Saturday, April 07, 2012

Road Trip-Part 7: The Achilles Paradox & it's relation to Temporal Dysfunction

There is only now.  And now is...

"You need all that stuff?"  
I open my eyes.  My head is pillowed by my backpack.  My duffle bag is snuggled against me like a lover.  My feet are on top of my boom box and a suitcase.  I'm like a neolithic hunter buried with all his goods.
"Huh?"  A man towers over me.  He looks big.  From orbit, he'd look big.  
"You really need all that stuff?"  His eyes look like two pin-holes peeking into Hell.  
I swallow.  I'm in the Kansas City bus station.  Bright yellow security lights makes it feel like we're in the middle of a concentration camp.  The clock over the door gives me the time...
"Uh...  Yeah."  
Big man snorts.  With a shake of his head he walks away.  I drop my head back.  Guess I gave the right answer...
"They's treatin' us like a red-headed stepchild!"  
I shake my head.  I am sitting up now.  It's dark.  It's quiet.  It's hot and stuffy.  I am on a bus.  I look at my watch...
"It just ain't right.  Not right at all!"  
The bus is not moving.  Something is wrong.  Has it been a day since Kansas City?   
Across the aisle is a woman.  Grandmother age.  She is knitting in the feeble light of a lamp above her head.  
"Whassgoenawn...?" comes out of my mouth.  Fortunately the knitting grandmother woman speaks Slur.  
"Bus broke down, hon."  Grandmother continues to knit, looping the yarn over one needle, then darning it into place with the other.  My mom taught me to knit.  Never made anything.  Just kept knitting a ball of yarn into a sheet to unravel it and knit it over again.   
"They's gettin' another bus for us.  Take us to the station."  
This is from someone I can't see over the seats in front of me.  
"But when we get there, they're gonna make us take whatever seats is left on another bus.  Even though we left BEFORE them.  Just like we're a bunch of red-headed step-children."
I'm confused.  Step-children are treated badly.  Fairy tales have taught me that.  And a red-headed child would be treated badly if neither parent had red hair.  But why would a red-headed step-child be treated any worse?  
I pull myself to standing.  I open my mouth to ask...
"Last call!  The bus for Knoxville is departing right now."  
I jump to my feet.  I must have dozed off.  Its bright outside.  There's a clock over the ticket counter.
I see a plaque from the Indiana Transportation Board by the door.  But I was never supposed to be in Indiana.  
I grab my duffle bag.  I grab my back-pack.  I tuck my boom-box under my arm.  Where's everything else?  I look around and I see nothing else. 
I don't have time.  I run to the door.  There are four buses parked side by side out there.  All of them getting ready to leave.
I turn to the woman behind the counter.  "Which bus is going to Knoxville?"  
She glances at a clock on the counter.  "It's leaving right now."  
"But which bus is it?"  
"It's the one right outside."  
"Which one?"  
"You better run.  Once they lock the cargo doors..."  
"Which one?"  
"You're not running..."  
I start to jog in place.  "Which bus is going to Knoxville?"  
Her look tells me that she'd shoot me with a gun if she had one.  The illegality doesn't concern her at all.  She's already made up the cover story she'd use when the local sheriff, who happens to be her cousin, comes to investigate.  
"It's right out THERE!"  She flings her arm in the direction of the window.  She turns and walks through a door behind the counter.  
"Crap!"  I run out the door to the buses.  My duffle bag gets stuck in the door.  I yank it free.  
One of the buses is pulling out.  I run up to the farthest one.  It's door is open.  The last person in line is stepping up.  
"Is this the bus going to Knoxville?" I shout into the door at the driver.  I hear one of the other buses starting up behind me.  
"Welcome aboard."  The words come out of his mouth like I pushed a button.  He's writing something in a notebook.  
I step inside the bus.  "This bus goes to Knoxville, right?"  
The driver glances at me.  "Better stow that overhead.  No time to open the cargo doors."  He pulls the lever.  The doors of the bus push me inside like the jaws of some giant creature.  He starts the bus.  The whole thing is shaking now.  I am a cheap prize in a box of Cracker Jack that some child is trying to shake to the top.  
One of the other buses pulls out.  I expect to see "To Knoxville or Bust!" painted on its side.  
"Get back behind the line."  The driver nods toward the floor.  There's a red line painted there separating him from the passenger compartment.  I step across it.  The bus starts creeping forward.  The feeling I'm not where I belong overwhelms me.  I turn back to the driver to ask him to stop...
I start upright.  It's quiet.  Or was quiet.  There's the sound of muted conversation to my left.  
Another bus station.  The walls are paneled in wood.  Hard wood chairs bolted together in rows.  It looks like a set for a movie about the Scopes Monkey trial.   
A kid plays to my left.  Kneeling on one of the chairs, two He-Man action figures battle it out for supremacy across the top of the chair.  A woman sits beyond him, her face painted gray by the flickering light of the coin operated TV bolted to the chair.  Blonde hair falls straight with puffy curls at the end.  Young looking, but very heavy.  She's staring into the TV screen as if God's Own Truth is coming from it.  She shakes a roll of quarters in her hand.  
