The People Are Crazy, Out Here in the Dives

BENEDICTION/MALEDICTION

“Everyone
is a turd waiting to get flushed;
not everyone can be a floater,
bottom down, top up, basking under the sun.

The unfortunate truth
of this
is that we all came from some giant stinking asshole,
functioning perfectly the way every asshole should,
we were pushed from the darkness
as a baby bird is pushed from the nest,

except we will never fly.

We will never see a great
open,
blue,
beautiful sky.”

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I was born on August 22nd, 1986, during the tail end of what my mother remembers as being the hottest summer in recent memory. My mother said I slid out without a hitch. I didn’t even cry. When it came time to take me home, she said I was happiest when I was left alone, and I only showed signs of tears whenever I wasn’t left alone for too long a time.

I didn’t fall in love with the open road until late 2014, sometime in the fall when I’d just been hired at my now current job. I’d seen plenty of the road to last at least half a lifetime, particularly with the drive I took across the country out to Sedona, Arizona to ferry my then spiritually marooned and societally impaled mother to her new hopeful place of habitat and patch of grass (or in this case sand) on which she would write her life’s epilogue. But that’s a story for another day.

From sometime in 2012 to the fall of 2014 I’d been experiencing a lull in work. After being fired from my overnight baking job, I tried everything I could find just to make a buck, all while attempting to keep the flow of words onto the blank page. I lived with various people. Couches, beds, attics, occasionally women. And then it happened. I met Sarah. Somewhere along the way she harnessed the info I’d been waiting for. This job, while paying a measly $16.50 an hour to start, was the highest paying job I’d ever had. It was described to me as simple: drive from restaurant to restaurant answering service calls for the bulk cooking oil filtering and recycling system the company had designed and implemented on fryers all around the country. Real high tech stuff that it wouldn’t be a stretch to say not a fucking soul has ever heard of. I was assigned to the Philadelphia Depot, which covers the eastern half of Pennsylvania, most of New Jersey, all of Delaware, and a few corners of sloppy, swampy Hell in Maryland. I took the job, saying I had experience with tools but it’d been a while. I’d turned a few wrenches in my day but mostly I’d done everything else. My interviewer assured me that training would be aplenty, and that he was sure that if I knew how to turn a wrench at all, I could figure out any of the hundreds of problems we get calls about each day.

My first assignment was to help out on an install up at Blue Mountain, one of the ski resorts where there was remodel construction going on. I was sent just to assist, to see how the install process went down, and to run to grab tools the already seasoned techs would need. The GPS routed me there, saying it would take around three hours, maybe more with current traffic and weather conditions.

And then it happened.
I’ll never forget it.
The sun was just beginning to set. The highway stretched out in front of me. Those little yellow strips of paint on the road to divide each lane looked bored, but to me, they were new friends. And as the engine of the boxtruck came to life and I accelerated and gained speed along the top of the concrete, I met them all dozens a second at a time. The trees on either side of the road tried to keep up, they all wanted to meet me. Even the barriers on the sides of the highway, the dents and the mangled metal from constant accidents, cars and trucks smashing into them like meteors, the brains and the blood and the bones and the insides of mindless drivers staining their concrete skin… they all welcomed me to the flight. I was 28, so of course I’d seen the highway, I’d seen a great deal of what the road had to offer, but something was different about that night. I don’t want to use the word “rebirth”- I know that in writing this there will already come with it a certain overflow of unavoidable pretentiousness- but there was in fact something very spiritual about merging onto that highway for the first time, the first job assignment. I was getting paid to press down on the gas pedal. I was getting paid to meditate, one hand on the top of the wheel, the other wherever it wanted to be.

This November, I’ll have held this job for five years. I make an okay amount regularly during the week, and two dollars an hour extra on Saturday’s and Sunday’s. I know a thousand times more about the job than I did five years ago, and they’ve made me the lead tech and lead installer on many of the projects during the last two years. And still, no woman, no anything or anyone has ever felt as warm, as inviting as that moment when I first merge onto the road. The suspension in the work truck bounces and bumps as though any tiny, uneven surface might destroy the whole undercarriage. But I love it all. I hit a pothole and it could be a woman telling me I bought the wrong toilet paper. I spill a little gasoline on the toe of my boot, and it could be the radio going static during one of my favorite songs. I pull over on the side of some desolate highway winding along a mountainside and…
…there is nothing quite like it.

There is no god that can’t be explained away or disproven by science or experience, but this experience I have, this emotion that comes with knowing I’m in motion, rubber tires on concrete pavement or dirt or rubble or mud or wooden single-lane bridges… I can’t explain it.

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At just after dawn they come out, sometimes before. They open their little eyes and moisten those retinas with those eye drops that make everything look cloudy and obscure. And then they get into their cars and let their left arms hang out the window. They snarl and blow smoke from their noses, they press down hard on the gas and run over children if they get in their way. The people of the morning are not human, they are barely even alive, but somehow they breathe life onto the road like virus cells parading through arteries. They have horns by noon, and by three o’clock they have a political agenda that has very little to do with peace and harmony. By dinner time, they’ll have reached into the cunts of all the pregnant women at the nearest grocery store, pulled out the unborn corpse, and have gotten home just in time to toss it into a boiling pot of oil and seasoning before it spoils. They use paprika, but they also squeeze in some cumin, and the whole damn house smells like a rehab lodge in the middle of a forest. And when they take that first bite, the juices roll down their chins and they catch it in little mason jars. Tomorrow, they’ll use the juices as a base for their midweek stew, and everyone will wonder how he got it to taste so good.

At five a.m. my eye sockets feel like hollowed-out glass cornucopias that could collapse on themselves at less than a moment’s notice. I feel bad for the tiny capillaries and the pupils and the retinas that all have to work so hard, harder than most of the rest of me. I can feel their emotions, and their need to be shut off from the world, but then I tell them: “one day, those eyelids you love so much are going to come down and there won’t be a single science in the whole world that can make them lift back up again”. And so my eyes reluctantly stay open and let all the repugnant light in.

About Dave Matthes

Writer and author of poetry and prose. Self-published author of eighteen books, with poetry published by Paper and Ink Zine, Analog Submission Press, and Hickathrift Press.
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