Grainy, over-exposed slide show image projected on a bare concrete wall:
I’m five years old. I don’t even need to get my bearings this go-round. In a flash-bulb instant, I recognize this is Christmas day at my grandmother’s house. My senses are wracked by the cacophony of a happy family, wafts of Christmas dinner and stale cigarettes. Before me lies a large gift, my name carefully written on the tag. I know it’s the first of many Star Wars action figure play-sets which will provide me years of fun-filled days.
On the other side of the tree is my sister, only nine, still showing the signs of retained baby fat. She smiles gleefully as she shreds the paper from a candy-colored box. My grandmother has maneuvered herself by my side and kisses me wetly on the cheek, smelling like whiskey and a dirty ashtray. I rub the slime away and lunge for the present…
The room is dark and barely lit by a half-moon. There are arms wrapped around me, a mouth firmly planted on mine, tongues fencing in the heat. All I can smell is his cheap alcohol and cheaper Thrifty’s bought cologne, mixed with the garlic and wet dog smells of the house. One of my trembling hands is tangled in hair, the other groping under a loose t-shirt attempting to clumsily undo the button on his denim over-alls. He is grinding his slender hips into my lap, moaning, asking for more. My arousal is painful because it has nowhere to go in my tight jeans.
All of my virgin fears hit me in an instant. Never before have I done what he asks of me. He issues a frustrated sound, pushes me back onto the couch. Wrenching his t-shirt off and my eyes fixate on the hairless smoothness of his copper colored torso. Standing up, he releases the clasps and lets the denim over-alls fall…
Incandescent lights nearly blind me after being in the dark room. I stumble a few steps, loose-fitting shoes flopping on the floor. A large room surrounds me, industrial lighting leaving no shadowed corners. Greasy stainless steel tables and benches are bolted to the floor and a number of solemn men are about, sitting or standing wearing orange jumpsuits. Looking down, I am wearing the same jumpsuit and lace-less sneakers.
I am twenty-two.
On the table next to me is a box of tobacco and rolling papers. Expertly, I roll a cigarette, not noticing the two men watching me with unblinking eyes. In the far wall is a mesh covered heating element, used only for lighting cigarettes. I push the button, the coils glow like an ember and I lean in to light the rollie.
My arms are roughly grabbed at the wrists and twisted behind me while a coarse hand shoves my face into the mesh covering…
Today I am twenty-seven and I stand on a shattered sidewalk, the multi-colored slums of north Tijuana stretch out before me. I am amiably mesmerized by their alien beauty.
Twenty-five, full of booze and pot, a guitar in my hands, fingers working furiously, hair in my face, strumming horribly the melancholy rhythms of The Smiths.
Eighteen, staring into the empty, cock roach infested studio apartment on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Highland Avenue, elated I’m finally going to be out from under my parent’s iron boot heels.
New York’s hallucinogenic nights.
Tampa and marching feet.
Shaving my head in an El Paso Greyhound men’s room.
Cursing my fate in a Guatemalan jungle.
A Boise bus station.
Broke and hungry, stumbling weary down a San Francisco sidewalk, clutching my tattered black coat vainly attempting to ward off an unrelenting freezing wind.
Shift, shift, shift.
It blurs now, an ever-increasing slide show of everything I have ever seen or done. There is no set pattern of what shifts to when. Time has no meaning. Details have no meaning. Experiences I enjoyed last mere seconds, while agonizing heartaches last forever.
I spin on and on, a passenger on my own tour bus, not knowing when this masochistic carousel is going to stop.
I ride it, though, because I realize when it does stop, I will experience sights, sounds, smells and characters to draw from for my next lie.