I rode on the Greyhound from Texas to New York City. It had become a ritual in my life. Move away, fail, move back.
The highways out there, in God's country, appealed to me. There was much about loneliness to be learned.
All the dark towns were filled with calloused hands, tired backs, and empty pockets. Kids in dirty T-shirts and missing teeth watched the bus go by with something like hope on their dirty faces. One day, they are sure, a great silver machine would take them from this place too.
In Louisiana, somewhere near Baton Rouge I was told, we stopped in a tiny town. Everything was green and moist. The air was thick with pollen. At least the plants had love.
We had a two hour layover there. In this little truck-stop/diner that doubled as a bus station. I spent it drinking coffee spiked with whiskey. I listened to the couple in the booth behind me arguing. It was a boring argument, one they had obviously had a thousand times. There was no enthusiasm. Dead people arguing over a dead relationship full of fear.
More coffee, more whiskey.
A woman came into the diner like a thunder clap, door banged against the wall, hanging bells on the door crashed like a mad symphony. She was not young, maybe old for her 30's or young for her 40's.
She was pretty, all things considered. She wore stretch pants and an old T-shirt. Her body appeared to be holding up well, nothing sagged, nothing obvious. Her hair was bleached and teased and I guessed that the 1990's hadnít made it to this part of the world yet. The 80's were just in their prime.
Her lips were coated with a color I donít know the name for. It was reddish brown, like dried blood. It wasn't expertly applied and I thought of my sister playing dress-up in my mom's wardrobe.
She had a bag slung over her shoulder, a pink thing with some girly teddy bear design on it, Care Bears or some such shit. It looked more like a baby bag than a travel bag, but it was bursting at the seams with clothes. The bra tactlessly hanging out of the top led me to believe it was hers.
Her feet were heavy when she walked. She stomped around as if her sensible payless sandals were made of lead.
She picked up the payphone and dialed a number. The buttons clicked and could be heard by all the other patrons. The arguing couple had stopped arguing. They were looking down into their coffee, trying to ignore the pasty tension they had created.
"Hello, hello, fuck!" the woman said into the phone.
Click. Click. Click.... she dialed again.
"Hello, hey donít fuckin' hang up on me, I have something to tell you."
"I'm going away."
"None of your business. not anymore"
"I'll be a dancer, I always was a good dancer."
I tried not to laugh into my coffee, I tried not to cry.
"NO, never again, I'm done."
Something crashed in the kitchen, a pot fell or someone died.
"You really want to hear it? Ok I don't love you"
A heart broke somewhere, I think I heard that too.
"No I don't." Sigh. "Ok, I'm lying, I still love you, I'll be home in 5 minutes."
"NO not really. duh"
She notices me listening and raises an eyebrow as if to say, "see how crazy you men are." I agreed, but just kept looking down into my drink.
"Don't come after me. I'm not telling you where I'm going. I swear to god."
She kept saying that, " I swear to god." she was trying to convince herself as well.
She lowered her voice just a little. "If I see you Danny, I WILL kill you. I'd rather be in prison for murder, than with you," and then she swore to god again.
All eyes were on her then. Everyone stops what they are doing for murder, it's like Christmas.
"Understand me, I WILL shoot your ass." She emphasized the word again, I thought maybe she had threatened that before and not followed through.
The waitress came over. Overworked, tired, unimpressed. "Can I get you anything else?"
"Just more coffee," I said.
"The .38." the blonde said. "Check and see, it's gone."
Silence, and then she sighed, it's her millionth sigh.
"It's mine, in my name, and with my money."
Suddenly the anger had left the room, I watched it go.
"I'm going now Danny," she said in a softer tone, but didn't hang up. "Try to move on, ok hun, it's time."
Sometimes cold women warm when they think they've found freedom.
I heard a tinny little voice, desperate and pleading, through the receiver of the phone as it hit the cradle with a "thwack".
Bye Danny, I thought, poor sap.
The waitress brought over the coffee. When she was gone, I dumped in the whiskey. Adding a little extra for Danny's sake.
[Forever after at http://eyeshot.net/fowles.html]
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