Sunday, April 13, 2014

Los Angeles: November 1969

“The buss leaves for Denver in an hour,” a puffed face bus station man says, his collar so tight it makes his eyes bulge and his face look like a balloon.
The waiting room is a quiet racket of air-brakes and murmurs, Continental Trailways burning under my seat like a rash.
The bums, fresh from their Sunday brunch at the mission, gather to see us off, yolk still clinging to their unshaven faces like yellow blood, bleeding down their cheeks to their chins which they can’t or won’t wipe away.
I sit on the bench with them, a conspirator with my how chinning chattering, my teeth ache, my brain steams, soft boiled from too much thought, my want and desires imprinted on my imagination like a bad tattoo.
It is almost December, always that winter’s day the song from the stereo warns of, and I am the rock and the island, the soul for whom the bells toll.
A click of heals sounds across the scuffed bus station tiled floor, accompanied by the swish of nylon, and I glance up, stunned by the impact of lipstick-stained teeth.
The night’s ladies linger there until they get chased out by the cops, corporal saints committed to a curing crime.
The chink in their armor is a person like me, a great eastern sinner invading LA, waiting for love in a room too well air-conditioned by lust.
The driver opens the bus door. The balloon-faced man in his too tight collar waves for us to board.
I climb the steps, wearing the smile and the stain of a kiss I never got, a stiff serpent point the way up the narrow stairs, my mind caught stark edges of the platform and wondering if Denver will be any less start.
What is Denver anyway, but a sticky stone, a hard place, full of pounding stones, a place where my uncles wait, perhaps also the police, guarding the pass through which I must go to reach the other side/
Why am I doing this?
I touch the edges of the shredded letter in my pocket, a letter with barely legible writing, read into memory.
The bus smells of sweat and old wine, as cigarette smoke hovers over the tops of the seats.
The driver is a big man with brutal lips and a savage smile, his face pounded flat by harsh reality from which he had to rebuild with a blueprint.
I find a seat and sit, silent, waiting with money in my pocket like a parishioner in a church, with only the open sky above the terminal as a steeple, riddled with stars, and carbon monoxide for incense.
The bus burps and bumps and backs out, air brakes hissing and squealing, lights above my seat flickering on, and I am finally gone, to the heart of the mountains, to the waiting mystery of Denver.

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