23. Hell Bus


The sun is burning my eyes out. Merely by being in the sky. I suppose that’s what it does normally. A rare bout of insomnia last night could be a factor. It seemed to be an average night, as I was fairly liquored-up. I felt myself starting to shut down. But I didn’t make it all the way. Next, for my worst waking nightmare, I began to sober up. I tried to ignore it. Grasping for a last chance at slumber.

Failing, the booze wore off completely. It was then that I realized I had no more drink in the house. Then the horror that it was too late to make a purchase at my nearest convenience mart. I thrashed around in agony watching the minutes and hours tick away. The dingy room I only sleep and drink in became brighter and brighter. There was no choice but to surrender.

Now I find myself on train after train, bus after bus. Sleepwalking through a day that doesn’t seem real. Not even there. Wherever I might be. I’m struck with the fact that I never did grab a drink as breakfast. Is that right? Or even possible? It doesn’t sound right. But it’s decided I’ll stop at the next liquor store for lunch. Which may cause difficulties. Sometimes the balance between inebriation and tiredness can sneak up on you. Then BAM! It’s too late.

Soon the sun fades across the sky in what I perceive as a strobed time lapse. It’s night again. I’m on another bus. I forget where I am and where I’m going several times. Each time it takes me longer to remember I’m headed home. Perhaps my brain is forgetting on purpose. Just to repeat the gratification of realizing. And then the knowing I’ll finally be unconscious soon. There’s no more cardboard to handle. No more boxes to carry around from pin to pin on my phone screen. Finally I realize I’ve been staring down at my empty hands, for who knows how long.

At the next stop, a younger man gets on, and stays towards the front. He’s making conversation with the driver. As he drifts back a little, it’s revealed what he is hiding. Facing the colossal windshield, the back of his head is a bloody mess. I glance around to see if anyone else has noticed. Some passengers have extremely concerned looks. Not taking their eyes off him. The rest refuse to stop looking out the windows. Probably hoping it all goes away.

The younger man’s tone rises. He’s getting into an argument with the driver. The growing tension begins to cut through my fog. I begin to consider whether I’m trapped in another nightmare. Anticipating something is about to go wrong. This is the point when my flight instinct would kick in. If I had one. If I wasn’t so tired or drunk or whatever I am. He turns again, almost to where the driver could see in his mirror if he were looking, displaying more exposed flesh. The blood continues, steadily dripping down the back of his jacket like a leaky faucet.

Sirens and flashing lights rip by. Several of us jump. Three squad cars cut the bus off. We screech to a halt. Throwing everyone forward. Except the younger man. He was holding on. Once the doors are opened, and the driver’s hands go up. Gun drawn, an officer approaches, calling out to “Get off the bus!” Nobody moves. Now we’re really fucked. They’re gonna force him right towards us. Or we could get hit with the crossfire.

The younger man doesn’t move. Could be the recent brain trauma he’s suffered. Perhaps he just doesn’t know what to do. Same here. Another officer boards through the back door. As he moves past me, approaching the assumed assailant, my spike of adrenaline drops. I feel served and protected. The younger man becomes aware of the second officer when he’s told to “Get down on the ground!” from a different direction. Still not much of a response.

The standoff slowly plays out. The officers are advancing. I keep thinking: here comes the taser. But it doesn’t. The first officer lunges onto the bus, triggering the second into action. They throw the younger man to the floor. He never made a move. Maybe he got lightheaded when the bus stopped so fast? I kinda did.

A startling cheer goes up from the passengers. I almost jump to my feet. You’d think the home team just scored a touchdown against their high school rival. That’s the mood anyways. I find that outburst to be an equally unsettling part of this ordeal. Like when people cheer the death of a tyrant. Unsure of exactly what they’re cheering for. Besides self preservation. With the doors still open, I leave unceremoniously. There will be plenty to give statements. This is now part of some crime scene that started a few blocks ago. And I don’t need any further details.

I decide on the walk to treat myself to a drink at the neighborhood dive. Is it actually the first of the day? No one can say for sure. Money’s no object nor consideration. Every gulp I relish just being alive. I consider this is despite only being in the proximity of danger. Soon Scott, another bartending acquaintance, is rousing me. I fell asleep on the bar. Which was apparently okay as long as it was still business hours. As I’m ushered out, I ask several times how long I was out? Trying to keep tabs on what has happened in the past 24 hours. Scott only tells me to go home. I smile at him. “You feeling lucky punk? Because I sure the fuck am.”