by Rex Breathes

I don’t know what to call him because I can’t remember his name. So, I’ll just call him scared. It was shortly after New Year’s, 1973, when I met the boy in the Greyhound Bus terminal, Pittsburgh, Pa., who would trade his life for mine. Met him in the men’s room, looking nervous, twitching like a rabbit trying to jump out of deep snow when a predator is near. Standing at our urinals (Sloan Valve Co., Chicago, Ill.) – communion with my dad, two years dead... He worked at Sloan Valve when I was born. Over the sound of his flush, the boy said, “Are you riding on the bus to Philly?”

I noted that Philly, instead of Philadelphia, was a forced cool. Scared kid. Not a fag. I flushed.

“Yeah. But I’m getting off long before the City of Brotherly Love.”

“Yeah. Where?” he asked, eager as a lost puppy who’s found a new master.

“State College,” splashing water on my face, my scraggly beard.

“You go to school there?”

“No. I used to. Dropped out. Just visiting friends there.”

“I’m going to Mars,” washing his hands by rote. Good boy.

“I always wanted to got to Mars and Intercourse, Pa.”

“I’m just going to visit my grandmother.”

“That’s a good enough reason to go to Mars.”

“I’d like to go to Intercourse some day, too,” he laughed, betraying his virginity.

“Well, I can’t help you with that. But I’ve got this,” pulling out my bottle of Jamaican overproof rum, stashed in my duffel bag with a change of clothes and a quarter pound of Jamaican high test ganga. Traveling light as a feather. He reached for the bottle.

“No. This shit will kill ya if you take it straight.”

“What’s overproof?”

“Means there’s so much fucking alcohol in it, they don’t even bother rating it. We’ll get some Cokes and spike ‘em. Little bit goes a long way,” I said, pulling my outlaw hat down at a rakish angle on my face. Black leather coat with big buttons, Al Pacino style, completed my get-up.

“Where did you get it?”

“In Jamaica. Kingston, Jamaica.” My dark tan in the dead of East Coast winter when everyone else, including him, was white as a ghost, told him I wasn’t lying. “Just got back last week.”

“Man. I’ve never been anywhere. Never even left home before today. What were you doin’ down there?”

“Let’s get our Cokes. Then I’ll tell ya all about it.”

Waiting on the ‘hound, I found out he was seventeen. I was only twenty, but I had already hitchhiked coast to coast and Canada, dropped out of two universities and had just spent a week shacked up with a prostitute in Kingston, where I mailed ten pounds of ganga through the Christmas mail rush, back to my old friends in Pittsburgh and State College, Pa. I laid it all out for him in the terminal as the rum started to work and he got that soft and fuzzy look in his eyes. Told him how just last month I was living in the ladies room of the little hotel above the Pioneer bar on Pearl St., Boulder, Colorado. All the rooms were long term, none of them occupied by women and the ladies room was nice and warm, so... That’s where I hatched my plan. No more small time dealing ounces of mexigrass on The Hill in Boulder. It was in my mind, the way I pictured it. All I had to do was buy a Greyhound Ameripass, good for thirty days travel anywhere in the U.S. Walk into the Pittsburgh National Bank and reopen my student loan application. How could they know I had dropped out of the University of Colorado to deal dope full time? Get back on the ‘hound. Miami. Plane ticket. Kingston. Make the connections. And I did. Cabby took me right to her door, down near ‘da harbour.’ Brought me up to her, sitting above the New Apple Bar, like room service. And she was so fine she could make the sun blink. “The Queen of East Street” is what they called her, because she lived on East Street and she was simply the best working girl down near ‘da harbour.’

She thought I was a Swedish sailor she had a few years back, coming home to mama. She had broken her arm in a roustabout with a couple of robbers. White cast, white bra and panties, deep brown skin, she laughed,

“You should see them, Erik.” (That’s what I called myself then.) But she came to call me Johnny. I had a driver’s license I picked off a guy I beat up on the on-ramp to I-80 out of Sacramento. He was trying to take over my spot and Sacramento is a dog assed town to get a ride out of. So I stomped him with my Georgia work boots. Rolled him. His license picture looked a lot like me and said I was “Johnny...” she cooed to me softly when I gave her “dah purr tongue” on limp sheets, down near ‘da harbour.’ She hooked me up with a stone rap dub reggae DJ called King Faces. He had the shit: hydraulically pressed bricks coated in cane juice. No dog odor. Till you break it open. Three pounds went to Pittsburgh, my high school buddy who worked swing in a bagel factory.

