denim shorts and stubby fingers with indiscriminate abandon. Six years old, hot and restless, my hands smeared the blistered sanguine leather seats of Daddy's beloved Camaro dandelion and robinís egg blue and burnt sienna. Deth's sandaled toes glowed, Caribbean green. Despite the imminent danger, I crowed, crowned periwinkle and carnation pink. I was six, simply. Who knew?
Soon, Mummy would move away, to woman a donut shop in San Diego, leaving behind husband and kids who kept their crayons neat and unmelted in their boxes, brown eyes like hers dusty with dreams of houses falling apart, brick by brick, pane by pane, into apricot pits, flies, receipts wind-scattered.