Again, I’m walking alone in the desert with my bag over my shoulder and the package under my arm. That bastard sun is hammering down and I’m so dry that I’m not even sweating any more. I can feel the cracks in my lips every time I open my mouth.
The old guy in Fort Stockton never said anything about bringing any water, just the beer and the smokes and the chocolate bars. I can’t tell you why it didn’t occur to me to grab a couple of icy cold liter bottles of Gatorade or whatever. Ah, fuck that. Truth, right? The old cocksucker didn’t tell me that I’d end up slogging along a desert highway at high noon, so it never occurred to me to think that I might have to deal with anything like that.
This is the life you lead when you figure that someone else will always be doing your thinking for you. When you base your work ethic on doing what you’re told to the very best of your ability, and never looking beyond that.
Look, there’s always gonna be someone out there who’s willing to tell you what do, who’s willing to take responsibility for sending you hither and yon to do whatever stupid bullshit. But odds are those people are taking their cues from someone else, and those people are taking their cues from someone else and so on and so on. Up the ladder till you find the last guy, the one who just fucking hates taking orders from people, the guy who’s only happy when he’s making his own decisions, taking responsibility for his own shit.
And that guy, he’s the one that you’re envious of. He’s the one with the car you wish you drove, the house you wished you lived in, the wife you wished you could fuck. The guy who looked at what was in front of him and decided whether or not he liked it and whether or not it was worth his time to deal with it. The guy who could never find the time to do things he didn’t see the point of, who couldn’t find it within himself to say yessir, yessir, you betcha sir.
Me, nah. I’m not that guy. I’m headfirst, chin down, eyes clenched shut, sprinting as hard as I can at something I’m not willing to look at, hoping that inertia or luck or the kindness of vicious strangers will bring me out of it, smelling like a rose. The guy who figures that everyone should be just a little kinder, a little more generous, a bit more forgiving. To me, at least. Because, y’know, it’s been a hard life and I need some help through it.
And you can get away with it for a long fucking time, maybe your whole life. I dunno. Long enough that you forget how to actually deal with things, how to decide between two (or three or ten) different courses of action. You forget that sometimes the easiest path isn’t always the right one. You forget that while you’re just slouching through your life, there are other people who see you as something to be used, to be sacrificed, to be chewed on for a while and then spit out when you’re not useful anymore.
And then you find yourself somewhere, sometime, rolling back the events that have led you to whatever deadly and intractable situation you find yourself in and realize that if you’d just been more popular in high school or stayed in college or dated that one girl, everything would be so much different and you wouldn’t be wherever you are, fucked in a hundred different ways and ready just sit down, weep your little eyes out and die on the side of the road.
I didn’t cry. I won’t give you that. Sorry. I just won’t.
But I sat. And I hung my head and listened to myself breathe and waited to die. There wasn’t a choice left that I could see. And dying, brother, when you’re in the right spot, in the right frame of mind, dying is damned easy. Dying is just not giving a fuck about forward motion anymore. Dying is deciding that you’re not looking forward to anything anymore and that you might as well go.
So, yeah, I didn’t cry, but I let myself die on the side of a desert highway in the middle of God only knows where. And I died for hours, friends. My legs died and my arms died and my brain withered away as the sun beat down on the skin of my dead neck and my eyelids slid across my dead eyes, clearing the sand from them.
And I died until I heard the shush of tires on pavement, and my dead ears perked up and a voice that sounded like marbles in a blender called out.
“You need a ride, guy?”
I lifted my dead eyes and looked at the cab parked across from me. Twenty feet of sun-battered yellow Checker idling ten feet from me.
A ride? Sure, why not?
I hauled myself to my dead feet and shuffled across the highway, wondering where this next not-a-decision was going to end me up.


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