It's biting cold as cold as it can be in the high desert this time of year. 6am and I am shivering in my black Dickies coat back from the convenience store with a cup of warm coffee. Walking along the train tracks as the sun raises it's lazy ass over the horizon bathing all and sundry in a gleaming yellow glow - I step off the tracks as a train blasting it's horn deafening towards heaven rumbles pass. I stand and watch, sucking on a cig and sipping my cinnamon flavored java.
Car after car clickclacked by, with hundreds of black military tanks harnessed to the beds. I stand among frosted shrubs and crushed beer cans and used crack pipes all covered in a fine layer of black soot, thinking This war must be going worse than the news had previously reported. Row after row of shiny black metal machines of pointless sad war.
After the train passed, I crossed the track - hearing my name called - faintly, weakly. I turn and see a scrawny shape shuffling up the dust towards me. Shriveled with skin looking like dried wood, a string of snot dangling from red ravaged hooked nose, it was an old hobo acquaintance name Mikey. He was recently cast out of the mission for some reason and now - at the age of 58 - lives in a freezing storm drain nearby.
"Hey, buddy" He wheezed, barely audible. His face wrinkled into a ruddy smile. "Where ya goin'?"
"Just back to the mish, Mikey. What's up?"
"Was wonderin' if you can spot me two dollars to get a couple of forties. Gotta keep warm." He timidly said, quivering.
I reached into my jeans pocket and pulled out two crumpled notes, said jokingly,"A little early, ain't it? Guess it's happy hour in France?" I placed the bills into calloused wiry hands.
He said thanks or something like that, smiled and shot off to the convenience store. I walked with head low and striding gait back to the shelter.
Opening the side door to the lounging room, the warm air was thick with the stench of urine and fungus smelling feet. On rickety wooden chairs sat several spectral men, wrapped in soiled black garb from the previous nights cold - looked like giant black larvae, staring at me as I strode by. They sat there silent and furtive - bloodshot eyes following.
Entering the men's dorm, I sit on my bunk- sheet spotted with dried blood from the nightly assault of bedbugs - and drink my coffee. Around me the snoring of men too lazy to get up and face what the world will hurl at them - others joke and yell and laugh - others dart back and forth to the mensroom to shower, wash up, shit, piss.
Pretty much laid around- read or should I say re-read, my copy of Kerouac's Desolation Angels. Sinking deeper into depressed madness at the stasis of my situation. Why, I thought, is it wrong at what I do? I don't harm anyone - I just can't stay in one place so long. And old Thomas Wolfe was right - It is not enough to simply exist, a man needs to live. And there is a whole world out there that I want to know and see and touch.
Slept, smoke, talked with several tramps on not much matters of the world - all depressed patter, anyways. False dreams and faded nostalgia. Dinner was a gastronomical mess. And, I almost got into an argument with a religious zealot woman that stays over in the women's section.
Table next to me she says to equally obese hag, "You really should say grace before you eat."
They both glance at me for righteous approval. I stare down at the foul smelling slop on the tray and yell out in disgust, "JESUS CHRIST!"
"Don't say thuh lourds name in vain!" The pinch faced sea cow retorts.
I just eat in peace - fuck her, I said grace.
Outside, the day had burned away and it was cold, again. After dinner, I strolled around the mission past mongrel cats and rotting Pontiacs and derilict Fords. The stars splashed and twinkled amid the dark navy sky, the Interstate 10 breathed and moaned. Across the street, determined Border Patrol flashed and beamed searchlights in a vacant, crumbling warehouse for even more determined imigrants in a vain attempt to catch their prey.
All was still on this chilly night.
I turn to see a withered hee-haw scarecrow figure silhouetted in the darkness. It is Mikey.
"Hey, Mikey." I chirp, handing him a cigarette. "What's up?"
He shifts from one ratty sneaker to the other, boney hands in tattered jean pockets. "I was wonderin' if you could spot me two more for the night - it's gonna be mighty cold."
"Sure, Mikey." I fished a five from my wallet and placed it into shivering calloused wiry hands. "Don't spend it all at once."
He folded the bill, slipped it in his jacket. "You a good man, Louie, a good man." And shuffled back into his night of madness.
I turned back and stared at the yellow lights of Juarez across the freeway and I smoked and I thought...and I thought some more...