Highway 51 Revisited

I awoke in the belly of a metal beast today.

Didn’t plan it that way, mind you. Wasn’t looking for a new low; I wasn’t on a quest for shame. But shame, like an old friend, always seems to stick. Even when I’m actively eluding the less dignified demons of my more unpredictable intentions.

It was the kind of green dumpster you find behind every supermarket. Right there on an unnamed side road off of Highway 51. Somewhere south of Paw Paw.

I awoke with my head nestled between a torn trash bag and the oxidized metallic skin; my mind echoed the groan of the city waking up. That rust belt metropolis sprawling east, still drunk on dreams of better days.

A few coins jingled in my pocket. A punched tooth wiggled in my mouth. My phone, a lifeline, was nowhere to be found. The morning sun jabbed my eyes like a cheap shot in a two-bit dive.

Maybe that’s why I started to walk.

Her birthday, the crowning event of the day, was a world away. And there I was, a vagabond, with an incurable hangover. Looking like I’d been chewed up and spat out by life itself. And smelling even worse.

The sign beside the truck said: “ALL ARE WELCOME!”

But I wasn’t feeling particularly welcome. In fact, I was pissed.

Pissed that I was there, in this state, on such a day. Pissed that I had to hitch a ride with a trucker, who swigged malt liquor like it was mother’s milk, his eyes flickering towards me with an unspoken proposition. An indignity I was not prepared to suffer.

I bailed out of the truck, my heart pounding, my mind a whirl of panic and fury. I could still hear the echo of his laughter as I tumbled out at that rest stop, crumpled in the bushes with the abandoned piss jugs of countless truckers before him.

I found a half-empty bottle of rotgut beside the pavement. Its label peeling; its contents glowing with a sad, amber light. It was the devil’s best offer. A deal I knew I shouldn’t accept, but the world had already had its way with me. And I felt entitled to something to compensate for the indignity of having to be me.

So there I was, in a ditch off Highway 51, getting daytime drunk while she blew her candles. Opened bright wrappings. Ate a fancy dinner. My absence, I knew, would be noted. Whispered about. Added to the lore of disappointments.

The whiskey burned going down. A familiar fire in my belly. Scorching my heart along the way. I missed her birthday; I missed my chance. To make amends; to be a better man. A better anything, really.

Like always, there was just me. And the bitter backwash of regret.

I stared at the hollow bottle in my hand; the sun dripped down from above.

The world was moving on without me.

I left when the stars began to wink in the sky.

I did eventually find a road back. But it wasn’t the right road. It never is; I am never anywhere close to salvation.

I only seem to find more empty bottles. More missed birthdays; more disappointments. And more grocery store dumpsters. The kind of green dumpster you find behind every supermarket. Or right there, on that unnamed side road. The one just off of Highway 51. Somewhere south of Paw Paw…

About Typewriter Fox

...author, fighter, lover, typewriter fanatic, and unrepentant Fenian bastard. Known to few, hated by many, but still typing the good fight.

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