Thursday, July 12, 2018

wrong side of the road

I am bursting with artistic energy at last. Spending long hours in the middle of the night at the 24hr coffee shop near my place writing out the new novel invariably titled The Algebra Of Melancholy. Here is an excerpt from the opening chapter. Young Ford Davis is hitchhiking from a small New Mexico town to find excitement and adventure from the stories he's heard of the city San Diego from a mutual friend. On the way, he is picked up by a smooth trombone player named Otis Hampton. Please keep in mind this is the first draft and will be open to much revision:

“Where’d you go, homie?” Otis Hampton’s question knocked Ford out of his revelry. Otis glanced over at the scrawny youth. He was too pretty, too delicate and fair-skinned; each of his features was shaped with a sensitive accuracy, and a girlish tenderness softened his eyes, which were brown and very large. His brown hair, cut short, was streaked with pure yellow strands. A kind of tired, imploring expression masked his thin face, and there was an unyouthful sag about his shoulders. Otis smiled.
“Can I ask you a question?”
“You gay?”
Ford thought. What does that have to do with anything? Is this guy homophobic? Am I gunna find myself face down in the desert on my stomach, beaten to a pulp with my underwear around one ankle turned inside out?
“Oh…uh…” Ford finally said.
“Look…I just want to give you a heads up. You one of them pretty boys with no experience in life whatsoever.” Otis Hampton took a long drag of the joint, never once diverting his eyes off the interstate ahead. “When I was younger, I played around. Had my fair share of homosexual experiences across the Great Southwest. Grew out of it, that’s all. I like pussy now. But, I remember.”
“What do you remember?” Ford asked.
“Not much. Only a hundred godforsaken motels across the country, most of them in the middle of nowhere. Black hair glistening in the syrupy air and somehow sweat looks beautiful on him in the neon glow of the “vacancy” signs. Lying awake on smudged sheets, wearing each other’s jackets because you aren’t brave enough to share each other’s skin, your fingers desperately snaked through his hair, lips on his pulse so you can measure just how much he loves you. But you are more addicted to each other’s scent than an old man smoking a cigarette, contemplating his imminent death by lung cancer, and so these shared sweaters will have to do. There are rental cars you learn to love more than the Toyota you owned growing up, because it is only in those anonymous vehicles you can roll down the windows and watch the wind play with his hair the way you want to, and brush hands across the glove compartment, and catch a glimpse of his barely-crooked teeth when you try to sing with Stevie when she comes on the radio. Because you can blame it on the little towns, the diner food, on having to share the same motel room when a convention has taken over town and it’s the only one left. Because you can say it’s not your fault that you went and fell in love, because who doesn’t want to break their heart against a steering wheel while “Rhiannon” plays in the background? Who could stop themselves, when he is the most beautiful man in the thirty-two states you’ve run through; because you know what he looks like shaken from sleep in the morning, stumbling to the front desk for a cup of instant coffee; because you know your heart still trembles embarrassingly even with his forehead pressed against the car window, soft snores filling the silence of a lonesome car on a deserted highway. Maybe, just maybe, he’ll learn to feel the same way if you keep driving long enough, if you try on enough different lives, if you bury your real name just deep enough beneath the surface…”
Ford chewed his lip, and was silent a moment. He was crazy with questions he wanted answered, but the idea of asking them embarrassed him, for to be so ignorant of one’s own seemed shameful.
Otis Hampton shot his car into the city limits of Tucson as the sun sunk below the rocky mountain range in a fiery rupture of reds, purples, and pinks. The city spires, with lights now on, reflected the darkness of the desert surrounding it. The air was still ungodly hot and the dust choked the throat. Ford coughed as Hampton pulled into the parking lot adjacent to the Greyhound terminal.

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