I can see the rolling nothingness pass by outside of my window. Miles and miles of dirt and darkness. There is no moon and there are no stars. It is almost as if my mind erased them in an attempt to hurry on the relief of sleep. My mind, like my drooping eyelids, is slowly shutting down.
I wake up a few hours later and feel around me with my hands to gain some sort of bearing on my location. For a moment I feel the soft cotton sheets on my bed in New York and I am generally happy, but they soon degrade into the stiff and scratchy surface of the bus seat and I know exactly where I am. I straighten up quickly. The starchy fabric sends pins and needles up my spine.
I strain my eyes past the reflection of my bruised and battered face that the dimmed artificial light in this bus is making against the glass of the window and all I see is cracking dryness. And then darkness. And I can only assume that past the nothing I see now, and past the darkness, there is nothing else but darkness.
I have anxiety and I am not sure why. It is not because I know that I cannot trust anyone because life is always like that. People come and go and I feel them and hold them while I can. And then, as simple as a bone break, I can let them go. It is the uncertain moments like right now that hurt. I think it is this bus seat and the stale, putrid air of the cabin. A dull pain resonates in the back of my head. My heart constantly pounds against every square inch of my body and I can feel my bones shaking, ready to snap. Nothing, not a damn thing, stays still.
I just want to spasm all of my limbs at once and rid myself of this incessantly inconvenient anxiety.
We are moving to a rhythm. The rhythm of destruction. Of guilt. Of repugnant desire. This is how I secretly always imagined life.
Twenty-four hours ago I had a life that was not spinning out of control. Nothing, not a damn thing, stays still.
Instead of thinking about it anymore I decide to stare into the vague and blurry reflection in the window. The blank oval eyes staring back lull me to sleep.
I have been walking for what seems like hours. I really lost all track of time after about two fucking minutes on this desolate nearly dirt road. I must be a sight. Five and a half feet of battle. Short and messy black hair sitting on top of bruised skin and a skeleton body. A ghost with green eyes and a torn up black suit walking over miles and miles of graying, cracked asphalt. The dirt and weeds are creeping through the cracks and scratching at me.
I feel completely dirty and alone. I had been sitting in a urine-soaked bus seat for over 36 hours. My legs are buzzing with rushing blood and my head feels like an intense hangover. I think I’m allergic to the sun.
For 36 hours a mix of am radio and droning voices attempted to shut out my thoughts.
…and millions of gallons of crude are still spilling into the gulf. Coming up, police are still searching for a male suspect in the New York bar beating murder and a dog that really did have his day. God bless him, I can't make that one up Susan. Stay tuned…
Despite the severity of the situation, all I can think of at this point in my life is the heat. The sun is boring a hole through me and there is no shade in sight. Nothing but dirt and dead shrubs surround the road in every direction for miles. There are a few mountains in the distance but they might as well not exist. I don't know how to love anyone and the cops are looking for me and all I can think of is how desperately I need to get out of the goddamned sun. And I can't get a ride.
I pass nothing but a couple of shacks that probably haven't been in use since the dust bowl. Small, square constructs made out of nothing but cheap bleached wood and nails.
I am standing and looking at one of these shacks and I hear the click clack of metal rotating against itself. And then I turn back to the road and see her, blond curly hair blowing in the wind. Riding on her neon green and pink bike in the middle of God knows where, New Mexico with flip-flops and an ugly brown t-shirt, she asks me if I need a ride. She tells me to hop on the handlebars and I do because it seems like my most convenient option.
She has smooth tan skin without much wear to it. She looks a little younger than me, maybe 19 or 20, but she could be younger.
Her house isn’t far from here she tells me and she can get me some food and water if I want. She says all this while eyeing the canteen that I realize I held upside down while staring at the shed. I can feel the skin inside of my throat drying out and I don't even care about the cops.
Apparently, out in the desert, the phrase ‘not far’ is relative. For miles and miles I have seen nothing but the same bleary scenery. Dry cracked earth spotted with little yellow bushes and grass and the occasional peeling wood shed. We press on into the dry afternoon heat. There are mountains in the distance that do not block the sun and I think about how they probably aren't there at all.
The handlebars are cutting off circulation to the lower part of my legs and they dangle lifelessly below me. Every time we hit one of the many bumps in the road the girl's hand slips and hits me right in the testicles and a feeling of nausea fills my stomach. This whole ride feels sporadic, bumpy and unnatural like first time masturbation. I don’t know how she can see the rode with me in front.
On second thought, there is nothing to see.
By the time we reach the little plot she calls home, I am drenched in sweat. My white oxford shirt feels like a limp rag and it is reaching around 100 degrees inside of my pants. I dismount and thank her for the ride and look around. An old and twisted looking apple tree sits in a small circle of grass in the shade provided by the house's second story overhang. The yellow leaves lay in piles on the ground and the few green ones left offset the maroon color of the tiny and wrinkled apples. The rest of the yard is nothing but dirt and boot tracks.
