It was not an odd twist of fate that led me to Panama City Florida. I don't believe in fate anyway. I only believe in action. I am an idiot.
One click sealed it. I didn't even flinch. I booked the Greyhound ticket and lied to my friends telling them I had done it the night before because I was drunk.
I do stupid things when I'm drunk, they know that, but they weren't happy and I don't think they believed me. I didn't care. I was like a crack fiend and I needed my rock, I tell you I've never had more of an itch for adventure than I did at that very moment sitting in the Queen and Crescent Hotel just two blocks away from New Orleans' French Quarter the day after Fat Tuesday. It was Mardi Gras, in case you haven't figured that out, and the place was bursting with bros, and if you don't understand the negative connotation I am implying with that oh so mighty word then you probably are one.
We had arrived in Gulfport, Mississippi a few evenings prior, to our shoddy little motel next to a Krispy Kreme. I waited inside while Eliot and Stephen booked the room and watched a family of morbidly obese Mississippians stuff donuts into their bodies like they'd been living off twigs and roadkill for the last six months. For all I know they had, and they'd finally saved up enough money from selling squirrel pelts to random crazies to make the trip into town for some good ol' glazed shit-balls of dough and fluff and sugary goodness. You might think I'm exaggerating, or just being an asshole. Well, I am definitely not exaggerating. I may be being an asshole, I don't think so, but I'm definitely telling the truth. Ask anyone who's anyone.
Stephen and I had wanted to book it straight into New Orleans, with no looking back, but for Eliot. It went down like this. Stephen was balancing the steering wheel with his knees while shuffling through our jumbled pile of CDs. Eliot stared straight ahead, eyes locked on the road most likely out of fear of Stephen's erratic driving, and I was laying in the back seat. As he slid in a Roots CD Stephen whimsically wished we were staying in the city that first night instead of in a motel outside it. I nearly choked when I tried to sit up and lunge forward and got pounded by my locked seatbelt. My mind started racing with ways to fuel his thought, like a cold, weary camper scrambling to find kindling to put on a tiny spark. This is because I'm an idiot, and I'm down for pretty much anything cool anyone suggests, including myself. I started spouting off reasons why we should go for it, how we could sleep in the car, how we'd save money, and so forth. Eliot is the opposite of me, he's the conservative one. Not the kind of guy you take to a place like New Orleans, really, but whatever. Truly it was all up to Stephen, and there was this one beautiful moment where we could either go straight on the freeway and continue into Gulfport or burn a hard right and shoot directly into Da Big Easy himself, the big black man holding a trumpet and raising it into the sky, singing oh lawdy! He was calling our names, and in those moments that blazing green exit sign came closer and closer I gripped the seat back and screamed into Stephen's ear to do it, to take that goddamn right and grab fate by the fucking balls and rip them off.
Well, the sign and the moment passed, and we kept on going to Gulfport. I could feel it in Stephen's tone of voice and the look in his eyes that he had torn himself in that decision. I could see his ghost back there, standing on the exit ramp, staring inquisitively at his body as if to say, where are you going? It was a truly beautiful moment, even thought neither of us got what we wanted. Eliot said nothing, but he of course had been implying the whole time we should just stick with the plan. He's the kind of guy who likes chilling in hotel rooms. Don't get me wrong, I love Eliot; I just fucking hate hotel rooms.
There was another great moment driving over. I burned a bunch of CDs for the road, including one by Galactic none of us had ever heard. It was good, funky, a little jazzy, little bit of hip hop sprinkled in - good driving music. We were about to hit the coast of Mississippi, and in an instant we broke out of the monotony of the thousand mile treeline, the one that anyone who has ever driven on a southeastern Interstate knows all too well, into vastness all around, expanses of swampy ocean on both sides and just us and the other cars going on and on and on for miles. The sun was setting, it was the orangest of all oranges I've ever seen, not vividly bright orange though. It's hard to describe. Imagine an actual orange, like the fruit, and then imagine if you were to cut it open and stuff ten thousand disembodied souls into it and seal it back up and put it in the sky.
That's really about as close as I'm going to get to showing you that sun. But that wasn't what really made the moment. A song came on, the last song on the CD, and something incredible happened. It was a rising sense of something different, something right. It grew slowly and started meshing with the atmosphere around us, taking in the pinks and oranges and yellows and red and swirling them around with the feeling of travel to our unfamiliar destination. No one said anything for about three minutes until I finally just couldn't take it. I had to know if they felt it too.
