Thoughtful in Reno, Continued

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During the weeks before this event in Reno, I had built up the whole trip to a pinnacle of perfection in my mind. It was to be my night of rampage. Non-violent, of course.

If I could get away from my habitual environment, I could be free to express myself. Once there, however, each minute that passed betrayed my ability to act. The rampaging never left my head. It was hemmed in because I never stopped thinking about what others might be thinking.

Did they see me for what I was? Could they smell my sickness? I did not want anybody to know that I wanted, but I needed something to happen for me, with me, through me, to me. I needed to act without thinking. Rampage!

Now, sometime after 5:00 AM under a Nevada pre-dawn sky; one void of stars and serenity, I felt crushed. The surface of our atmosphere was merely a reflection of the sidewalk, the street, and the neon gutters.

Where was my hotel room? When would the sun rise?

Straight pins pricked my feet. They felt like a part of the fabric of my socks so I stopped to take off my shoes. I pulled at the material. A hole had opened over my big toe and was threatening to expose the others.

Dizzy sickness. Hunger pains.

Whenever I thought I’d figured something out, that momentary actualization became the plastic tamperproof seal on those jeweled CD cases that I couldn’t ever remove without utility blade, bayonet, or blowtorch.

Across the street, surrounded by hotels that did not look like mine, was a corner market of the low-rent, food-mart variety—complete with barred windows and inside there would be jars of pickled eggs with sausages and energy drinks.

These places were havens for the wretched of the night. Sanctuary.

Hopping forward on one shoe, hoping to beat the blink-scream of the fading crossing signal, I held my other shoe in one hand and pushed on because I could think of nothing but chocolate donuts; the more generic the better.

As I hopped in, I noticed a young man loitering in front of the store. He was tall and lean. Eyes like extinguished neon, a biblical lock of dark hair fell across his forehead in a reassuring wave. Sadly, though, he smacked of town and gave off the same lackluster, mechanically-animated appeal of a smart TV’s personal avatar.

I could have sworn that a soft word fell from his mouth as the glass door swung to, and the electronic bleating of the customer signal sounded.

Hello? Handout?

Then it was 6:00 AM, and I was back across the street in front of a hotel, not mine. But I had decided to sit and consume a few donuts. The rising sun was breaking up a rebellion of clouds over the mountains.

After nearly 18 hours devoted to rampage, without any reward outside of a box of chocolate donuts that I could have bought at any store in any town, I felt simply pointless.

It was the utter lack of meaning to anything that had occurred in almost a day that knitted my brow, not the new sun or the sleep in my eyes or the pain in my head.

Time spent, money burned, and nothing produced. I might as well have been working for an international corporation. And, yes, I knew that after some rest, a shower, and the long drive home that my feelings of bitter pointlessness would fade into the familiar disappointment that was my regular life.

However, I did not know where my hotel was. I did not know where to lay my head.

Head.

This word repeated itself several times—head, head, head—before I was aware of its speaker.

Opposite my sidewalk perch in front of the hotel, not mine, was another hotel, not mine, and in front of it stood the young man from the food mart.

New neon had begun to cascade in his eyes—VACANCY, VACANCY, VACANCY. His black wavy lock of hair softening the shock of his open-mouthed cry—HEAD, HEAD—as half-melted chocolate held the rough, chapped skin of my upper and lower lips together for an instant before my lower jaw bone slipped free and dangled in disbelief. Head, head.

Nineteen hours of imprisonment in my brain had led to this: No contact. No contact. No contact. Contact. Real contact!

But of what sort and to what end? HEAD, HEAD, HEAD echoed off the buildings. I felt the sun then, and it was hot.

It was as if no one else knew. Everybody on the street—the other loners and loiterers, and the early-to-the-worm business people—had gone deaf and dumb. They traveled at one speed, while the young man and myself at another.

The inability to act that had so possessed me wavered as I realized nobody but that young man knew what I was thinking; they weren’t in my head. My presence on the street didn’t even fall within their radius of concern, much less my thoughts and fears.

Neon eyes knew it all. I hesitated, and then tried to disprove the existence of the young man with an injection of chocolate. I raised my hand in denial, trying to refute his call.

But why?

This was it: my time to act without thinking—all body, no mind. There was a complete shift in the air currents; and then, an undeniable rearrangement in the chemistry of the weather. Cloud rebellion…triumphant.

It began to rain. Soft sheets, quickened by desire to quench the gritty substance of the streets, washed down the back of my neck.

The young man with the neon eyes and black lock of hair waved his hand at me. He shouted, “Man, a blow job…come over.” This was no mistake, and I could not react but I could sit still no longer. Of all the polite middle-class replies, I called back, “No thank you, I’m good.” Rampage.

I then got to my feet, still with one shoe off, and crossed against the signal. And against all my cautious internal monologues that were spewing doubt, fear and hatred. It was just me and him. No society. No Gods. No Rules.

Who are you,” I asked? Wasn’t sure I needed to know. He showed me into a room in the hotel, not mine. He said little. Piled on the bed were pictures of race car drivers with crash helmets and leather gloves. I could smell stale beer and incense. The bedside clock radio played bluegrass.

This isn’t why I came,” I told him. “I’m not looking for this sort of thing.” I was collapsing internally. Felt each one of my repeated years implode under the pressure of something new. We sat opposite each other; he on an overstuffed reading chair, I on the edge of the bed.

It was then 7:00 AM. My insides slid over the edges of the room in time to the easy music. Twenty hours, numerous drinks and smokes, and four chocolate donuts to get to this…. Not a single person that I had looked at all night had looked at me, not in the way I wanted.

I then made my way back down every street, through each casino and tavern, as I sat on the edge of a young man’s bed who had neon for eyes and black jets of hair falling over his forehead just to make sure I hadn’t missed something, someone that could have seen me. Connected me. Finished me.

 

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