Rome, NY

By Truman Derrick


You see all the pretty men and all their pretty girls go by and by. Where the sun set to the early sun rise. Where my time went all that summer I could not tell you. For brief, desperate bit, I almost broke away from the average life, tried to be somebody for some time. At the least do something than sit and wait. I wanted to see where great men stood and good men died, armies on the move, masters at their craft. Walk on the earth beneath Pickett’s Charge where, Appomattox, Lincoln’s cottage, ride down the Mississippi where Mark Twain and Tom Sawyer fished for meaning. To see where the rejects, the exceptionals breathed; from the rain washed suburbs of Aberdeen Washington to the snowed in woods of Cornish New Hampshire, I wanted to hear a poem at the Nuyorican and listen to the blues of far out creoles that crawled into the French Quarter fresh off from Chicago. The real things in life I wanted to feel. I wanted to know, to be inspired, that’s it, that’s all. Maybe a bit of their wisdom would rub off on me, ya know? So I took a tour of the country walking in shadows of people that did something with themselves. At least I wanted to.  

One night I thought I had did it at last, I thought I’d finally breaking my stimulation fasting. It was the dead of July, right around three in the morning. It was dog days of summer, when the howl of far off owls filled the day and cicada songs filled the night, and frogs ushered in mornings. Where time was regulated not by the clock but content. Do I sleep today or do I get up? The dogs were out cold by all means, the family gone out too, the stars were the only things still up tonight, as always. I’m just a simple guy I guess, one who could admire the finer things in life but one’s whose roots run deep enough sometimes I have to stop and smell the dirt. I took a last whiff of the home air, quietly closed the car door to my parents ’03 accord, and rode off to somewhere that happens to have a bus that’ll run. Where? I never really cared, anywhere would do fine.

Took about an hour to ride down to the nearest bus terminal, dead empty save for some pasty guy in cargo shorts in a deep green nylon polo-shirt. The kind that old men wear to the public country club, the kinda guy that gets a slap on the head from his wife for just looking wry at any other girl. Spineless crock-wearing kind of guy. At least had a pair of lace-less Polo’s on, so at least he’s slightly redeemed. I know it’s bad to judge a guy for what a guy’s got but, come on. People complement each other at what they find at Target, not a knock at Target, but when some brown kid half a world away is making a decent shirt, for pennies may I remind you, you should at least look half alright. Thrift shopping if that’s your thing, I mean damn there’s a song on it and everything, no excuse. So I walked up to the half sleeping clerk, parting us is that window that you can slip papers through, I look up and to the left to the electric board. The one where all the times listed. New York to L.A. “Where will I go today?” is all that ran through my head. An entire world a ticket away. Brightly piercing the half-light fluorescent counter, illuminating the dull brained night, right over the exit gates, the doors to the world, and there it was, …

LONDON,

RUSSIA,

ROME,

            For a second I got the butterflies. Westminster, St. Basil’s, the Pantheon. Then I remembered I was in upstate, I remembered this wasn’t an airport, I remembered that this was a bus station, buses sure as hell couldn’t fly. “What” leaked from my mouth, the clerk must’ve thought I was from the city or something so he cleared his throat, proceeding to clarify, “Those are towns. Not really original with the names around here. You from downstate?”

“Ah yea. Was just seeing some relatives for a bit and a thing popped up and now I’m going back down. A family thing, sister in the hospital, nothing serious”

“Well I sorry to hear that but all the buses going down are clocked out for the night, you will have to come back tomorrow morning. Is that alright?

“Yeah, that’s fine. Umm thanks I guess”. Mouth agape at the cruel trick god put down. The world felt like a movie set, one dimension less, filled with false dreams casted out at the end of the day. Plastic, tanned, and discarded.

That guy, that only guy, polo nylon guy. He looked back at me, laughed a little, “All roads here will lead you to Rome”

“Vae Victis” I replied. Like the Hannibal who stood at the gates, I lost, I crapped out, chalk it up to bad luck or what but I was defeated, time to go home.

I made sure to turn the headlights off before I approached the drive way, my parent’s window is fixed on the backyard and can see any head pass across the lawn. Took care to close the car door quietly, took care to close the screen door silently, took care to walk out softly. I reached at last my room, stripped down to heart patterned boxers and a Johnny Cash t-shirt. The dark light of the moon tucked me in and kissed me good night. “All will be right, don’t your worry sweetly, sleep well and take care to forget about tonight”. And so I slept throughout the night. Head filled with those same battles, those same last words, those same men that could rage against the night and come out more than alright. Friends were lost, women wept, but in the end it was alright. It was always alright. Stupid stuff like that.

I brushed off the crust in my eyes. Brushed out the taste of night out of my teeth. Shit, shaved, showered. Jeans and another flannel. A dark green this time. Left over pizza washed down with luke-warm coffee, I felt black that day. Sipping away at grinds in the dark drink, I thought of the night before, and I wondered whether I would have actually gone to Rome. “Wouldn’t that be lovely?” I thought. And honestly I think half the things I say are questions just to entertain others. Then I thought, “Is this how I’m going to entertain myself now is it?

            “How has it come to this?”

            “I don’t know, you tell me?”

            “How should I know?”

            “Why don’t you know?”

            “Aren’t you supposed to know?”

            “Know what?”

            “I don’t know, I forgot”

            “Well that makes two of us then”

            “Let’s just drop the whole thing and play some video games?”

            And so my conscious subsided, the memories from the night before, vain dreams washed away like coffee grinds at the bottom of a coffee cup. At last I thought “okay”.