Working on setting a mood.
|I stared down at my boots, covered in red Georgia clay. I remembered shining them the previous morning. I remembered putting on my best suit. I remembered tying my plain black tie. I remembered other things about the day, things I tried to forget.
My head pounded. I pulled up my mud stained pantleg and removed the flask from my boot. The bourbon blurred the memories and calmed my mind.
I stared out the window. It was a gray rainy morning, same as yesterday. I was sitting in the back of a Greyhound bus. I reached in my pants pocket and pulled out a ticket stub. San Antonio was written on it. I didn’t remember purchasing the ticket nor did I remember getting on the bus. I didn’t know anyone in Texas.
I closed my eyes, uncertain if I wanted to remember or to forget. I remembered the funeral. I remembered the looks and the accusations whispered behind my back. Petty people with petty gossip.
I was there to bury my son. I had already accepted responsibility. I didn’t know what more they expected. Nothing could bring him back. I had already pleaded with God. I offered my own life for his. The only response was silence. I took another swig from the flask. It was better to forget, I decided.
The bus had come to a stop. I opened my eyes to see a young woman walking down the aisle toward me. She looked in worse shape than me. She sat down next to me.
“Can I have a sip?” She asked.
She looked barely eighteen, but I wasn’t about to card her. I handed the flask over. She took much more than a sip.
“Thanks.” She said. Taking another gulp before passing it back.
“Where are you going?” She asked.
“San Antonio, evidently. Where are we now?”
“Baton Rouge. I’m headed to Vegas, but all I’ve got money for right now is Houston. I figure I’ll work there a bit and save up.”
“You a runaway?” I asked.
“Everyone’s running from something.” She replied, staring me in the eyes.
“That is true.” I said, drinking the last of the bourbon.
“Looks like I’ll have to fill up at the next stop.” I said as I tucked the flask back in my boot.
“What will we do for entertainment until then?” She said, looking up at me with her pouting lips.
“Well, I need to take a piss.” I said, standing up and heading toward the restroom.
I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror. I had a shiner on my right eye that I didn’t remember getting, along with a bit of a fat lip. I washed up the best I could in the dirty, cramped quarters.
As I walked back to my seat, I noticed the girl had unbuttoned her top almost to her navel and hiked up her skirt so that it barely concealed anything. I sat down leaving one seat between us. She slid over next to me, wrapping her arm inside mine. She draped her jacket across our laps. I felt her hand reach over to unzip my fly. I grabbed her hand and placed it back on her lap.
“You gay?” She asked.
“No. I’m not gay.”
“Then let’s have a little fun to kill the time.”
Suddenly “kill the time” seemed like such an odd phrase to me. I played with it in my mind for a moment then let it pass.
“Listen, you’re a very attractive girl, and if you need a little help with money, I could lend you some, but I’m not interested in a quickie on the back of the bus.”
“I’m not a whore.”
“Didn’t say you were.”
We sat quietly for awhile. She leaned her head against my shoulder.
“You’re a good man, I can tell.” She said quietly.
“No, no I’m not.” I replied. She didn’t hear me. She was already asleep.
I covered her up with her jacket and let her sleep. Soon she was laid out across three seats with her head in my lap. I stared out the window at the rain and the passing miles. I wondered if I could ever run far enough to escape my memories.
The bus stopped at a gas station. I gently placed her head on the seat as I got up to go get another bottle of whiskey. I looked around as I stepped off. There was a general store off to the side of the pumps. I walked over as the bus driver let on new passengers.
The man behind the counter shook his head when I asked if they carried liquor. He tipped his head towards the door and said there was a liquor store across the street. As I stepped out of the liquor store with a bottle of bourbon in my hand, I saw the back end of the bus belch out smoke as it drove down the road. I stood in the rain and watched it disappear. I found an overhang at the side of the building, sat down and opened the bottle.