VISIONS OF MICHIGAN
By Andrew H. Kuharevicz
The summer ended. I lost track of hours and minutes seconds and rotations of the clock. The sunset and the sunrise were one big mess of time for me. After graduation I worked at the behavioral science lab. They paid me to scan numbers and answers that were in life recorded by domestic violence and tears and abandoned children. I sat there clicking on the mouse and drinking one cup of coffee after another. Nine to five; it was a drag to do but it got me by. The rat race is a scam but it’s what we do, and I read these real human emotions and too many fear coded columns and lines made from voices that yearned for help but were nothing but numbers and numbers and more numbers forming the United States educational market connected to a nightmare. Everything was symbiotic with the dots on the screen, and without the nightmare I wouldn’t have a job, without capitalism there’d be no proletariat revolution, without Uncle Sam there’d be no postmodern Karl Marx. Without dead Roosevelt there’d be no Hitler. Without homelessness there’d be no shelter. Without the sinner there’d be no Church; without Heaven there would be no Hell. And with this going and staying up all night reading all these books and going back to the office in the morning, saying how are you today to the professor that started to come into the office in the summer wearing a sweat suit I eventually began to make assessments, and then I wondered what the fuck was wrong with our society? And on and on it went’; I wondered why I did whatever they said to do for so damn long. And I didn’t want to be a Buddhist and I didn’t want to be a catholic or a republican or a democrat. I didn’t want to be a business man or a farmer or a lawyer. I didn’t want to be anything. I didn’t want any of that. Because it was the enemy of something; I was making connections between antagonizing foes of one another, and one was good and the other was bad, and the (Z), don’t do it, and so there I was, in the middle of the mess. It was the night and I had to work again in six hours, but I was bleeding, and sure, I knew Dusty wouldn’t walk away, and as I’d find out in the months that followed, Apostolo would never ever walk away if there was something he could gain, a kind of power over other people that he could relish in. He was never the guy that would walk away from something that he took sadistic joy being a part of, and sitting there you could smell night with clippings in bags from the mowing, and the bags were on the side to be picked up from the garbage men. You could smell city and you would have rolled your eyes like I did if you would have smelled that cigarette that dusty Apostolo was smoking as he sat next to me. Alright. Let’s talk like a couple of men for a second. Alex, get over here. He said that to us, and the city was sleeping. But not us three.
Alex wasn’t coming. He didn’t like violence, and so he’s at the corner. But Dusty yelled for Alex like some kind of commander and Alex walked across the street sitting down next to me. Dusty was sitting on the other side. All three of us were on the stoop backs to the door facing—dancing shadows and I was having a hard time making out what was what because that punch didn’t make me any smarter. I was loopy and,
You alright? Alex asked
I didn’t say anything
He said are you alright?
This time it was Apostolo.
You punched me in the face I said.
You came out of nowhere. It was reflex, instinct if you will.
I said nothing. But so what, I guess this was Apostolo’s sorry, and it was weird because I wasn’t expecting him to be nice but still I said nothing. I tried to stay calm.
What’s your name? That’s Alex.
I know I said
I’m Apostolo. And what’s your name.
I kept rolling my eyes but then I said…
Henry, Henry, Henry’s my name.
Henry what dusty asked. A man’s got to have a last name.
Oldfield I said. Name’s Henry Oldfield.
You want the rest of this Dusty said
I looked at him and said sure, taking whatever was left of the smoke he knocked out of my hand when he blindsided me and met me with his knuckles.
I think I like this kid Apostolo said to Alex as he twisted a cap tin flask that looked like it somehow made its way back from Normandy or the civil war er’ just—something.
You drink he said after he took a large swell of whatever was in that silver flask.
No thanks I said—not right now.
Why not henry, good fer ya. Warm you up, pain—be gone…
No—I said again.
Dusty handed the booze to Alex. It was one of the last days of the summer. And on that stoop I sat not saying a thing, bleeding while they took pulls of a canteen that I’d find out did come from Germany when Dusty’s grandfather got home after the great war lowered its curtain on just another act of the history of the modern species. Back then this is where it started. On this stoop in Michigan, this is the spot where I decided I was going to be a writer.
I never thought I’d see Dusty or Alex again. I thought we’d go our separate ways. But a year in the future I got myself stuck without a dime to my name in battle creek after I lost it all down south and was trying to get it all back again by coming home, and when I was at the bus station I opened my wallet and I had dusty Apostolo’s card he gave me right before I left for some town on the border of Tennessee and Georgia. I had a friend there who was moving to Portland but hadn’t sold his house yet, and knowing I needed somewhere isolated to write, he told me I could live there for a while, and so that’s what I did.