“Yo, this song like fits this moment perfectly."
They both just said, “yeah,” and it was gorgeous. Ah, if only I could share with you the incredible beauty of that moment, but it's impossible. Even if I told you the name of the song, it wouldn't matter, because you wouldn't understand, just as I wouldn't understand your favorite song like you do. It's one of those things that truly only happens once in a lifetime. It was music, real music, music that isn't played, it just plays as the universe goes on existing. But you get the idea. We sat there in silence for a while, just watching the world spread out before us.
Anyway, I'm not here on this paper to tell you about that. I'm not here to tell you about New Orleans, either. I'm here to tell you about Makenzie. No names have been omitted, and if you know her, fuck it. I can't help myself sometimes, put me in front of a keyboard two nights into a speed frenzy and I become a goddamn monster.
Here's where I skip ahead, at least for now. This is after I booked the Greyhound ticket, after I left New Orleans a day early, and after I rode the first leg into Mobile, Alabama. I had a ten and a half hour wait ahead of me at a skeezy little bus station that was nowhere near anything. If two paragraphs up is my Paradisio, this is my Purgatorio.
[Author's note: What you are about to read was written while I was in said bus station. Nothing has been added, omitted, or amended.]
Waiting at any bus station is comparable to being in jail. Prison, I can't say, but the striking similarity of an overnight stay at county to a ten hour layover in a dingy little Greyhound terminal in Mobile, Alabama is impossible for me not to notice. Both will inevitably end the next morning, but the wait is brutal - hard chairs, shitty food, socializing with sheisty but friendly barely literates, trying to catch a wink of sleep under the eternal glare of florescent lights, the kind that make your eyes hurt if you look at them for too long. Your fate is essentially sealed at either of these places, but the hard part is the wait. You have no desire to pass the time with anything meaningful - reading is out of the question - because this place is like purgatory, a place to store yourself beneath the cogs of society until you're slingshotted back out into the workings of the world.
Like jail, you have your smart folks too. One dreadlocked guy who initially spoke so funny I assumed he was dumb is currently taking a break from college before getting his PHD, after doing his Master's dissertation in criminal justice at San Quentin. They don't fuck around at San Quentin - that's nothing like a bus station, more like an airport. Another older guy, fifty-two, told me all about Southern history, New Orleans, racial tension, and life in general - a really knowledgeable and normal-speaking black dude, a real “cool cat” of the seventies soul movement - and he works on a goddamn oil rig. He called Greyhound “the dog” - like an old, mean Rottweiler that's too old to be tamed but too young to be shot.
The soundtrack of this scene is the constant dull chatter from various pairs or trios around the room, broken by an occasional laugh that subsides quickly. No non-alcohol fueled laughter can last more than a few seconds under these kind of latenight conditions. The low, fluttering voices of two very tall girls rises and falls in what sounds like Russian. The wise, bear-like black man told me their demeanor was “Portuguese-like,” although I have no idea how he came to that conclusion. Behind this, so repetitive that I almost forgot to include it, is the sound of screeching tires and techno music coming from an arcade driving game directly behind me, mixing and meshing with the sound of some TV program about cars or god knows what.
I've told you a bit of who, a bit of what, a bit of where - what about when? This my friends is irrelevant. Time does not exist in this delirious blue and white purgatory. But, since you had to ask, it's 2:15 A.M. I've been here since approximately 8:30 P.M. I will be here until 6:45 A.M., at at 9:50 A.M. I will arrive in Panama City. Ah, I forgot why, the most important to most all of you in all likelihood. The answer is simple: Love.
It's not the pursuit of someone I love that led me on this stupid quest in the first place. No, it is more the pursuit of love itself. I feel like most of the time, what we're looking for when we go against every rational bone in our body and follow some silly little impulse hidden somewhere deep down in ourselves is not due to any one person sparking a flame in us, but an ever-present fire that always has and always will burn.
