There’s a cloud of dust, it’s a black cloud that burns my eyes and throat. I’m lost, I’m wondering through this cloud and I’m lost. I think that maybe this is the after life, and suddenly I lose faith in everything. This couldn’t be heaven; I can still hear gun fire, I can still hear people screaming. The stench of blood is thick in the air. I come to the end of the cloud and reentered hell.
* * *
When I step off the bus into the hot Nevada sun I have nothing, my shirt is soaked through with sweat and my jeans are torn. I feel like a free loader, returning home with no fame or college degree. Sometime on the way over I dozed off and someone swiped my bag, it had everything I owned and my last couple of dollars. It was typical, I tried not to stress it, but I was close to reaching my limit.
The bus kicks up a dust ball as it speeds away down the dirt road, the sun is unforgiving and the dust sends me into a coughing fit. So I sit on a rock and stare at my shoes, when I first stepped on that bus I was hopeful, I had a future. My shoes were bright blue Chuck Taylor’s, a going away gift from my older brother Eric, now they were faded and torn in some places. One of the laces broke off and I replaced it with the string from a sweatshirt.
My head was still aching from last nights send off; I rubbed my cheeks feeling the two days worth of bristles. I must look like a mess; I spent the last two weeks couch hopping and hadn’t had a descent shower or shave in days. Eric was supposed to be here to pick me up; his beat up truck would really be a sight for sore eyes, but he was nowhere to be seen.
I was surprised at how little the desert had changed; it looked exactly the same, like no time had passed. It was like walking back in to high school. I felt like I was lost, wondering down the hall on the first day of school with no lunch money and no ride at the end of the day. I started to walk down the dirt road; unsure of what to do, Eric wasn’t here and there was no point in waiting. Besides the fresh desert air might do me some good, give me some time to think about things.
Dad didn’t know I was coming home, I asked Eric not to tell him. I wasn’t scared or nothing, if he didn’t want me around I’m sure I could look up an old girlfriend like Sally Anderten, or Mimi Pollock. Where were these names coming from? In the distance I could see the first sign of life. A beat up gas station, with a rust colored roof and a shit brown finish, it was the closest store in miles and when I was younger we would do our grocery shopping here. It didn’t have a name, just a sign that read convenience.
I could see old Fred asleep at the register; he was probably drunk like he always was, there was a plastic up turned over on the counter. Fred hadn’t changed much either, he was still a wrinkled grey old man at fifty and he was a good friend of my father. In high school Mimi and me would convince him to sell us beer, saying it was for my dad, which it sometimes was. But old Fred made Friday nights easy for me, and Mimi. There she was again, I didn’t know why she kept popping into my brain, I hadn’t thought about her in months
I pictured Mimi in my mind, thin and sweet. Black hair cut at an angle across her eyes. We dated off and on through out high school and she was really cute, maybe I would give her a call. Just to pass the time. I wasn’t too anxious to see my dad, it’s not like he’d be mad, or let down or anything like that. He didn’t pay my way, he wouldn’t give money to a lost cause like me, in fact he said he’d be waiting, yes waiting in his easy chair for me to drag my ass home and ask for my bed back.
He never believed in me and I couldn’t really blame him, I finally took things to far and now I was crawling back. I looked at college as an adventure; it was easier to sell Dope then work as a waiter so I sold dope. It was more fun studying with ladies in bed then actually reading books, and I was almost a father more than once.
I looked at the bright bruises on my arms and thought about laying in bed back at the dorm and sweating, the point of the needle a dull piercing pleasure. When I finally decided to leave over two weeks had passed with out me attending a single class. I had lost weight and my hair was a shaggy mop on my head. People started to call me a burnout, but when they really needed a hit they came to me. I was making money but in the end they booted me for poor grades and not paying my tuition. I wasn’t much of a student anyways.
I sold what Dope I had left and bought and a bus ticket across the state. So far Eric was the only person that knew I was coming so I was in no big hurry. What could my father say? That I let my life spiral out of control and now I was paying for it, he’d be right if he said that. I suddenly realized that I wanted my dad to lay into me, to get me back in shape. He kept me away from my mother and off the dirty stuff for nineteen years before I went off the college.
Now I was a drop out with no place to go and a brand new set of track marks for my trouble. A half mile away from Fred’s gas station and there was still no one in sight, not a car on the road or a building in sight. I did spot a phone however and I decided to give Mimi a call, she was always good for a laugh.
I dialed her phone number from memory.
A gruff voice mumbles into the phone: “Pollock Residence…”the voice sounded familiar.
“Danny is that you? Do you know who this is?”
“Yeah this is men, who is this?” The voice sounded confused, I was sure it was Danny:
“Dude it’s me, Jason Masters, remember?”
“Oh yeah man, I hear you went to California and like died or something.”
