Topaz, Chapter 3
Topaz, Chapter 1: Here
Topaz, Chapter 2: Here
The bus’s air conditioning lightly lifts errant hairs on the old man’s head as the Panama hat lies beside its owner on an empty chair. The bus driver trades glances from the road to the interior of the bus and sees the old man reach into the pocket of his jacket and retrieve a small box, the neatly wrapped package obviously a gift. The bus driver wonders if the present is for the man’s wife. The thought, however, quickly vanishes as a small convertible cuts off the bus, it’s operator trying to avoid even a momentary delay by running a red light. The bus driver curses under his breath as he watches from his elevated vantage point the small German import continue through the intersection and he wonders if the driver of the convertible understands just how close he came to making the conversation he was having on his cell phone while darting in and out of traffic the last conversation the man ever had.
The bus slows faster than the driver wished and gravity continues moving the gentlemen forward. The sleeping man wakes, startled, suddenly remembers where he is. Before he can respond the magazine slides off his lap, the glossy cover finding little resistance from his faded blue jeans. The fatigued man notices the old man for the first time and nods. The old man returns the gesture. Before the light turns green the worker succumbs to exhaustion and falls back asleep.
As the old man watches his younger counterpart again return to effortlessly swaying with the rhythm of the bus, his attention is turned to the magazine now lying face up on the bus’s floor. The old man does not know this magazine, but the headline on the cover captures his attention. It reads, “Topaz Find In Arizona Maybe World’s Biggest.” One word triggers memories in the old man’s mind, memories of his teenage years, when he was the same age as the boys playing hooky near his home. The man inhales deeply and thinks of his youth when his freedom was denied. He remembers a village, the name of the village found within the headline, a village born in the desert, its artificiality as alien as the building’s brilliant white paint gleaming in the scorching sun, a village where the old man and his family were forced to go.