She invites me in to the cliché looking white farmhouse. It is old and the side panels are stained with long drags of brown dust. The white paint is peeling in places and some panels have already fallen to the ground. The door nearly creaked off the hinge when I shut it. After passing through a small green hallway with orange shag, I sit at a yellow table in the daisy-wallpapered kitchen and wait.
I sit at the table and notice how wonderful air conditioning is at a time like this. I notice, because she doesn’t have any. She goes to the fridge and pours me out some lemonade to enjoy while she hastily throws together some bologna sandwiches. I'd prefer water but I don't say anything but I don't want to make a scene.
The liquid feels good going down my throat even though it stings and coagulates into a sticky mess. She is standing by the fridge and I can’t help but notice the way the curvature of her body makes me feel. I hadn’t really noticed on the ride, being perched up in front, but she is actually quite pretty. She looks about my age and her light blond hair is kind of blowing in the fridge door, giving it a B-movie effect. She has one of those not so unique, pretty faces. Her eyes are a generic shade of blue, as if they hadn't really seen much worth seeing at this point in her life; but the thin, almost squinting shape of them intrigues me. I walk over to stand next to her and absorb the fleeting cool.
She asks me what my name is and seems genuinely interested. She doesn't ask anything else about my appearance and I like that about her.
Hank Johnson, I lie.
She asks me if I own the hotels, so I respond with a ‘hey, why not.’
We make small talk for a couple of minutes until the fridge stops emitting cool air. Her name is Maggy and she lives here with her brother who works at the bus station.
She grabs my arm and awkwardly runs her fingers down it as if she is trying to figure out just who I am through the sweat soaking my shirt. She leans into my face, intently examining my skin. Her breath is sweet, but with staleness to it. I can feel some sort of tension in the air like I had just killed her cat by accident.
All of a sudden she kisses forcefully on the mouth. She doesn't use tongue and I like that about her too. I don’t stop it, because I really don't want to. We push up against the old refrigerator until it starts making a whirring noise and she moves us towards the table. She removes my shirt over my head and we commence this gauche make-out session on her puke colored kitchen table. She starts running her hands over my stomach, rolling her fingers across the washboard of my ribcage. She takes off her own shirt and then kisses my neck and I easily undo her bra strap. I feel absolutely nothing.
PSAs never made hitching sound like this.
The whole time I can't help but think about the past several days. Not the bus ride, but the days before that. I think about those days because it is difficult to remember much. My memory is hazy and all I can picture is bodies with blurred out faces reciting the lines to the script of my life.
I think about the way my girlfriend, who I might have loved, broke up with me because I am "emotionally unavailable." I never cheated on her and I never told her when I found other girls attractive and I figured that meant that we were in love. The sex wasn't as good as it had been, so I didn't feel too bad about it.
She broke up with me on the hottest day of the summer on the sidewalk outside of my apartment. I don't remember what she said but I remember walking away because the concrete soaked in all of the heat and shot it back up at me. And the smell of the city mixed with the heat gave me a nauseating feeling in my stomach. I remember feeling crowded by the mass of red brick apartment buildings that tower over my neighborhood.
I remember thinking that I should have walked into my apartment because I was right there and I felt really angry with myself. I walked to my best friends apartment instead and he buzzed me in and told me that she's a slut and that it is all for the best. The air conditioning felt soothing against the sweat trapped beneath my shirt and he asked me how I felt. I told him I felt thirsty.
I don't like to drink alcohol but he told me that it is what you do when a whore breaks your heart. I told him I didn't have one but I was thirsty so I didn't say anything and we went to this little dive in the basement of a shoe store around the corner.
I didn't know what to drink and he ordered up a couple of shots of vodka and I really didn't like it. It burned my throat and felt hot in my stomach. After a few shots my ears felt plugged up and the inside of my skull buzzed with heat. My eyes were dizzy and I saw everything happening frame by frame with little bits of darkness in between. I needed some water to cool down the fire in my insides.
We were in this dark little room with red felt walls and high circular tables drinking and I just kept asking for water but they gave me vodka. I wanted something to drown the heat in my brain. Frame by frame I watched us drink and my friend laughed with some people and a not-so-attractive blond with big tits and a big frame hung on him. The joint filled up with more and more people and I needed air because I really thought I was dying or at least having a really terrible day.
Frame by frame I stumbled towards the door, pushing through clusters of people and past red-cushioned bar stools. The people and heat in my head and the increasing heat in the bar made my skin feel dry and itchy. I pushed a guy with thick arms and spiky black hair into the wall so I could reach the stairs and go outside.