“And now I’ve resurrected. Hey is your sister still around the house?”
“I don’t know she’s probably not up yet.” I didn’t even know what time it was. There was silence for a moment and then I could hear his feet padding across the floor.
“Hello?” her voice was sweet; I wanted to see her bad now.
“Mimi, this is Jason.”
“Jason oh my god! I heard you overdosed, are you alright? Jason Masters? Oh my god I can’t believe it’s you.” She started crying, maybe it was good that I called her, Mimi always seemed serious about me.
“Hey don’t cry Mimi, come on, I’m just getting back.”
“Where are you?” she sniffled and controlled herself, it was good to feel wanted. Mimi was really a looker, I didn’t think she’d miss this much.
“I’m about half a mile from Old Fred’s place, you wanna pick me up?”
“You think you can just swoop in and pick up right back were you left off. Do you think I’m that kind of girl Jason?” she was.
“No baby, I just figured you’d wanna talk to me. You wanna talk to me right baby?” facts about Mimi started coming back to me, she was a looker, but now that I think of it she was always sort of crazy, crazy about everything, she leaves scares I can show you later. I thought about just hanging up and trying to call Eric, but man, she’s such a looker.
“Okay, (she was sobbing again) I’ll come get you. But we’re gonna talk about this Jason.”
“Of course Mimi.” And she hung up the phone with out saying goodbye. I just got back and I already had a date Mimi Pollock, the world never seems to change.
* * *
Danny’s red car was dust covered and rusted in some spots, I was sitting in the phone both trying to get my head on straight. Truth was I really needed a hit but who wants to think like that? The dust covered rusted car sputtered to a stop in front of me and she hopped out. She looked like she grew five inch since I saw her last, her legs were long and tanned. Her hair was cut short to her skull and she wore a black jean jacket. She flung her arms around my neck and kissed me. I almost felt bad, here I hadn’t thought about her in forever and she’d waiting for me. She broke from the kiss and brought in a ragged breath.
She looked at me with kind eyes, and then her face seemed to storm over and she slapped me hard in the face.
“Where have you been, you fucking low life.” She put her arms around my neck and started sobbing again. Danny slid from the car and laughed, he looked blazed out of his head. He sat on the hood of his car and said nothing.
“Come on Mimi, you knew I couldn’t take this town much longer. I went off to college. It was better then working at the chicken shack right? Right baby?” I was calling her that a lot, man, I always did this with Mimi. She knew how to make me sweat and she loved watching me devote myself to her. Had she been faithful? Did she think I was? I peeled here from my neck and held her hand. She didn’t say anything; just throw her head against my shoulder as we walked.
“Won’t you say something come on?”
“What have you been doing over there? What your Major.” I could tell she was looking at my arm. And the truth was it didn’t look that good, my arm was etched with fresh and old needle marks. Some of the vines stood out, thins and pale blue.
“About that, I wasn’t too great of a student. I guess its back to the shack.” I laughed but she seemed un-amused. This whole time I had a fucking wife and I didn’t even know it. “Come on baby, just take me home and I’ll explain everything.”
We all got in the car, Danny in the front and us two in the back.
“So what’s up Jason?”
“Um, I don’t know, this desert seems strange after LA.”
“Really LA, man, that’s crazy.”
“No one knew were you went to, all Eric would say is California.” Mimi said defensively.
“Yeah, I know, I just couldn’t take my dad. He was really laying into me, and I said maybe I should go to college and make something of myself. He laughed at me, so I fucking left. I don’t know guys.”
The dirt road was empty, I really didn’t want to see my dad, but I needed to see what happened to Eric. He told me he had some plan that might help me redeem myself. It didn’t take long to get to my house, not once we were driving, but it would’ve taken me all day walk it. Mimi had her head rested on my shoulder and she looked really beautiful in the hot desert sun.
“Maybe you two should wait here, I don’t know how well come I’ll be.”
“I’m sure it’ll be fine, Jason, don’t be such a pussy.”
“Yeah sorry about that Mimi, say is there still a hand print on my face?”
“Just go brother, I got an air conditioner in this thing.” This came from Danny in the front seat. Mimi gave him a brutal look, but before she could say anything more I got out of the car. My house sat unchanging, there was trash and random car parts scattered across the dead grass. Eric’s truck was not in the drive way, instead there was a bright pink convertible.
I knocked on the door and my heart started pounding in my throat. It took a few moments but finally a blonde girl answered the door. She must have been forty or so, she wore a tight leopard print dress and pink glasses. Her breast were obviously fake, and her gut a little to big to be cute or sexy.
“Sorry, um, is Eric here?”
“No Eric’s not here, and I don’t know if he’s coming back.”
“Look maybe you should let me in.”
“No I certainly will not, he’s not here, now please leave.”