From a filthy alley, I entered a black steel door and checked into the local shelter. The main lobby was a grimy den of one hundred shabby hobos, ex-cons, and shifty eyed pedophiles. The room was saturated in a foggy haze of carcinogens as they allowed them to smoke inside. The grimy tiled floors were littered with refuse - cigarette butts, cups, discarded tin cans and fast food containers. I glanced at the large, plastic trash can next to a girder, it was over flowing with garbage which cascaded onto the floor. A demented Chinese man stood hovering over it cackling to himself as he rummaged for scraps.
I was processed quick and was surprised when I ran into an old acquaintance. He was on his way to the Mexican border to spend the week with his wife, but before he left, he put in a good word for me with staff and I was immediately assigned as a chore volunteer in lieu of better sleeping arrangements and food.
I sat on one of the dented, rickety metal chairs as I waited for chow. A cacophony of chatter permeated the filthy hall - Mexicans blabbered, Blacks howled. and deranged old hobos sat cooly puffing on rollies.
Chow was a nameless mess served in a Styrofoam bowl. It was some smelly concoction that resembled vomit. Elbows touching, we all sat along grease lined tables noisily feeding on our slop saying nothing. The mixture of too much garlic and the funk of a hundred unwashed feet permeated the meal.
That evening around six, I was ordered to attend a meeting for the volunteers facilitated by a large drunk Mexican named Victor. He stood at a podium and swayed and slurred his orders. The sprinkling of men in the room stared vacantly out into space or slept in their chairs. No one gave a shit.
Victor rattled on about being courteous to the clients - it was our duty - to be kind and make their stay in this hellhole located at the edge of a no-where town a little more hospitable. He pointed to a tall, athletically built white guy with black hair and a goatee. He wore a basketball jersey and shorts over a lanky frame. "Like, this gentleman here," Victor stated with a great swoop of his meaty paw. "This guy needs a bus ticket to Dallas. If any of you guys can find it in you to help him out, let him know."
I leered in the guy's direction and asked, "How much is it?"
"Twenty-eight dollars." He said.
"We'll go there tomorrow and get you that ticket." I stated.
A hushed confusement fell on the audience. Who is this weird fucker helping someone he doesn't know? I could feel that in the air as all their bleary, blood shot eyes fell on me. I simply uttered, "I have the cash and it's not much. Hell, I'd just probably fuck it away anyways."
"Thanks," Was the kid's stunned reply.
After the meeting, I found out the young guys name was Mike. He thanked me a hundred times. Before the lights went out in the dorm, every one was issued thin cushioned mats and was told to sleep on the floor. Mike and I found a corner and set up our spot.
Sleep eluded me that night. My mind raced with thoughts of suicide and sadness wrapped in confusion. Plus, I had a hot twenty seven year old snoring softly beside me. The only event was I killed a bed bug crawling up the wall near my head. I must've finally dozed off into troubled sleep around two-thirty or three.
At four forty-five, the lights snapped on and there was a mad rush to the men's room. I stood at the sink amid farting, pissing and shitting and brushed my teeth. Fowl water and urine lined the floor mixed with used wadded scraps of toilet tissue. The stench was enough to make an ambulance attendant puke. I invited Mike for coffee before going to Greyhound to purchase his ticket.
As we sat at a Starbuck's at six-thirty in the morning, Mike confided to me that he was just released from jail on possession of meth. He also stated he was a cook in his town of Sherman, his final destination just north of Dallas. He amused me with tales of his confinement and his wacky adventures of a drug pusher. He has a wife (who he can't stand) and a baby girl from her. I related some of my own adventures and he sat patiently and listened, laughing at my sardonic wit. He was quite a looker. deep voice, tats on his arm, long hands and big feet. He noticed that I was surveying his anatomy from time to time and after a sip of coffee asked, "Can I ask you something?"
"Yeah, go ahead."
"Are you queer?"
I sighed, "I wouldn't exactly say queer, but I do prefer the company of men over the fairer sex."
"Are you expecting something in return for this ticket because if so, I gotta say no. I don't do that shit." He firmly stated.
"You are going to learn that there are still kind people on this planet. They are few and far in between, but they exist. I am helping you simply because I want to. No strings attached."
"Man," He smiled. "You are one fucking cool guy."
I sat back in my chair, "I try, I really do."
We ordered more coffee and chatted casually, joked, relating stories for the next few hours before eventually walking the two blocks over to the depot. I bought his ticket, waited for the next route to arrive with him and wished him luck before he boarded. As I walked out of the station, I mused to myself that I must be getting soft. I really did want to drain that boys nuts, but I have been so fucked up and bad in the past months, I reckoned that I needed to boost my karma points.
I returned to the shelter and amid the coughing of halitosis and loud chatter I had a rather horrible anxiety attack. The staff immediately had me see a psych councilor - rules were, one required a ten day stay before any aid was given with the shelter's programs. The young councilor, a girl named Victoria, sat across from me in her sterile office and simply asked, "So, tell me how you feel right now."
I did - I unleashed all my mental anguish and sorrow on her - and two hours later the poor girl had tears streaming down her cheeks. I, as I always do to alleviate a dire condition, quipped, "I don't know why you are crying, I'm the one living with it."
She laughed and stated that she was going to circumvent the ten days and have me immediately taken care of. "Cool beans," I said.
That night as I lay on my mat staring at the stained ceiling amid snores and farting, I vowed to myself, If I can get myself out of this mess, I will stay put and comfortably grow old in my allotted place. No more adventures, no more wacky ideas.
I rolled onto my side and watched a skinny black man with boiled cover feet inhale great tokes of spice before I finally fell asleep...