After visiting the in-laws, watching the Super Bowl (uninterested) and getting squeaky clean in a bath tub instead of a fast food sink, I felt that itch to hit the road again after a few days of being housed up.
I hit the open road, taking a free Lyft to the train yard in downtown Phoenix, where I met back up with Rooster. With a 40 in his hand, a few schwills, belches and nothing but time, I knew a long night of drunken shenanigans lay ahead for us, not that I partook at all actually. I steered clear of the booze as my doctor, Mr. WebMD, advised me to with my recent frostnip experiences, since health insurance was something I lacked for over five years.
As such, we sat bullshitting to pass the time as we scoped out the non-existent yard from the overpass. The yard dog worked trains below, but nothing left, nor arrived, as colors painted the Arizona skyline in a vibrant volcanic explosion. Slowly, dusk snuck along the horizon and we dawdled below, to the bird-shit infested viaduct. Rooster worked on his second 40 as I sat there on the sidewalk, completely sober, wiggling my toes in disappointment.
“Man…I’m tryna watch the yard…soak it in…drink…bbburrpp…leave tomorrow…night…maybe?”
“I’m down for whatever Rooster. Like to get out tonight if we can…see where it goes dude.”
“Fo Sho…bburrpp…hiccup…shiiittt…Dirk’s in Phoenix bro…ima hit him back…seee…if he can come through.
“Cool, surprised he’s back from LA so quickly…”
“Shiitt…he’s bringin’ someone…some chick he met…”
“Aight, well…cool I guess…I’m not ridin’ four deep though man…you’re just askin’ to get pulled off…”
“No doubt…hiccup…no doubt…”
An hour passed and I only heard the brute force of freight cars shunt together like Zeus firing thunder down from Mount Olympus. We basked in the shadows and from the distant streetlight, the silhouettes of two travelers rose. Dirk and Elena stumbled into the group.
“Sup guys…got a greenhorn here, Elena…showin’ her the ropes…just dodged this oog hippy kid out west who was rollin’ with us…had no fuckin’ shoes…blew up my spange spot, layin’ sprawled out on the sidewalk like it was a yard sale…couldn’t have it…she wanted to come with…hope that’s alright…don’t give her any shit, we all been there once. Your bud ain’t have much either does he?””
“Eh…think I’m up to 12, but yeah…I’m still a greenhorn, much to learn,” I said.
“How’s the yard lookin’?”
“Dead as fuck…hiccup…might be here awhile…”
“Aight…well ima take a nap…where we campin’?”
“Over there…past the shit pile…hiccup…there’s a hole in the fence…hiccup…nice grassy spot by the overpass.”
Elena followed him like a puppy, which I understood completely, after all, we just met. We followed behind her, shortly after, forming a small circle, passing bottles of booze, with sidewalk slammers and Four Lokos getting schwilled around. I passed, only taking a few swigs of some bitch drink, Mike’s Hard Lemonade.
What started out as joyful, quiet conversation quickly escalated to belligerent drama. No one slept. I tried, tossing, turning, and wiggling around, but a storm of repressed emotions sailed along the seas yonder, screeching my eardrums. Outcries, tears, and suicidal tendencies blistered in shrieks from the once quiet young girl sitting before us to the schwilly-wasted fool.
“But…but…you don’t even understand guys…like I’m a woman…I’m hormonal…and I…and I…did something…something…really bad todayyy. Wahhh…wah…sniffle…cough…I killed something…an animal…I…I…hate myself. Why did I do ittt? I can’t believe I did Heroin…sniffle…I just wanna die…like…you don’t even understand…you have no idea what I’ve been through…sniffle.”
“Calm down foo…you’re blowin’ up the fuckin’ spot…handle your shit on your own time…what the fuck did we talk about already,” grumbled Dirk. “You’re here with a lot of knowledge at your table. Pull up your panties, hold back your tears, and sleep it off. Stop fuckin’ screamin’…we’re in someone’s back yard,” grunted Dirk.
I sat there in disbelief.
”What the fuck did I get into?” I thought.
Metal rattled from behind us, clanking under footsteps. My eyes scanned the figure; a disgruntled tenant with his arms crossed came into view.
“What the hell’s goin’ on back here?”
“Uhhh…Sorry…just calming her down…tryna catch the next train outta here…we’ll clean up our mess…be outta here in the mornin’,” stuttered Dirk.
“Oh…well, alright…just keep it down please. I live here.”
“Awe thanks,” we mumbled.
All her commotion made us split. Some 19-year old hipster with daddy issues blew up our spot, but hell, we all have our share of problems, if we didn’t we wouldn’t be kickin’ it in the dirt by the steel.
Dirk motioned over at me. “Let’s get outta here, find a spot to catch out, can’t stay here no more…”
We all rolled up our sleeping bags as the cool desert breeze brushed against my naked face. I just wanted to run far away from everyone and catch the next train out of here to Tucson. Elena calmed down and ceased sniffling, but her drama came with vexing repetition like a fly buzzing around. Rooster stumbled and slurred his words after his fourth 40 and god knows what else he drank. How would we catch out tonight? I could not possibly fathom.
Dirk and I walked along the road watching them trickle behind us. Rooster held his fair share of booze, but even he fumbled around, zigzagging back-and-forth, bothering Elena. Elena spewed the same non-sense over-and-over like a skipping compact disk. She stumbled and fell, tripping over her feet, and face planted. She looked like a baby learning how to walk. We pulled her up off the asphalt. Her body drooped like a limp noodle as she oozed with blood. It smeared across her cheeks and down her fingertips, screaming staph infection. She giggled, babbling on about death while I grabbed her peroxide.
Dirk plotted our next move. We huddled around him, under a bridge past the mouth of the yard, but bellows of jumbled bickering made it a circus act.
“Aight…aight…everyone shut the fuck up. Here’s the plan. Elena…you and Rooster need to sober the fuck up…nap…sleep it off. I took you under my wing to ride…right? That’s why we’re out here…remember? Not catchin’ a train drunk…now are we?” said Dirk.
Elena murmured, slurring her words, as she snuggled up under a blanket, inching closer towards Rooster.
“Alrrrright…but I’m justttt so upset…I…”
Dirk cut her off, “Just go to fuckin’ sleep for Christ’s sake.”
Dirk and I sat there on cardboard, itching to catch out, whether on the fly or stopped, it did not matter. He opened up about his life, the drugs, and the downward spiral that led him to the road of freight hopping. The teary-eyed look on his face made me empathetic of his issues, holding back the remnants of my own past, with a lump in my throat. A sudden pause of pure silence sliced the thin desert air, and suddenly after the tremors of pain subsided, he fumbled for words.
“…Care if I shoot up?”
I paused, unsure of how to respond, yes I cared, but it was his life and if he chose to go down that path, who was I to stop him. “Sure, I don’t mind…”
He unbuckled the strap to his bag and pulled out a syringe, slurping the liquid into it from a spoon. The needle pierced his skin and out squirted a drop of blood by the other tract marks beneath his tattoos. His first attempt did not take so he searched around for a more viable option, the basilic vein. With a quick poke, the needle entered and the fluid dispensed, flowing freely through his bloodstream sending the pain below.