IN LIKE FLYNN
The stillness of expectation. Lay your weary head on the window Flynn, it can't possibly be as weary as you, no matter what it’s seen. The day’s excitement, a living pulse through my brain, pumping right into the looking. The bus half fills, and the driver settles down for a little monologue, Vegas style. His opening volley is a “clunk”.
“I’d like to thank you for choosing to travel with Greyhound, the Gateway to America. This bus will be calling at Baton Rouge, Opelousas, Alexandria, Shreveport, Texarcana Arkansas, Little Rock, Springfield Missouri and Kansas City.” Blah blah blah and then he starts in on the numbers. “I’d like to remind you that smoking, anywhere on the bus, including the restroom, is prohibited by law and is a Federal offence. This includes hash, Marijuana, weed, joints, spliffs or any other foreign delicacies, and also alcohol is not allowed anywhere on the bus. Including rest stops. If I catch anyone smoking or drinking I will drop them off at the next stop. However, there will be plenty of short breaks along the way for a smoke if you so desire. Also keep the music down, please use a headset and not too loud. Sit back and enjoy the trip.”
The bus comes to life beneath him... it moves, we move.
Hiding out. I’m sitting it out in the Pancake House Motel and the storm is making me listen. What made the sky so angry? Huge, huge sound, power whiplashed hard against the inanimate moment. Rain like a fist on the arm of a cloud. When it’s high and almighty the surface of the ground is swept off its lack of feet into planes of wild swirling mist; the cars lean with the wind and pull themselves in against the charge. When it’s low the puddles just dapple constantly, a moving violation, alive right where they fell. But it’s high again now. The lightning flashes – eleven camera times – a twelfth, the rain gives a kick and then thunder! The thunder rolls over what we call sound, shoving it out of the way.
Steady, heavy, steady steady rain. Complete contact between earth and sky – man’s tarmac game board just balanced on the rough, a mere passing challenge. Eight, nine-ten, eleven-twelve, thirteen thunder. Now the oyster shell sky is aflash non-end, an elemental dance floor – a tango with the weather and the pummeled people scurrying beneath, their ears full of water and tornado warnings.
Now’s the time. I shall brave the Intercontinental House of Pan-American Cakes, floating out there in the carpark.
Boots on, eight-ball key in left pocket, a clear shot. It’s time to meet the daydusk sky, flashing so constant now, what hangs on behind looks bruised and hungover. The sheet thrown in rain across the sky hides a huge light-bulb – make that a strip light in a diner at about 4:30 in the morning – sky always open, flicking on and off, a madman at the switch and he wants it to blow!
Out and cold. Down these dimensionally sogged steps to the drowning ground. I swear, that fifth step won’t get me on the way down, but on the way back this time I’m going to see it coming. Oh yeah. Dive in and swim with dry toes out across the Olympic size car park, battered and thundered upon, oh! Shot a thousand times with a B-B gun! And a thousand water pistols! The door opens to my living touch with light behind its frozen shudder.
First thing in my first real morning: coffee, order of the day. It’s getting darker still outside, but it’s a new day to me. I wonder how long I slept? If I knew the time… but what does it matter? What kind of hurry could I possibly be in?
I am the thing they said could never happen. I refused to die. Look at me now cruising on… on and on out onto the highway, the Interstate, the state of things. To new things – or at least, the new wrappings of old things, which is much the same if you don’t think about it too much. Have to master that one.
Onward I go, past ramshackle hut-holes of shambled gray wood and fire-torn windows all battered up by liquor and flames. Roofless places and places without places, just wood in vacant lots fenced off from the street by wire and rust; piles so wide and deep of fractured buildings they leave no room for dust or dirt, only gray grain side to side. Shacks, a complete set of burnt-out buildings, broken down lots, scattered several feet deep in fragmented wood across the spaces they once held. Splintered beams strike shattered poses over former settled life, torn and ripped out from the inside. Black arcs hang flat in shadowless soot above and around the windowish holes laying low and looming.
Pretty black kids run down this street after each other, after parts of themselves, by the CHEAP BEER, COLD CUTS and SNO-BALL signs, hand painted. And we run on also, past the Superdome and the Airport, to land finally upon the Interstate like a pinball in a contraption made of tarmac and tin – the eternal take-off to new destinations is little more than this. Time for me to drift then...
Time passes, like time asleep on its feet – it won’t stay still but can’t wake up; staggering forward half dead but wholely alive nonetheless, eagerly blind to the roadside as it whizzes by, as the rhythm of the busy but still so still road clips heavily forward. A mystical evening scuppers the sobriety of the day, as I sit so alone listening to the other passengers embarking upon the chaos of inadequate intimacy, muttering some confused conspiracy to thwart the inevitable absolute darkness sinking in like smoke within our mobile cocoon.
On my right is the ever yawning swamp. Grand. The death of it. Deep in its darkness and a living desolation to man.
Oh memory, how much we have to reminisce. How beautiful it is we are both as old as each other, we shall sit and talk of foreign shores and former comrades. You are all I have of what was. But we must make new friends, new memories to talk with amongst ourselves. Here we are memory, you and I. See as I see and tell it back to me. See hear, see here, see this.
