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Friday, 3 October 2014

Back


I'm sitting in the airport in Alexandria, Louisiana, waiting for my plane to Houston, when a bearded man with vitiligo sitting next to me, who smells like he's been drinking some kind of alcohol with Coca Cola, asks me what my final destination is.
'I'm going to San Diego,' I tell him, 'what about you?'
'Uh, huh,' he tells me, 'me too,'
'Nice,' I say,' that's nice,'
Then, the man who is wearing shorts but no shoes, a Hawaiian shirt, a baseball cap, and holding a walking stick between his legs says, 'I ain't been back since 1975. I'm going to a friends wedding,'
'Oh, lovely,' I tell him, 'that's something rather exciting,'
'Hell,' he says, 'I'm so frikkin' nervous I got my pockets stuffed with Xanax,'
'Well,' be careful, 'I say laughing, you don't want to pass out at the wedding,'
He laughs and he says he'll be fine.
'I ain't been anywhere since I broke my back,' he tells me.
'Oh, shit,' I say, 'that's bad luck. How did that happen?'
'I was getting into bed,' he says.
I turn to him with a puzzled expression on my face and say, 'Getting into bed?"
'Yeh,' he says, holding his hand over his mouth and coughing gently for a bit, 'you know, I came flying in through the door to the bed, she went one way, and I went the other, and I crushed all my vertebrae,'
Then he stops talking and tilts his head back and runs his hand up under his neck.
'All of this was smashed in and I have had to learn to walk again 4 times in my life,'
'Fucking hell,' I say, turning to look at him, and frowning, 'what kind of life have you led?
'I got hit by a car recently, stop sign, woman went through a 4-way in a Jaguar at 60, broke my back,'
Then he tells me he hasn't worked in many many years because of his injuries.
'I used to work at Sea World,' he says, 'and pretty much any tourist attraction in the country, you name it. But now I can hardly get around in the day, I am so full of medication,'
'Well,' I say, just as our flight is called, would you like me to help you with your bag?'
'You know,' he says, ''I've partied with rock stars and billionaires, and I've woken up in gutters without a dollar in my pocket, and I'm about to go to a birthday party and a wedding of my old high school friend. It'll be either the FBI or the cops got me on Monday morning. So I'm good with my bag, but thank you for asking, ma'am.'
And, then, as I watch him barefoot and slightly drunk, drag his blue sack of wedding clothes toward the gate, I imagine it's 1979, and a much-younger, much handsomer naked him stands in a doorway preparing to sexually dive-bomb the woman that's lying waiting for him in his bed, both of them so carefree on booze and cocaine they're thinking this party will never end.





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