I say this mainly because I'm not sure if I love this girl. I honestly have no goddamn idea why I'm pursuing her specifically, except that she's haunted my dreams fairly consistently since I met her. Makenzie is hot. I say this with drawn-out emphasis on the “h.” She's smoking, and I am not the only one who knows it, either. Everyone knows it, and especially she knows it, which makes her basically impossible to “get with” by one's own volition. She has to come to you. She came to me second, after Noah, who was the year-above “I don't give a fuck! about nothing” guy in our dorm. I have to give it to him, he truly did not give a fuck.
The first time I saw Makenzie I was struck by her beauty. Not just her hotness, sealed in by her thick makeup with heavy blue around the eyes, skintight jeans, and general bored, but confident demeanor - which caught my eye, for sure - but her gorgeous cat-like eyes, complemented by lips and nose of Midwestern cuteness, and visible gums that flashed their pink only in the rare moment of a true smile - not a very common occurrence. Besides her banging physique, something else shined through, something deeper. It was a specialness, and I saw it that first time I saw her, even though it was for a fleeting second. I didn't recognize it then, and I still don't. Maybe that's what I'm trying to find out.
It could be that I'm obsessed by how unattainable she seems, and yet how I've been there. Like I said, I was number two - Noah, number one and my next door neighbor in the dorms, busted in our room the third night of school announcing that he'd “fucked that bitch Makenzie” in 303 or 302 or somethin.” Instantly labeling her as worthless, I gained some respect for her after she refused to follow Noah's orders, like she was his bitch for real. A month or so later, she randomly texted me some drunk gibberish while I was at a party. I hate parties anyway, so I left and went to her room. My sexual abilities failed me, unfortunately, something that would happen the two more times we hooked up.
I don't have ED or anything, I just get nervous. Fuck off. It's a sensitive subject. For me, it usually takes a few times with a girl to get comfortable enough to do her right. But when it does happen, I'm incredible at pleasing her. I'm not just saying this from behind the comfort of a pen, either - I really do have a talent for sex, unless every girl I've ever been with has lied to me. Which isn't out of the question - girls will lie about most anything to get what they want or, more often, to please people.
What was cool about Makenzie was that she never tried to console me about it. She was obviously disappointed, but it was like seeing a shitty movie to her. She knew she could get another guy at the snap of her fingers. And even better, it was only her fingers that did the snapping, making her absolutely unattainable. This leads me to say that maybe that's why I'm so infatuated with her. The untouchable sex goddess, down to my meager level? If only I could show her what I have, what I can do. If only. To “get” her because I want her, not to fulfill her drunken sexual desire, would be the ultimate ego-ejaculation. It's an accomplishment, for sure.
I like to think that it's more than this. The real, tangible reason why I'm sitting in this bus station is because Makenzie has been haunting my dreams more heavily than ever lately. In the last two weeks, I've dreamed about her around ten times. Four really stand out. In the first I traveled to her hometown in hopes of surprising her. She was with her friends, and I was with Stephen and Eliot, my Mardi Gras companions who I abandoned for this quest. The plan went awry when I hesitated to approach her - she was around her friends and I was intimidated - and when I did, my friends had beat me to it and let her know I was there. This is why my current quest comes with zero hesitation. The second dream was the “courtship,” per se. I kissed her on a rooftop; rather, she kissed me. The third, she was my girlfriend, and I held her waist from behind. The fourth, was rejection. She ignored me. This steady progression of events are probably symbolic in some fucked up way of only my feelings for her. I can't help projecting them onto her though, and thinking that maybe they mean something for her feelings towards me. I don't believe in that kind of crap usually - I still don't - but nonetheless my quest is fueled by this irrational dream hope.
This bus station is depressing. No one is doing anything. They stare at the TV, or into space, having the same conversations over and over. Like I said, it's near impossible, even discouraged, to do anything productive in here.
Everyone's going to a different place doing different things, but deep down it's all the same. People are just trying to get home to where they are loved. I'm an exception, I'm going somewhere unfamiliar trying to find love, to make love out of a fleeting hunch. But just like this story, it will probably go nowhere. Just like this story, it won't have an ending. It is more like a jumbled mess of confused emotions, and speculation. There's no plot to this story, and if there ever is, there won't be any need for sitting in some goddamn bus station in Alabama writing about it.
[Author's note: That's the end of what I wrote. In case you're wondering, I made it to Panama City but never saw Makenzie. She didn't want to meet up because she was too busy packing. I hitchhiked 538 miles back to Charleston and occasionally see her at parties.]