by Cloyd Campfire
When you attempt to be an astronaut but don’t quite make it ~ when you’re one unit shy of graduation & on empty ~ when you grow weary of working some bummer job & can’t find anything else but another one ~ when you grow wary of handing all your money over to your greedy property-gobbling landlord month after month ~ when you have fallen in love while nobody has fallen in love with you ~ and the military is no longer a viable option ~
Don’t hang yourself. Come with me. And be ~
A tramp ~
And celebrate spring!
Well, I stumbled into the train station. The old dude behind the counter told me it would take 3 days for me to get on a train ~ a train to Flagstaff, Arizona. Lordy, by that time the VA could catch-up to me and have me all talked into going back to work. So I stepped across the small lobby to where a person could catch a bus instead, which the senora behind the counter told me could be caught at 4 o’clock, about 5 hours away. Okay ~ I bought the ticket. Incidently, I also had the back-pack weighed. It weighed some thirty-odd pounds ~ hmmm. I checked it in & went and sat down. No. I tried to check it in but was not allowed to do so ’til a half hour before the bus left ~ five hours away. Yehaaaaaaa, Greyhound.
Then I went & sat down, still fondling the pack. There was a little group of lockers in the corner of the waiting area that didn’t work ~ like what else was new? I got up, found this out & wore the pack around downtown Albuquerque killing time… After a coffee here, a pizza there, I came back and sat down again ~ sat the back-pack down next to me. Me and my pack were rapidly becoming bosom buddies!
Speaking of which, suddenly, I missed my room-mate. God forbid, how could one miss a room-mate? For over two years I’d been complaining about having a room-mate. The unexpected emotion welled-up out of no-where. I sat there in the train station waiting for a bus, missing my room-mate ~ who was an old black man with a bad back. Huffing and puffing was I ~ on the verge of tears!
I was mashed like potatoes, sliced like bread, spread like mayonaise, and chilled like milk. But most of all, I was drop-kicked by the “Nigger Of The Narcissus,” by Joseph Conrad. Whoa, what am I talkin’ ’bout, oh reading commander?
It came down to this: this man, with his overflowing pile of shit in our room that I was not allowed to shovel-out ~ this man, with his tenacity, sense of worth & fairness & humanity, not to mention intelligence wisdom & savy ~ this futher-muckin’ son-of-a-whipper-schmucker had pulled my head up outta my frickin’ ass.
I had knocked over lamps, thrown books at the wall, dumped entire cans of Ajax all over the bathroom and left it there. I had paraded around naked with Indian war-paint on my face and with the Dixie Chicks screeching on my music box (and on repeat), “I need a boy like you like I need a hole in the head!” I couldn’t get rid of this feller, his television, his cancer-like mess of belongings, his midnight-snacking with his mouth open, or his constant yammering about his bad back & his last employer & the endless march-of-the-lawyers aftermath. And he was always there ~ when I woke-up, when I went to work, when I came back, when I went to sleep. Other than these & oh so many other incorrigibilities, Quest was a pretty nice guy.
Early on, he suggested we stick together for survival’s sake. He wasn’t kidding. In time, we grew to understand each other & modified our noisy media engines. And I became kind ~ I, kind! And that’s what I mean when I say he pulled my head up outta ~ the gravel.
And this is why I can’t help but mention “The Nigger of the Narcissus,” by Joseph Conrad. In this classic olde English novel, a black dude jams up the white-boy crew on the ship “Narcissus,” when he decides to die on a particular voyage. All the white boys end up taking care of this black feller until he’s finally gone. Quest, bless his soul, was the target of my “Narcissus,” or of my oh so vain & over-blown self-concern.
One day I begun to give him the Dixie Chick treatment on my 25-dollar music box. He raised gospel music to a high level of vibration on his much more elaborate music system, drowned the Dixie Chicks until they were face-down n’ dead. The worst part of it was, he started singing to the gospel music ~ all gooey-eyed and walking like an Egyptian while sitting on the edge of his rack, if you can picture that. Singing! We were friends, but this was going much too far.
Lord Jehovah in the name of Jesus have mercy ~ I had left without saying good-bye.
Joseph Conrad of course !