The desert spread out in front of my car; dusty towns and filling stations became a blur, as I pressed harder on the gas pedal. Getting out! Darkness loomed on the horizon. The CD player moaned Katatonia, ‘Viva Emptiness’ like a dirge in my ears. I twisted in my seat & groaned as I caught my reflection in the rearview mirror. I’ve said it before & gladly say it again. “Life! It wouldn’t be bad, if it wasn’t for the people.”
A bulk of rusting, sun-baked cars and chain-link fences loomed beside the road, as I pulled off to get some caffeine. When the car door closed, I realized how quiet it was. Periodically, cars hissed past on the road behind me, hurdling their faceless occupants into the unknown. I threw my head back to peer at the sky. A deep silence covered everything; stifling like an old woolen cloak.
I remembered being a kid in church. Back then, I loved the pageantry & hated the punishment. The stained glass windows would mock me & the hardwood pews kept sleepiness at bay. Outside the cathedral, robed figures of stone & marble would wave a benediction with unseeing eyes. Now, years later, I was outside of Palm Springs somewhere.
The evening lay across me like a sad puppy & I felt terribly alone. All that they taught me in church proved futile in preparing me for life. It seemed mostly lies. I heard of a kid at Woodward who told his parents the following kernel of truth. They wanted him in church on Sunday morning. He said, “I’d rather be riding my bicycle in the woods on Sunday & looking at the beauty God created, than sitting in church thinking about my bicycle.” That kid makes sense to me.
Why do people do the things they do? I kicked at some stones & breathed deeply. I felt things viscerally. My guts told me when things were going to get fucked up for me…I simply had to listen. I thought of the peril out in the darkness. The fight for survival. The race of acquisition. It goes on and on and on. Being an emotional man & fucked in the head, certainly doesn’t lend itself to gaining the quiet life most people long for. My life has been one long struggle.
Skateboarding saved me countless times in those years. Sometimes, I’d wake up smelling the carpet, unable to remember what I’d done the night before. Why? I’m unable to answer that question. Maybe I have rotten coping skills. Possibly, I am inept at relationships. I am best alone. All I know is this. My hand is the only one holding mine & its this same hand that holds me down. In the past, I always thought that the best way to get over a girl, was to get a new one under me. After all, sometimes I didn’t lose my girlfriend, just my turn. That was a bad idea in a long history of bad ideas. This was my thinking.
Strangely, this idiocy carried me along…and I paid dearly. You can’t burn through lives like a firestorm & expect forgiveness. Sometimes, skateboarding was my only friend. It was now night and I still stood and listened to the quiet of the desert. A wind blew dust and paper as the silence was the loudest sound. I wanted to purchase some coffee & get back on the highway. I was headed out on a recon mission of the Joshua Tree area. I had wandered far that day, looking for pools.
Seeing a fading yellow neon light blinking, I strode toward it. As I moved closer, I could hear people & the faint sounds of music. It seemed strangely odd; unsettling. I pulled the heavy door open with its black wrought iron handle. It was a roadside tavern typical of this area. Dull light, gloom and smoke hung over all. Voices murmured in hushed & hurried conversations. I was barely noticed. Obtaining my coffee, I saw a couple drinking at a small, round, brown table in the corner. They appeared moneyed; highbrow. In these surroundings, they stood out.
They argued about something, her voice rose and fingers fluttered, accusingly. Shrugging at her complaints, he caught my eye & gazed back with the pride of assured destiny. I walked out. I had seen his type everywhere out here in California. Respectability & power is their drug. I wanted little to do with that. I climbed back into my car & hit the switch. My heart felt black & broken. I had pools to find, drain & skate….it was night. Thank you to MRZ of Concrete Disciples for the photograph. Skate-Ozzie