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Camus Crashing Into That Tree


“Mister, how do you want to die?”

“I don’t really think that’s the best thing to talk about.”

“Why not?”

“It’s sad.”

“But it’s going to happen, Mister, ain’t nothing we can do about it.”

“I know it’s going to happen, but I’d prefer not to think about how I want it to happen.”

“You want to die in your sleep?”

“That sounds decent.”

“Not me, Mister, I want to die with speed.”

“You mean driving a car?”

“Yeah, Mister, driving like 200 and . . . ”

José punches his fist into his opposing palm and opens his eyes big like an explosion. I think about Camus crashing into that tree.

“I like speed, Mister.”

“Do you play any sports?”

“Speed. Speed’s my sport.”

I give José some math problems to work on. He begins to add mixed numbers with unlike denominators. The diamond earring in his left earlobe is there.

“Have you ever jumped out of a plane, Mister?”

“No. I’ve scuba dived.”

José nods his head.

“I’ve jumped out of a plane.”


“Last year. My teacher took us on a field trip.”

“You jumped out of a plane on a field trip?”

“Yeah, Mister. My parents signed some paper and I went.”

“How many other people jumped with you?”

“Like twelve. Our teacher jumped too. I didn’t think she would ’cause she was old, but she jumped.”

I point at the white board he’s adding on. He doesn’t pay attention.

“Mister, I need to know what you would do in my situation. There’s this girl. You two aren’t anything or nothing. Just like friends. She was talking to you, and another girl walked by, and you like, you looked at the other girl, you stared at her, and this girl got mad at you. She said she ain’t never gonna to talk to you again. What would you do?”

“This girl likes you, José. It’s clear to me that she likes you. She’ll talk with you again.”

“But what do I tell her?”

“Just tell her you’re a guy. Your eyes sometimes wander. It’s nothing. If she doesn’t understand that today, she’ll understand it tomorrow.”

José renames some numerators. He understands what he’s doing, the math of it all. I catch myself staring at the diamond earring. It’s still there.

“She says I have pretty eyes.”


“This girl, she says I have pretty eyes.”

“She likes you, man, it’s obvious. She got jealous when you looked at another girl.”

“You have a girlfriend, Mister?”

“I do. We live together.”

“What was it like kissing her for the first time?”

My eyebrows knot. A smile glazes over my face as I relive our first kiss. It was on the couch. It was with a movie playing in the background. It was perfect.

“Our first kiss was gentle, like testing the waters. But once we kissed and fell asleep kissing.”

José laughs, claps his hands together, opens his eyes like an explosion.

“What you mean?”

“We fell asleep kissing.”

“Like you two were kissing and you just fell asleep?”

“That’s what happened.”

“That’s boss. I gotta try that.”

“Try it.”

I see José making eyes with someone at another table. I turn around to look. It’s a girl, the girl. She has eyeglasses. She blushes when I catch them and gets back to work.

José tells me I was right. He says, “Your advice was good.”

October 27, 2011 10:52 pm

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