18 December 1996

(Brown Journal Excerpt 3 - Middletown, CT)

Rain was like a strange sheet of cold moisture yesterday. It wasn’t really even drops. It was so light. But, I was heavy. I was weighed down by my bags, but also by stress. I knew I would miss my bus. As I walked/jogged/ran through the mist, I started to hurt. Cars passed by, their headlights laughed at me, their engines yelling at me to hurry. But the rain told me to slow down.

I couldn’t make it. I wanted to cry, but the sky was already crying for me. I was angry at everyone I saw. Why didn’t they help me? Where do they have to go that is so important? I had to get home!

As I approached the train station… Train station? I mean bus station. When I got about a block away, the bus passed me by. I yelled at it. I yelled at the rain. I yelled at the green light dangling in the air in a metal skull, winking at me and telling the bus to pass.

I sat in the station after putting all my bags on the floor. People were boarding busses outside. Does buses have two “S”s? No, it’s buses. So, I walk up to this glass window, and there is a young woman inside on the phone. All I have is this metal circle with lines through it so she can hear me.

“Excuse me?”

“Blah blah blah,” she is babbling on the phone.

She tells me I missed my bus, but there’s another at 7:25. Thank God.

“Can I keep my bags in the office with you?”

(Then, after asking the boss): “No, because of security reasons.”

My bags grinned at me. My back was angry, so was I. I sat down, burying my face in my corduroys. Minutes passed. A strange man entered the room. He was talking to himself, I think. Some other sketchy motherfucker had asked me for a quarter- to buy a ticket. A quarter to buy a ticket. What did he take me for? I gave it to him. He went to the bathroom with it. The man was staring at me.

“Is that a guitar?”
“Yep.”

The last thing I wanted to do was talk to that man. He was older, stupid-looking, nice though. I was just mad.

“I… I used to play guitar. I was pretty good. See, my mom was paying for my lessons. I took lessons for two years, I learned the basics.”

I noticed a strange hole in his neck. It was like someone pushed something thin- like a pencil- and the skin had partially closed up like quicksand.

“I am interested in classical guitar,” he said.

“Oh yeah?”

The woman from inside came out of the door and began speaking to me.

“I live two blocks down, and my husband is there. You can bring your stuff there.”

“Can I see your guitar?” he said.

“Really? That would be great!” I said.

“I had a Gibson, but I haven’t played it in a couple of years-“

“Here’s my number,” she continued. “Do you know where the First Wok Restaurant is?”

“No,” I said.

“What kind of guitar is that?” he continued.

“Two blocks down that way,” she pointed.

I opened the case to show him my guitar. He touched the pick-up switch, and clicked it back and forth.

“You at school?” he asked.

“Yeah, Wesleyan.” I felt as if I was going to pass out. My head was heavy and was collapsing my neck.

“Oh, I welcomed new Wesleyan students to Middletown. You guys are great for our city.” He said something like that. It made me feel awkward. I am not a commodity to Middletown; I barely even go there.

“Do you need help with your bags?”

“No.”

I picked up my stuff. He asked a few more times and I said no. He said “you just want to succeed, that’s good.” Okay... He got the door for me.

I had a strange feeling about going to that woman’s house, but went anyway. A big black man was waiting with the door open. He said hello, but not much else. I followed him up a stairwell. It looked pretty shitty. I walked into his small apartment. There was a big bed to my left, a television in front of me, a Lazy Boy chair in which he sat, drinking a 40, a nice Christmas tree, a table with a couple chairs, and a tiny kitchen. I stood stupidly.

“Sit down, man.”

I took off my coat and hat. I sat at the table. There were Newports on the table. I don’t know why, but I asked for one. I asked for a light. I smoked about half of it before I said anything.

“Are you hungry?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“Do you want me to get you something at Burger King or something?”

“There’s a Chinese place downstairs if you want Chinese.”

“Okay.”

I got up, and he gave me the key to his apartment, saying “you’ll have to get back in.” I walked outside into the rain. I felt like I was part of the city. I got into this tiny Chinese place, and there was a television on. It was hidden behind the counter, so it was strange- it was just sound. There was a little boy watching it. He just stood there. I ordered, then sat down and started playing the nose whistle.
*

“That was good,” he said with a mouthful of food.

Maurice had finished his meal. Mine was disgusting. It was all onions. I had to get out of there- he just sat there watching Ricki Lake, silently. I looked at the tree. There were a lot of red ribbons, and two small stockings. One said “Hannah,” the other "Maurice." I turned. On the fridge was a couple computer print-outs. “Hannah and Maurice forever” said one. “Bang head here” said another.

It was time to go.