Every greyhound station looks the same. Half vending machines and blank eyes waiting and dreaming about going home, or having a home, wondering what the word home really feels like. The bus is always late and everything is just half dirty and never clean and everything is half the way it should be, half of everything good or bad. The bus station is one of the most human places you can go within the United States these days, and maybe that’s how they’ve always been. It’s a place where everyone waits and they aren’t like the Train depots. Somehow the train and the myth of the tracks are still rich in Americana and has regained the mystic of adventure, memories of top hats and flappers and canes of those gentlemen and fair ladies of elegance, a nostalgic white myth of getting off the train and visions like a Hollywood movie where peoples with smiles and the jolly porters help you off into some attractive looking city. The breaks on the Amtrak halt the locomotive and you are tagged-along cabooses and as the railing lowers the passengers get off and look renewed on some metaphysical level; passengers with a smile and a dream fulfilled look around like they took a journey through the enchanted hills and arrived at a new land, passengers of common folk holding bags with that old lovely and always romantic traveler smile. This is not what you feel or see on the bus line and I doubt you ever did—feel the same grace and freedom you sense connected to the train system. It’s not even close, and the passengers for the most part look tired, ready for a desperate hug, ready for a fight to break out—they’re ready to defend their humanity and always ready for crime, ready for divorce from reality and for exile, for some kind of fear of flight to abruptly push them inside the terminal of gasoline pollution and the terror and anxiousness of real human emotion. Sorrounded by people who believe in love more than most realize. It aint easy to be in a hurry and have to wait. You think people think in church while the preacher is giving a sermon, check out a bus terminal, there’s more thinking going on there than anywhere I’ve been, and then, so after Apostolo I was running away. I bought a train ticket and went to Helen Georgia and thought I’d either learn how to be writer, or I’d commit suicide. Sure—I was a mess and I truly thought that death or enlightenment were my options; I never saw that in the middle is where you find some kind of happiness. But weighing between suicide in the woods or becoming what you can’t become places pressure on your shoulders, it clutters your mind with messy theories of this vs. that, and when you live like you’re going to die nothing really matters, you just go with the wind as it blows with loneliness through peaks and burning holes of those feelings that tempt pain into something that overtakes your being, and distorts your sense of reality.
When you live beneath right and wrong and below the expectation of happiness, and when you believe in nothing or everything, you go with the tracks, tracks that at this time I thought were going to take me out of the state of Michigan—forever. I wasn’t thinking straight in those days and death by my own hand was an option for me, some loophole I thought I discovered, and on my way down to Georgia through the hills of Tennessee and staring at the clouds in some forest and sleeping on an Indian reservation; truth is the united states is really the great big Indian country, and so through forests and plains and over bridges while looking beat as hell in the bathroom as the rail shook and I shook and my reflection shook, and my hands and eyes were dirty so I took a bird bath, and then I was drying my face so that I showed no evidence of the man that I was.
As we went through another small town somewhere down south miles away from the Appalachian Trail; I sat in my seat and rubbed my head up to the warm window, and I closed my eyes and I thought about death.
When I got into Helen Georgia I was tired but I had to move, so I ate some pancakes and bought a fishing poll to fish on the river. Before I left up in Michigan at the news agency I had the old lady order me a book about bears cause I was told that there were bears off trail in the wilderness, and I didn’t want to get eaten; I thought it probably be in my best interest to know everything about bears I could. Sounded like a good idea, and so the whole time I was in Helen Georgia I never seen a bear, and the only thing that dang book on bears did was scare me and keep me awake during stretches of days and nights cause that book said yep! Sure will, bears will eat you—boy! And I didn’t want the bears to eat me so couldn’t fall asleep, and I know I’m dumb but sometimes I get this panic of being killed and down there on honey moon lane in a log cabin with a heart shaped bathtub, weird I know—but that’s where I grew a big beard to cover the terrified expressions I seen on my face when I looked in the mirror to brush my teeth. In the day and at night I would wear sunglasses. My eye sight and lids seemed to be shaking and twitching—basically I just stopped taking care of myself and sank beneath the water and into the soil and I was so heavy I could only sink cause I no longer believed in buoyancy’; I sank into the black hole that destroys and creates and loves and hates all at the same time. I was alone, in the woods, and the pancake house owner told me to be careful, the boars will kill your dog. I don’t have a dog I said. But that bear book, I read the whole thing front cover to back cover, and I looked at the pictures in the book for hours and hours and even named some of the bears on the page. I talked myself into an irrelevant speculation that bears like honey. So not wanting to get eatin’ by a bear, I wore a vile of honey like a necklace, and I didn’t think the smell would attract the bear. Because I wasn’t thinking straight, and to contrary my friend, I thought honey would make peace with a bear, and the bear would see that I mean it no harm. Sure, my mind was all over the place. But one of the good things I was doing even though I was falling far out into an ambiguous existence between life and death, well—I was still reading like I was before, just like I’ve read all my life, and I think reading gave me time to escape my sickness and the destruction of how life used to be. Now it was nothing much, nothing bad was coming for me. The memories I ran from were just that, gone, forever in my past, and maybe I was reading for selfish and destructive reasons. Maybe I wanted to suffer but I was learning that others suffered like I did.
In the woods, I was learning that even though I was alone in the woods, and although I felt I would die in the woods, still, I read other author’s words that told me that I would never be truly be alone. Good or bad and say what you will, but being a human means you are never alone. And it took time to realize this, and I think I started to snap out of it when I was still in Michigan, right before I ran away, I think I started to learn before I digested what these feelings meant. I was mad and drinking like a fish, and although I was losing my self, I was sinking to somewhere unknown and it wasn’t a bad place to be. It was my future where I found who I would become, and so I left and got on the train for Georgia to write a novel. But I ended up writing five.