Sitting in the terminal, scratching my balls, I had just fucked my use-ta-be best friend’s girlfriend 2 hours ago. Couldn’t come. She was too bloated and white compared to the Queen with her sprinter’s body and face like Diana Ross. So I faked my orgasm. But she didn’t. And afterwards, she spilled the bagels. The package I was waiting on had already arrived. He told her I was too deranged; I wasn’t right in my mind.

“So we can’t let him know,” is what he told her. American Gigolo. I fucked it all out of her. He was already selling quarters down on the University of Pittsburgh campus. Had it stashed down in the basement. I found a measly quarter pound, all that was left. I could feel her sopping wet pussy had dried up prickly. Terminal itch. Hoped she didn’t give me anything nasty. Fuck her. Fuck him. I left my come inside his girlfriend while he was making bagels. Now she’ll never settle for his lame action again. Hell wasn’t too far behind me, or ahead of me, out on the highway.

As we boarded the bus, I noticed the rear tires were bald as my former high school buddy. But I didn’t tell the boy that. Because the sky was tombstone gray etched with the promise of snow. Flurries started to fall as we pulled out of the Pittsburgh terminal, headed East on the old turnpike. We settled into the back of the bus, across the aisle from each other. I forgot about him, going after that picture in my mind: Seven pounds sent to my friend in State College, Pa. It’s gotta be there.

Every actor has to have his motivation for his part. And I had mine down. Janna. Left me for a drop-out dope dealer my freshman year. Ran into her New Year’s Eve. She stopped by my buddies’ house in Shadyside. She was all fucked up. I told her what I was up to. She didn’t believe me. Thought I was crazy. And all the while, he was sitting on my three pounds. So I was going to show her. Return to Penn State, the conquering hero. She’d be back there by now. Fucking Janna was like taking the rocket to Mars. I needed to go there. She’d do anything, say anything, wear anything back in the holy days of our fuck. I’d been running from her for six months non-stop. Now I was running back to mama. Running scared inside, just like that boy. Cut myself off from everyone, everything. Outlaw Daze.

You can’t blame a January sky in Pennsylvania for delivering a white-out. Driver must have been doing seventy down the pike – too fast I thought – trying to outrun the storm coming from the West. I decided to visit the bathroom, spark a bowl, calm myself down. Culture shock. Boulder, Pittsburgh, Miami, Kingston, Pittsburgh. Bathroom was occupied.

Oh well. Back to my seat. The boy’s not there. Must be him in the bathroom. So white outside. Follow my breath by the window. Do a mantra. Janna’s white skin and green eyes. Saw her in a porno mag at the Smith News in Pittsburgh. Sexscope. So that’s where those photos wound up that her art teacher took. Wonder if she knows? Thought about seeing Deep Throat playing at the old Stanley Theatre. Nah. Pictures of my old girlfriend in a porno mag were a thousand times better than Linda Lovelace... couldn’t carry Janna’s tampon.

Hurt so bad, after awhile. Burned up the pages of Janna and her art teacher in a late night ritual. Couldn’t take looking at them any longer. His cock was kind of thick. He was dark and hairy in a Jew way, sort of like Harry Reems. I’d already checked out the stills from Deep Throat in a mag called Amerisex. Ameripass.The problem with riding the ‘hound on bald tires in a January blizzard: you don’t know when to get off.

Hit a bump. Look out the window. Bus is going sideways at seventy. “Deeper than deep...” Spinning out. Carnival ride. Centrifugal force freshman physics. Got an A. Tilting. Over the guard rail. Rolling. We are rolling down the embankment. Passengers flying around inside the bus like gum balls in a gum ball machine... stops. No sound. Lying flat on my back. Bus on its side. Rear emergency door pops open. My God. The snow carefully, perfectly descending under the streetlight, trying to catch up to its shadow dancing on fine powder. China White. Sudden chill shoots up through my spine explodes white moment eternal. Nectar. Not in my body. Floating up there in the streetlight descending. Wham! Screams come from behind me. Pain seizes my neck, my elbow, my knee. I’m lying on top of the bathroom door. Someone tells me to go out the rear emergency door. As I step into pure snow, catching up with my shadow, reassembled, destroying perfection forever, someone shouts at my back,

“Be careful! There’s probably broken glass under the snow. “

Too late. I slip and fall. But come up again just fine, no cuts, no blood.

