Watching the White Ford Bronco Go 35 Miles Per Hour
It was 1994. I remember because O.J. Simpson was in a white Ford Bronco driving down the 405 freeway. The news covered it live, a camera steadily shooting the back of the Bronco as it trolled along at 35 miles per hour. There were five of us that day: Kevin, Rick, Topher, Naveen, and myself. We sat in the house we'd all rented together, on the plaid L-shaped couch my aunt had given us. The day my aunt dropped off the couch, it had been white and blue and smelled like the bowl of cheap potpourri shavings my aunt kept in a glass dish on the coffee table. Now it was gray and navy and smelled like feet. Feet that had been walking on the beach.
"Dude. He's so busted."
Kevin spat a wad of shredded shells into a Big Gulp cup. Together, we were working our way through a six-pound bag of sunflower seeds.
"Do you think he did it?"
They all turned their heads and looked at me like I was a loser, even Naveen, who, being the only "foreign guy" among us, was usually slow to scoff at other people.
"Well, I don't know. Maybe he's just scared."
"He's not scared, he's fucked," Kevin said. "You don't run unless you did it."
He said it kind of like duh, everyone knows that. Kevin got up and grabbed a Pepsi from the fridge and switched from the sunflower seeds to gnawing on a Slim Jim.
"This is good shit though," he said, settling back into the couch.
"We should take bets on what he ends up doing," Topher said.
"Fifty bucks says he shoots himself," said Rick.
"Fifty bucks says the LAPD will do it for him," Topher replied.
"Naveen?" Rick prodded.
"I'll take that action."
"You guys are all wrong," Kevin said. "The dude's going 35 miles per hour."
"What has that got to do with it?" Rick wanted to know.
"Well, if he really had the balls to kill himself, he would have done it already. And if he really thought he could make it to Mexico, he would be going faster. But he's not. He's going 35, with the police and the media and everything right behind him. It means he knows."
"Knows what?" I asked.
Kevin fixated on the image of the white Bronco, rolling steadily along. He narrowed his eyes, looking deep into the screen.
"He knows he can't kill himself and he can't trick them. But he has to keep moving away from this. As soon as he stops it's all over. He has to keep going 35."
I wanted to say something back but I didn't know what. I looked at Kevin but Kevin wasn't looking at me. All week long, I'd been trying to get him to look me in the eye, ever since I'd found a pair of my girlfriend's underwear in his car. At least, ever since I found what I thought was a pair of my girlfriend's underwear in his car.
It happened when we were at the Taco Bell drive thru window. I dropped some change. When I bent over and patted around the floor mats, I felt something silky and pulled up a very familiar-looking pair of peach silk panties with black lace trim. A wave of déjà vu came over me, until I realized it was not the visit to the Taco Bell, not the rummaging for lost change, not the incident that I recognized, it was the object in my hand.
I'm sure he saw me shove the underwear in my coat pocket. He didn't say anything to me. We paid the pimply kid with his unappetizing black fingernail polish and pulled out of the drive thru. Kevin talked about basketball, about planning a poker night, about his jerk of a boss who wouldn't let him take time off for a friend's bachelor party in Vegas. I kept thinking how long how long how long but I didn't know how to ask the questions I wanted to. I mentioned Carol's name, off-handedly. He wouldn't bite. He wasn't going there. He knew Carol was the first girl I'd ever slept with. I hated him for knowing that, for being the person I'd once wanted to tell. He just drove slowly, steadily, back to the house.
A week passed, and then O.J. Simpson killed his ex-wife. Or, at least, that's what I thought had happened. I guess I still do. We sat on the plaid couch, spitting sunflower seeds and watching the white Ford Bronco go 35 miles per hour down the 405 freeway.
Every news camera in town was trained on the white Ford Bronco. You could almost feel their lenses straining to gulp up the image as they zoomed in and out, in and out. My eyes were trained on Kevin, also zooming in and out, trying to absorb all of him - the part and the whole - as if I'd never really seen him before. Kevin's gaze was trained on the TV screen. There were reports that Al Cowlings was driving the Bronco, that O.J. was hunched in the back with a gun. Now that's friendship, Kevin said. That's brotherhood for you, putting your ass on the line like that.
I looked at the Bronco, squinting hard at the occasional shot of the front windshield. I tried to make out the image of Cowlings but I couldn't. The steady-moving SUV had somehow taken on the whole identity of O.J.; he was inside, it radiated his essence. We sat there, glued to the TV, as a boxy, ghost-like thing rambled along in the California sunshine, with no escape route or destination. Only going 35 miles per hour made him look kind of lost, like a guy who didn't know how to get away with something. Somehow, though, all of us already knew he would.
About the author:
Suzanne Rindell is originally from Northern California, but is currently working towards her PhD in English at Rice University. Previous publications include Crab Orchard Review, StorySouth, Conjunctions, Nimrod, and others.