There's a man in his mid-twenties in the row behind us.  Short blonde hair.  Thick, black rimmed glasses.  White shirt.  Dark slacks.  A bible the size of a kitchen table sits closed across his lap.  He watches the boy with an intensity that would be creepy if not for the fact the boy was the only thing moving in the place.  
The man leans forward.  "Tell me, Son...  Do you know who the REAL Master of the Universe is?"  
"Skeletor!"  The boy lifts the figure in his right hand then brings it crashing down on the other.  "Aaarrrggghhh-grrr!"  
I get to my feet.  I imagine reporters in fedoras asking me why I'm defending the man teaching "Evil-oution."  I imagine it happening just last week.  
I look under my chair.  I see my duffle bag.  I see my backpack, too.  The boom-box is wedged in between.  Is that all that's left?  
I wander outside.  A clock by the door tells me the time.
I'm outside.  There are no lights here.  The area looks abandoned.  I walk by stores with taped up windows and boarded up doors.  
In the distance, I see what looks like a university.  A clock-tower is there.  I remember a story about a marine that shot a bunch of people from a university clock tower.  I wonder if I'm in someone's sights right now.  
I look into the empty window of some empty store.  Empty shelves on the wall.  Boxes on the concrete floor.  Way in the back, there is a calendar on a wall.  
Way in the back...?  Even though it's dark?  But, it's not dark.  I can see my shadow stretching across the concrete floor inside the store, over the boxes, right up the floor below the calendar.  A bright light is behind me.  
I turn around to see a car.  I shield my eyes to see it's a white police car with blue stripes.  I can see the shadow of someone wearing a Smokey Bear hat in the driver's seat.  
I stare into the glare.  He sits there and stares at me.  Why are we standing here looking at each other?  
"Because you're suspicious looking..."  
The thought echoes through my tired head.  I'M suspicious looking...?  Me?  I get mad.  If you want suspicious, why don't you drive back to Byers, Colorado and shine a light in the face of Frog-Faced Arnold.  HE'S the one that started all this!  I'm just trying to...  To...
The light winks out.  The police car roars away.
I feel a need.  A need to be...  Someplace.  A place where I belong.  Where I don't have to worry about being arrested for disturbing the peace and shot while trying to escape.  
I hurry back to the bus station.  I find my chair.  My stuff is still underneath.  I sit.  I wait.  I crane my head around to look at the clock.  
I stare at the clock.  I will it to move.
I take a deep breath.  I tell the universe...  Fine.  I am not going to New York.  I am not going to Chicago...
I... I'll just...  I just want to go...  Home.  That's all I want.  Please.  I give up.  Let time move and I'll just go...  Home.  
I open my eyes.  I look at the clock by the door.  
I slump in the chair.  I stretch my legs out.  I wait.  
At 4:10, the bus to Asheville, North Carolina pulls into the parking lot outside.  At 4:25, I grab my duffle bag, my back-pack and my boom-box and board the bus.  The driver smiles and nods as I walk past him.  It's an encouraging smile.  One that tells me that I made the the right decision.  Whether that was to "Go Greyhound" or give up, I don't know.
At 6:45, I am sitting on a bench outside the Asheville station.  My dad's red pick-up truck pulls into the parking lot.  He parks it in front of the steps to the station and gets out.  I get to my feet as he mounts the steps...
...And walks right past me into the station.  A moment later he comes back out.  He looks around the parking lot.  He looks at me.  He looks at the parking lot again.  His head snaps back my way and he stares.  
"Hey, Dad."  
He takes a step back.  "Gawd-DAMN, boy...  What happened to you?"  
I pile my stuff into the back of his truck.  At 7:35, we pull into the covered parking space by his house.  I open the door to get out when my dad reaches out to grab my arm.  
"Go that way..."  He nods at the door closest to us.  "Through the kitchen.  The bathroom is around on the left.  Go straight there.  Don't touch nothing.  Don't sit on nothing.  Leave you clothing in the bathroom.  We'll take care of it later."  
By "take care of" does he mean it'll be washed or burned?  I don't much care at that point.  I follow his directions.  I get into the shower.  I stay there for a very, very long time.  Long enough for the water to go from burning hot to tepid.  
When I get out, I look at the mirror.  I take my hand and wipe away the steam that is coating its surface.  I see a bearded, wild-eyed, tired looking person staring back at me.  I could be either Jesus Christ or Judas Iscariot in the Last Supper.  I remember that Leonardo DaVinci used the same model to pose for both people.  
"Hey."  I say it to see if its really me.  The lips move, but the sound doesn't match the face.  And while I'm clean and comfortable, I still can't relax.  
Because I'm not home yet. 


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