Brave bus driver with blood drying quickly, matting the hair to his forehead, lines us all up in this field somewhere in Central Pennsylvania. He goes down the line counting to sixteen. Again. Stopping at sixteen. Shakes his head.

“There’s supposed to be seventeen passengers when we left the terminal,” he says to anyone.

The boy. What about the boy?!

“There was a boy going to Mars sitting across the aisle from me. I don’t see him!” I shouted.

“All right. I’m going back in to look. Everyone stay here. Stay warm.”

But the bus driver didn’t come back out with the boy. He didn’t see him anywhere. Instead, the bus driver and another man brought out our stuff. My duffel bag. I completely forgot. Picked it it up. Bottle wasn’t broken. Good. I would need that later. But my outlaw hat was left behind in the wreckage as we trudged across the field to a farm house – warm yellow glow through the windows. Inside, I started to suspect... underneath the fresh new snow. But I couldn’t think it, see it, or say it... He went... till the crane came and lifted up the bus... through the bathroom window and was crushed underneath. I was lying on top of the bathroom door when the bus stopped rolling. Same door I would have entered if he hadn’t been in there, maybe sick, woozy, because I spiked his Coke with overproof rum. He passed up through me and took every idea I had in my mind. I was gone, too.

TV crew came out from Pittsburgh. Film at eleven. Wanted my reaction, because I knew him, talked to him back in the terminal. And I said,

“Fuck you!” to all the maggots back in Pittsburgh wanting to feed on that boy’s flesh still warm. And Fuck You! to every day of my life up to that moment. That was it. That was the split. Forevermore. There would be my life up to the moment the bus stopped rolling and my life after. Or so the new idea played in my mind.

They brought out another bus to take what few passengers wanted to go on to their destinations, instead of going to the hospital and the hotels in Indiana, Pa. I made State College around 2:00 am. Phone booth waiting on my dime in front of the State Theater on College Avenue. Deep Throat was playing there.


“Janna, it’s Erik.”

“I can’t really talk now...”

“I was in a bus accident. The boy sitting next to me died.”

“I’m sorry, Erik. I’m with someone,” slow, deliberate speech like cartoon words filling up a balloon. She was with the man. H. Smacked out of her eyeballs.

“Jesus Christ. I say I’ve been in a bus accident, the guy sitting next to me is dead and you say... never mind.”

“I gotta go.”

I hung up the phone and never saw her or spoke to her again. So I took a room in the State Hotel, above the marquee and over Linda Lovelace going “Deeper than deep...” White room, white lace curtains, white bedspread, clear overproof rum. When I came to the next day, the storm had dressed the sleepy college town in fresh, white gauze bandages carefully wrapped around me... the invisible man.

Went back down to the phone booth. Called up my friend. He said my package hadn’t arrived. I didn’t care. Told me to give him a couple of hours, then he’d come and collect me.

So I paid the price of admission, two bucks, and slipped inside the celluloid shadows to watch Linda going for that orgasm in her throat. Why not. Spiked my Coke. Feeling no pain. Laughed like everyone else at the scene with the quick edits of the mighty Saturn Rocket taking off while Linda’s going “Deeper than deep...”

I took my rocket to Mars. Scraped up the last of my money and came up with a new idea in my mind. Made it all the way back down to Kingston. She was waiting for me, leaning up against a stucco building – been there since the Spanish built it. One foot propped up against the wall, cracking canvas for her dusty, worn down pumps, bare legs, tight black skirt, effortless white blouse open at the throat to reveal her “Deeper than deep...” cleavage. And I want to go there. Leave the dying fields in Pennsylvania forever. And I did. Never stepped foot in the Keystone State again.

She had her wig hat on. Framed by the last gasp of sun rushing down East Street like Cortez’ Gold. Out to catch a man.

“So you come back,” is all she said.

And you will become a fisher of men. Martyr. Christlike. She reeled me in like so many sailors, sons and boys who lost their way. He just wanted to go home. Her cast was off so both her arms could circle me for the first time, breathing her sweet dark rum, perfume and cigarettes. I drank from her hot mouth. No more outlaw in my mind. Scared straight for three weeks. The boy had delivered me to my last safe harbour, in the winter of my “Deeper than Deep Throat..”

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