RAW BODY OF AMERICA
It was a modern acquaintance masking as two people in love, spending a night in a cheesy motel room in San Francisco, a three-day pit stop as we moved across the country. It was a new life and after ten days it already bored my senses. Flat on my back, a quiet voice was repeating, “how about you?” Waiting for dirty stories I decided, drunk, joyously was the best choice as I had followed the road into the darkness. Outside I could hear unknown pornographic heroines on the sidewalks with heels two inches too tall, perceptive people, the mad one’s, the one’s who never yawn. They didn’t care about anything, from their height they could see the world for what it truly was, with all its imperfections and beautiful horror of recognition. At the age of nineteen I had already taught myself about detached sex and how it was the one and only thing in life for a Swedish girl in the country of gold; and now this sweet little thing was waiting in a serious room, capable of doing horrible things.
Smoking butts rested with ease in the ashtray on the bedside table. I lit another one; trying to delay the imminent situation the best way I could, knowing how much he hated the smell. By instinct I had entered a smoky scene and my future happened right there and then, a youth excited with life numbed by nicotine and alcohol. I was a writer; at least that’s what I told myself, studying life in all the dark alleys of America, hoping for all the wonderful possibilities of becoming. It was right there and then the sorrowful dark mind, the whole mad swirl of everything, collapsed with me. He was perfectly happy, describing his future success and his move to the big city working for one of the big firms, nothing but intellectual jumbled jargon and other levels of madness. I didn’t know he expected me in accord with the rest, said the trip would do me good. He promised me the world, I believed him and agreed to ignore a war with social overtones. Had I known before I left my home that so much attention would be on him, that every day I would experience not the great Rockies or the Grand Canyon, but the sight of his suffering bony face while listening to “intellectuals”, slinking criminals, formal and complete, tediously discussing things that did not matter, would I have gone with him? Probably.
Time for scheduled hugging. It was his hour of composure while my head sunk deep into the sheets, silently shouting, broke, tired, and incomplete. He told me I was pleased and gave me an extra slice of charity if I promised to stay, not knowing I tried to forget he was there. That’s all he had to offer, security, and attached himself to his money. He was nothing but a small figure with a serious advantage, a new kind of American saint, a businessman of many devices symbolizing a fine kind man. He was incredibly filthy and sometimes demanding, but it was coming to him, he didn’t know he had found wilderness. Envious and sinister his male absentmindedness made him confide in me like a pathological liar. Surrounded by motherless life he said he needed me. “Come with me,” he said. Why not? I stuck to him, anxiously whispering things he wanted to hear, refusing to become some kind of momentarily victim. Sore I compromised and committed myself with regards to his existence.
Ten days later it had begun to be like a race, me following the winding depression with nothing to do but keep going, “damn me and every damn dumb sucker.” Bits of the enormous loneliness moved in front of us, a growing absence created in the shadow of that old man dissolving in front of me. It was a sorrowful delight. That evening I cried for the first time since I had left my home. I waited until I was in the shower where he couldn’t see me, waiting outside for me to finish, sitting half naked on top of yellow sheets blindly zapping through a selection of free movie channels. His money had made me sick and I yearned for sweet nauseas of lost bliss. I was stuck in this too-big world and the rushing wind of bad effects sank in my stomach. How had I become this absent-minded kind of crazy without any sentimental value? Had I no integrity? With this strange youthfulness I kept rushing, ignorant about this world, and all of a sudden I was this damn fool confused and caught drunk at a standstill with only a thousand imitated things to say. So again the voices filled my head with doubt and insecurities: chatter-chatter, blah-blah, and me cursing. Then, as the shower dried my tears and the confusion reached its peak I suddenly found myself. Amongst the trance of moods and fears it hit me with a grateful and gracious wave of clarity, ideas clustering like moths returning to the light merely for the experience. Hand over my mouth I smiled. I was involved in psychological warfare where everything existed to his satisfaction and so there was only one true path: get happy and forget. Go all the way. Make something decent instead of crying.
With a smirk of imminent satisfaction he watched as I exited the bathroom, clean and ready for his taking, but reached for the remote as I lingered in front of the mirror. The dark room obscured the outline of my face and created a weird phosphorescent void between the silhouette and me. The crack behind the door taunted me to leave, haunting me like a delayed dream of pursuing a desert I’d tried to avoid. Behind the mirror I saw a simple soul no different than the rest, a girl coming into every kind of woman. Time had come to decide, to dig him. No more pondering about awful chores. He told me things he hated, poking me and I replied, “how much money do you have?” I was a con-man, and in my drunken frenzy I moaned in his face as insanity took hold of me in this unbearable confusion. I was entering a horrible stage of identification, but with excitement and exhaustion I rose to new complications and watched the changing mirror.
“Go and bad things will happen,” they had told me. I did not care. I was born to make bad things happen. I did not know him very well and he did not know me at all, but for some reason I had accepted his invitation to join him across a foreign country and now parts of me was proud of my endeavor, two strangers on a superhighway; my first ride, pointing west for incredible distances. I was all for it and had taken over the wheel in the outskirts of Chicago. No driving license and no previous experience driving, but if he could do it so could I, and for the first time I saw the raw body of America, and beyond glittering streets and silvery dusty roads beneath the trees of California, was a road like all the roads you see; one long red line down to Los Angeles. I was stuck, abandoned, over my head. All I could see were windmills, and so I cursed. It was a traveling epic. Nowhere to go but everywhere, like some kind of wise and tired addict searching for the next hit. I needed the depression. I needed him to hurt me. It would make for a good story I thought and wrote a new entry in my journal. On the road, miserable like flies in a blizzard with one hand on the wheel we moved several hundred miles across rugged hills, looking for the other side. But I was on another road. A straight highway without much point, where a meaningless set of circumstances laid out in a dismal grey dawn, and alongside bleak walls of great riverbeds I looked beyond the neon signs. The sun was going down. It was beautiful. In the purple darkness nobody would be able to see me: a ghost in the midst of someone else’s conversation like something that couldn’t get started.
Never missed a word he said, yelling about the insufferable dreary America, an idea that’s gone beyond anxious screaming and deadly silence. I was racing the crazy score of men in search for the peak of a free idea not knowing I was moving towards a brutal crash. Every sad street had gone dark quickly. I had changed too. Soft shoulders and miraculously disposed I had become a sharp-tongued woman, playing around for lack of amusement. The end was going to save me for then I would be older and more beautiful. No longer a cute little girl in the trade by mistake. Pleased at this prospect I held on and promised to teach the creature ambition for lack of anything else.
Time to go. Not yet. Sprawled on the bed, a tenacious loser, and then me, concerned about his happiness. Look at the silly man, such a little thing. We were both children, ragged and dirty in preoccupied frenzy tied up to promised time, soon off again across dismal nowhere. Slippery I told him to slide on that slippery mud. Didn’t give a damn and wrestled a moment in the whining wind, mad and disgusted with the back seat devil. “He’s mad,” I said, and crushed his reason as he was trying to make a real beginning. And that was that, visions of the devil himself, God almighty on some guilt wagon. It was the force of persuasion, sexuality into being. He grimaced and leaned over exhausted. My sorrowful fever was gone when I realized what he was: the impossible complexities of nothing. The promise was in the truth, another dark story in the trunk, and another one in the car. The horizon was the moon and we reached it in the morning, listening to fingers tapping on the dashboard, making an imperceptible little noise of time.
Written by Alex Backstrom
Year of Creation: 2016