JOY part 37

I drove for hours. I had decided that I had had more than enough of Chicago for a lifetime (pun, or reference, or whatever it is, intended). Fuck the Bears. I had places to go. People to see. I wasn’t sure where or who, at the moment, but that wasn’t the issue. I just needed to go. Kind of like a shark that dies if it stops swimming. Something about the gills. At least that’s what Woody Allen claims in “Annie Hall.” You know, the scene where he is on a plane with Annie telling her that their relationship is “like a dead shark” and they need to break up. Great movie. Kind of like the one based on this wonderful book could be. Fine. I’ll stop. For now. If I have to.

Speaking of stopping…Man, I’m good. I was in Iowa. Yes, Iowa. I’m not sure if the tiredness finally caught up to me or just the sheer boredom of driving through one of the most mundane places on the planet. In any event, I started to feel dangerously tired. Nodding off at the wheel, tired. The one thing I didn’t need was to get into any accident which a) paralyzed but didn’t kill me b) killed some other poor slob along with me c) damaged my car and left me in this God-Forsaken, hell-hole while it got repaired. Hard to say which of those three frightened me most, actually. All of which made me really happy when I spotted a Red Roof Inn not that much further on.

I got myself the regular road-food standby of a rubbery burger and some cold fries to take back to the room. It tasted just fine being that I was so hungry and all. I turned on the TV. Thank God they had cable. I just really don’t know how people dealt with life out in these places before cable. One look at the local news just reminded you how dark those pre-HBO days must have been.

I soon found myself on the bed naked and alone. And watching the local news about the Founders Day Festival. Actually, I wasn’t even naked, but I felt like saying that just to bother you. I was thinking about Nancy. But not in the prurient, sexually graphic way you hypocritical voyeurs were hoping for. I promise to throw some more sex in soon, just for you. Heaven knows, I wouldn’t want to bore you or anything with any more serious talk about dying. Or what the hell was going on with Nancy.

What the hell WAS going on with Nancy? That last phone conversation still really bugged me. I called her again. The machine picked up. I left a message and told her to call me here in Corn Town, or whatever it was called, and left the number.

I thought about calling Ann. I really had no idea what I would say. I suppose, I could thank her for letting me know what a pathetic loser I was. A loser who would never be more than “just a friend” for his entire, soon-to-be-ended life. Yeah, that would be a fun conversation. It did seem kind of strange to just leave town without a word, though. I doubt she even cares. Yeah, yeah, I know. Get over it, already.

I hadn’t checked my e-mails in days. I wonder if there were any. I wonder if they even have e-mail out here. They must. How else would people keep from killing themselves out of sheer boredom? Really. Iowa seems like the kind of place where they really do have “cow tipping” and very close relationships to their animals, if you know what I mean. The “city” of Des Moines was even more depressing from the glimpse I got of it from the highway. Why did people live like this? Why?

I called Paul and asked him that very question. To which he answered “I don’t know. I guess because they ran out of sheep.” I missed that guy. Not in the gay way you’re implying (although that “bloated” comment still worries me). I told him all about Chicago and the frustration of the whole experience. To which he basically said, “forget it.” Just when I had braced myself for a tirade of harassment from him about me spending all that time, energy and money in pursuit of Ann, he goes and says that. “Just forget about her and move on.” Amazing. Actually, not really that amazing.

Paul, generally, could judge when it was fine to give me shit and when I was really hurting about something or someone and he should leave it alone. Generally. Every once in a while he did have a few missteps and managed to make me feel shittier than I already did. But I’m sure I did the same to him much more often. I really hated when I did that. Sometimes I felt like I had to say things for his own good. Push him a bit. Sometimes though, I just felt like a total asshole for making him feel really crappy about his life. He’s definitely one “Thank You” I would really have to make sure I made clear. Not like the wishy-washy babble I left behind with Lynn and My Mom.

Anyway, I hung up after talking to Paul for quite a while. I felt much better. I was exhausted and tried to sleep. And tried. And tried. And…Just laid there for hours not sleeping. Don’t even ask if you really don’t understand how I could be so exhausted but still not sleep. I might just have to kill you if you do. It just happens, OK?

Not that you deserve it after the cruel way you’ve treated me (sniffle, sniffle), but…It was only a matter of time before I found myself lying there naked and alone. My thoughts had gone from various memories, to vague yearnings, to unfiltered fantasies of the grandest order. Pure smut. And it all involved one person. I mean one person other than me. So, it all involved two people. Me and, and, and…Oh, forget it. You don’t really care anyway. What do you mean, you already know? Well, aren’t you the clever one?

So, the next morning bleeds into early afternoon and I miss check out time. And I really don’t care. It’s only money. I shower and drive to the donut place to get a cup of really weak, awful coffee. Believe it or not there weren’t a lot of Starbucks here, yet. I had slept maybe three or four hours in between waking up all the time. There’s something really weird about waking up like that in a strange motel room. For a split second, you don’t remember where you are or how you got there. You just feel this terrible panic while your brain wakes up enough to sort it out. All of which is a way too long explanation of why I feel so damn tired now as I finally, finally, finally exit the beautiful state of Iowa.

By the way, when I check out around 1:30 in the afternoon, something really strange happened. They didn’t charge me for the extra day. I was perfectly willing to pay. Hell, I didn’t care. But they insisted that nobody really needed the room anyway, and that I shouldn’t worry about it. People really do surprise me, sometimes.

Speaking of surprises (cue: snare drum)…Shit, I really don’t know what to tell you here. The thing about Iowa, and now Nebraska, was that there was nothing surprising about them. They are just as hopelessly flat and dull as you would have imagined. Even speeding well, well over the speed limit, you still had the feeling that you weren’t really moving because everything looked the same, mile after mile after dreary mile. Between the exhaustion and the hypnotic effect of the “landscape” I really was worried I was going to fall asleep or trance out. Not a happy feeling. In fact, it made me turn on the radio and listen to “103.5 FM, Omaha’s Classic Rock!” for a while. The same exact unimaginative, burned-out-to-death, overplayed songs you’ve been hearing your whole life. I almost cringed when they had a block of ZZ Top. In fact, I switched it off to hear the local Cattle Auction report. Really. They have such things.


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