Monday, March 9, 2009

I go...

It was oddly cold when I left my house. Rocky was curled up asleep on a few boxes, wrapped in her sleeping bag. I could see how young she was when she was asleep and relaxed. She had started piling all the crap from the house along a space she cleared along one of the walls. She cleared this space by throwing everything from one side of the room to the other. I had to sit outside for a few hours while she did this. When the sun started down she appeared in the door and asked if I wanted something to eat. She didn't wait for a reply, she just walked off across town.

Minutes later she came back in her dads truck. This was a rusty noisy old thing and she could barely see over the wheel. She stopped it and came in the house with a sack of something I ate, I didn't pay attention as I was busy watching her work – and work and work. I had just dawned on me that she stopped smoking as much and hadn't stopped going through all that crap. A few hours after dark she finally quit. She lay down and started snoring. She woke briefly late in the night and lit the lantern, I pretended I was asleep but I could see her through the slits in my lids. She was hugging her knees and rocking, she looked over at me on occasion and frowned, I think she was crying. After awhile the lantern went out.

It was still dark and kind of cold as I walked down the street. Rocky had spent some time the previous evening helping me prepare for this journey, but I waved her off and took care of things myself. In hindsight I should have taken her council. I was wondering why I was starting this journey, I already wanted to go home. I was miserable.

I had all I needed for the journey; band aids, a can of beets, a smear of lard on a napkin for cooking, a fistful of pepper for defense, dry socks, a small pad of paper and a pen in a Ziploc bag, toothbrush and paste in one pocket and a floss in another, a bag of nuts, Mylar for disguises, a harmonica I can’t play, and a roll of cash – about thirty ones. All this was in my jacket. In addition I had a large nylon bag filled with more stuff on my back. I hesitated because I could go back in and take it easy, but the cold wind ruffling my gray sweats and tugging at my bulky army surplus jacket called me out. I started walking. Walking was a chore as I wore a pair of white dress shoes may father left. I don't know why I wore them, I think I wanted to ruin them.

Now I pretended I was homeless. What would sleeping under a bridge in the freezing nights feel like? I had never fended off the attacks of addle minded crack addicts with their fetid breath, The worst I ever got was the coach at the school standing in front of me and making me do squat thrusts. His giant stiff prod in my face. He talked and breathed in an odd way that made me feel he was on the brink of shooting his load. I imagined that having to jump up and move on quickly was a large part of being homeless; if not dodging bodily fluids running from a fight. I was worried I would slip and fall down a concrete aqueduct or roll from a perch I might be sleeping upon. I would have to say I was more worried about the open-road variety of wandering crazy as I deemed them far worse than their inner-city counterparts.

The sun began to rise rapidly and it seemed it would be a beautiful day. I walked for hours along the tracks until I came to a town a bit larger then my own. I walked on until I came upon the outskirts. I found a bush to lay down next to. I fell sound asleep. It was the mournful call of a freight train rolling through town that woke me hours later. I could tell it was slowing as it passed through town. This seemed an opportunity to me. A ride across the open country on board a freight train sounded very romantic. Just me floating across the open majesty of the land. The reality would prove to be much darker and painful then I could imagine.

I jogged to the tracks and caught up to the train. It seemed to be slowly gathering speed. I started running, which is something I never do so things got painful quick. I lunged for the train and caught a rung on the ladder that ascended the car. I held tight and as I was dragged along I realized my nylon bag was caught under the car and my hand was tied to it. I pulled up hard and the bag tore - the damn bag had countered my every move as I ran and made catching the train far more difficult than need be. And now I lost it. I caught the rung of the train ladder with my now free hand and heaved. I pulled a foot up and it slipped and I let go. I went down like a sack of crap.

I scratched my hands, knees, shins, face, and bruised myself but good. Not to mention my sweats were torn and I was very dirty. I stood, determined to get on the train that was quickly gaining speed, and started running. I felt like my chest was about to explode but I managed to grab on and hold. My feet dragged and I lost one of my white dress shoes, but I really shouldn’t have been wearing them to walk across country – that was a bad idea. By the time I was on the ladder I looked back down the tracks and all my shit was strewn for yards behind me. The bag was still tied to my arm. I pulled the damn thing off and dropped it and started climbing.

I reached the top of the ladder and the train really started to pick up speed. We quickly reached a top speed of what must have been 80 miles an hour. I didn't realize how scary this would be. You feel higher than you could imagine on top of a freight car and the wind is incredible. The fear of getting blown off or getting hit by a overhanging object was incredible. I was afraid to move. I just hung on for dear life and lay flat as the sun went down. Then the temperature began to drop.

That train didn't stop or slow down for hours. Where I found myself late that night was horrible. Very different from my little town. Men started swarming the train as it pulled into a yard. One man saw me as I sat up and started climbing up the ladder screaming to his friends. I had to think fast.

NEXT: Vagabonds, drug addicts, a pedophile and one dead dude.

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