I don't remember much after that. I know I stumbled up the steps and fell out of the door into the moist night air and vomited once or twice on a newspaper stand.
And then I remember frames. Frames of thick arms pushing me. I remember feeling the hot bubbling vodka overflow from my brain and I remember the heat leaving my body at a thousand miles per hour. I remember looking up at the streetlights and seeing ghosts fly above our heads.
I remember frames of my fists hitting flesh and crunching bones. Like a movie, I can still see frames and frames of black, blood-matted hair and pulpy flesh.
And then silence. I remember silence and staring and finally feeling cool and safe. Then their was yelling and people and pushing and driving.
The last thing I remember before passing out on the bus is my friend shoving a ticket and suitcase into my hand and telling me to meet a buddy of his out in Los Angles.
After finishing, we lay sweaty and heaving on the kitchen floor. I haven’t been with a woman since the day before my ex-girlfriend broke up with me in New York and it felt right because it didn't really feel like anything at all.
I move over to the counter and grab the sandwich she made for me. It tastes like salted rubber. It is probably around six and I still have no way of getting back to the bus station. I ask her what she thinks I should do.
She gives me some money and says I can take her bike back to the bus station; she’d walk over and pick it up in the morning. I feel like a whore but agree with her because it really is my only option. I decided that there are worse things in life than being a whore. Still, I feel like the macho-ass hat in one of the midday soaps my babysitter watched when I was 10.
I walk outside and position myself on the creaky ten-speed and start off in the direction of the station. All the scenery looks the same except I feel like the mountains have begun to creep closer. I just keep pedaling and pedaling. I try not to think about the impending darkness closing in on me.
As I stare at the bus station in the distance, I can see a man walking the opposite direction, craning his short squat neck towards me.
My legs burn from exhaustion and the bike and my body have fused into some sort of hunchbacked piece of abstract art. We crawl closer to the man at an increasingly slow pace. The thick barrel-shaped man approaches me at a slow jog and asks me where I had "gotten" such an odd looking vehicle. I get off of the bike and put the kickstand out. I try to concentrate on his question but the burning in my legs and the man's complete disregard for grammar send streaks of heat and pain running through my head. I tell him that he can fuck himself and he accuses me of robbing his sister. I should have known he they are related.
He starts cursing and making all sorts of uneducated babble while I try to explain the situation, leaving out a few details. Amidst the small flaks of spit hitting my face, I tell him his sister lent me the bike and is going to pick it up in the morning.
He picks up a rock and hits me in the face with it.
The blow hits most of my nose and knocks me clear to the ground and I can feel sticky blood oozing from my face. My face is throbbing and hot and I suck in huge gasps of air and try to regain my bearings with my hands. I stand up. He keeps swinging with that rock like his arm is a fucking sledgehammer but I can smell the gasoline scent of cheap whiskey on his breath and his aim is erratic to say the least. I try to reason with him for a few more seconds but his words and the tuft of brown hair on the front of his bald head and the bleeding from my face are making my head throb.
I punch him square in the face. He stumbles back a few steps and shakes his head a little, but then keeps on coming. He clips the corner of my head two more times with the rock and I stumble around before regaining my balance on the bike. I can barely see and my head is on fire so I grab a rock, get up, and swing too.
The connection is solid. Unlike his maniacal thrashing, my swing is precise and I feel the rock connect with the soft part of his temple. I can't see much between the blood running in my eyes and the throbbing in my head but I hear his body hit with a dull thud on the dirt road. I wipe my eyes and stare at the body through the darkness for a few minutes before I kick off the stand and get back on that bike.
My lungs burn with a lack of oxygen, as do the muscles in my legs. The lactic acid caking onto my collective structure makes the less than a mile left painful but not unbearable.
I am about halfway there and the slight wind blowing in my eyes and my cuts makes my vision blurry and I forget why I am pedaling so fast.
I sit in a hard blue bucket seat. One seat in a sea of identical blue seats. Different scars mar each one, etchings and names and bubble gum, but, from afar, they all seem identical. It is only when I enter them and feel the knobs of my spine rub against the hard blue plastic that I know they are different.
The station is cool. I am comfortable and at ease, but the light reflecting off of the white tiles on the ground is increasingly unnerving. It makes my ears ring and my knuckles feel dull and lifeless. I feel alone, but I realize that statues of people surround me. I look at the statue of a man with dark hair and a skeleton body and small flames flicker in dark pockets where his eyes should be. I feel tired and darkness surrounds the man.
My bus to LA is just arriving, so I walk back across the tile to the door and move outside. I blend into the line of statues waiting to board. The musty night air strikes me in the face. One of the people steps out of the way and gives me their place in line and the pain in my hand and the ringing in my ears soon evaporate into the darkness.
Created: Nov 29, 2010themanofletters Document Media