The grass is all around us, cut to medium short and blooming in the sun-creased shade, and we are a part of this cornered field, as we sit on it and green my jeans. Jackson Square.
Bubbles rise to the surface of my beer and reach out to me, as if they knew me – although if they did I’m sure they would simply dissolve into the air. At any rate the beer will soon be a part of me, its cool presence is a balm to the climate of this New Orleans fête-a-fête. Hand hung limp across my folded leg, a single blade touches lightly my pale skin, sending life signals through and into me from pore to core, in and down and out again. There.
See the children playing with the water fountain, how it really becomes a fountain. Squirting up the spray in a single leap of victory over gravity – from the fingers of babes comes refreshment to the air. Light plays its part too in this seminal serenade, reaching from sky-sun to earthworm, through trees arched with birdsong like an orchestra of poets babbling, each phrase of nature calling out to me in my coherent non-existence, my otherly participation in this life of lives.
I sat down in the square to quench my anger, and it has been breached by pathos.
Somewhere between my feet there creeps a tourist conga, circling the Union Dude with the hollow sword, on his green horse with tail of flax. Wait – make that two tracks of railroad rabble forking an uncertain trajectory: one train of tourists blank and bemused, muted by an absurd formality – dazzled by geography and season, custom and comparison, price and translations of imported value; another of cream clad children, all Bermuda-bound and beautifully black, catching the light as much as white people deflect it, filled with contact and flourishing caprice. Education in its playground among the shapes and the colors, the squealing scuttlers who desecrate the fountain and the even grass, still tingling. Such sweet voices they will lose and in such a short time, as the veil of the adult world is drawn across their faces, bringing a weighted shade to the lightest joys.
And as quick as they came, they’re gone now.
Instead a florescent jogger to ponder, jarring its genderless spine in lieu of a heart attack. More people die of heart attacks from jogging than any other single cause, apparently. The man who invented running as a health pursuit – as opposed to a means of escape – died of a heart attack, while jogging. What smirking victories are gilded over the bastion of common sense.
A glance across my beer hand reveals a man of mirrored eye glasses changing the diaper of his little son, who played just now and will play again, after a little oiling and tenderness. Despite myself I feel a strange warmth toward this man – a real man floating in a choking bogus ocean of testosterone. Ahh – a middle-aged gent dressed in black but with white beard resembles strongly a father I once had and I detest him for it. Turn away. Time, it never looks away, does it? The longer I live, the more I realize I’ll never, ever know enough to make it all... alright. What arch Freudian miasmas pervade our scant vision?
Swallows perhaps, swirl about in that clear-cloud sky, making like bats of the day for my pleasure. Smile, Flynn, smile.
Ah, I really must draw you to that swarthy chap over there, getting on but wily, who has clinched to his ears a radio of ear-muffling proportions, its scale is simply staggering. Staring at me and probably everyone he is. Wonder what he’s listening to? But not too much. I wouldn’t like it anyway.
Picnic time for the man and his son. Mine is a platter of Marlboros and a dessert of Fortuna. Hot-pants. White. An onomatopoeic word for a garment which unfailingly provokes the very same reaction. Redhead in striking pink t-shirt and slacks, all aglow in her kaleidoscope of rubine insanity, lurches poses in front of the statue that ran. Her clumsiness perfectly matches the marked disinterest of her suitor, flashing briefly his thing before moving on. She follows cheerily. Checker-shirted nameless man as foreign as a misunderstanding, head on sleeping bag, all fetal beneath a tree. Beneath a counterpoint tree, a bum flat out on the grass next to a black cat so slim as to be its own shadow, but for a white husk of hair where maybe whiskers should be. See the old folks hirsuted with more energy than sense, parading like pigeons to the center of the square. Squirting the fountain like it’s a moon landing, gazing up in awe at the simplicity of it all, and with such simplicity. Wisdom in orbit around its own incomprehension.
Now there can be no finer sore for sighted eyes than a plastic church – well, alright, cathedral. Kind of Gaudi-slash-Brothers Grimm-slashed-Disneyland. That clock there is stuck struck at twenty-two to five but still chimes on the hour as though nothing was wrong, just like the church it no doubt represents... and all for me here in my splendor of beer-grass stains and ciggy-smoke in the shade.
A drunk staggering by like he’s done it a thousand times today already – brown paper bag and half a bedroll – checks trashcans out for reusable refuse. I no doubt have more in common with him than most. Oh god here he comes. Looking my regret full in the face, he’s hustling me for a smoke. How like an Aborigine he looks up close, alarmingly, with his mottled thick dreadlock hair, gray like old soap, and his Louisiana-brown skin. I comply gladly and find that close up he’s not all that much like me.
“It’s hotter still in Noo Yawk and in wintertime it’s colder still too!” Smile, closedly. The Big Easy’s a tough cookie but the Big Apple takes the cake. Rather like that. Should’ve said it out loud. But heaven forbid he should linger. At last his light is lit and he resumes his broken swagger, after cupped hands and old drag have warmed his way. Settling over by another tree, legs swung crossed in the shade, he leans back. Freedom – its price met, tag forever dangling.
You know, I’m really quite happy here. For now.
What do you make of it all memory?