Hobo Prince

I wake up after sleeping on a couch for four days. I’m at Jolie’s apartment in Madison. I came to Madison because Jolie is a good friend of mine and she was graduating from the University of Wisconsin and my own post graduate life was a goddamn pressure cooker back home in Milwaukee. I’ve lived in Paris and New York and Seattle in the last year since leaving university educated and unskilled. Milwaukee is definitely the worst place for me to be. I’ve moved back in with my parents so I wouldn’t have to pay rent in an attempt to save some money and start getting ahead in life. At the moment unemployment is at an all time low and I don’t have a steady job. I’m finding it difficult to live in the real world of financial responsibility. Here we are in the best economy the country has ever established for itself but I don’t see any of those benefits.

 I remember hearing about Reagan’s trickle down theory but no money is dripping on me. I’m part of the working poor. I always thought in my naïve academic life that if a person worked forty plus hours a week that person should be able to make a living, at least to survive. I was wrong. There are jobs out there, they just pay slave wages and offer no satisfaction.

 Today it is time for me to leave. The graduation parties are over and I’ve out stayed my welcome. After a couple of days sleeping on somebody’s couch they wonder why they like you, after a few days they start to wish they didn’t know you. Besides tonight I have some work lined up back in Milwaukee.

 I came to Madison with Jake. We drank beer before noon in the car on the way up clinking green bottles in the late May morning as we roared down deserted backcountry roads. When we got to Madison everybody was already at the Graduation Ceremony so we went to the Union’s terrace and drank more beer. Pretty young college girls sipped from tall foamy cups and sun bathed on the edge of the blue lake. On days like this the terrace is the best real estate in Wisconsin. Jake and I sat back ourselves in the sunshine taking it all in. It wasn’t long before the booze and warm breeze got to our heads. By the time the sun started going down everything felt carefree and funny. The lid had been released from the pressure cooker helping me escape being boiled over.

 Jake and I got really drunk the way it happens after several hours drinking and we continued into the night losing all control. Our legs were failing us but we finally found Jolie long enough to get kicked out of a few bars. The conversations never went anywhere through the continuous talking and laughing. Everything had gone pear shaped. Sometime around four in the morning Jake freaked out, got in his car and drove home. He muttered something about breakfast with his grandmother and girlfriend Katie. He did a few lines of cocaine to sober up and was off. Maybe it was the fear of recurring sobriety. I was too far gone to really take notice of his departure.

 I woke up the next day and had to apologize to Jolie’s roommates for actions I didn’t remember. Apparently when we arrived at Jolie’s place her roommates were there and I was telling the world how beautiful it was and how we had to enjoy life and drunken debauchery was the way to do it. I said I was sorry and hoped I wasn’t belligerent or in anyway offensive. I felt bad and the world didn’t seem so beautiful anymore in my depressive hangover state. The world had turned ugly with grotesque people looking down their noses at me and I was under their influence begging for mercy. That morning I tried to buy diet Pepsi at the health food store and received a snotty remake about how they don’t sell Pepsi. I made a flippant comment on how everybody at the heath food store weighed three hundred pounds and how being so fat wasn’t healthy at all. They asked me to leave. As I was being shown the door I said that if they had diet Pepsi maybe everyone could lose a little weight. Wasn’t soda with no calories healthy? My health tips weren’t appreciated.

 Walking back to Jolie’s I almost got run over but two frat boy girlfriends on roller blades with their asses sticking out and shit eating grins on their shiny faces. I jumped out of the way as they just kept going and they said ‘excussse me.’ I said somebody should and they flipped me off. There is nothing worse than the conscious knowledge that the world hates you and you hate it back. I wanted to bury my head like an ostrich. The roommates were nice about it though when I apologized. They said it was OK that I had made a total ass out of myself the night before. Their gentleness made the daily functions like moving and breathing a little easier to bear. They thought I was a funny drunk. It’s too bad my last girlfriend never thought so.

 The difference between men and women is that guys would love it if a drunk sexy girl would slobber all over them, trying to improve the state of the world. Girls hate being around drunk guys, and it’s not just the slobbering they hate. Sometimes a girl doesn’t even care if the guy really likes her and is good looking and trying not to slur his words and stand up straight without the use of a wall, trying to treat her with affection and be a gentleman. Not that I’m so good looking or always well behaved but I’ve made these attempts in the past to no avail. Deep inside me I know my failed relationships all come back down to me. I never approached a girl sober. I know this is a problem I’m not ready to face. Relationships can come with so much pleasure and leave with so much sorrow that after a while frustration and hollowness replaces love. I’m now alone and have never been in a relationship that works. This can be seen as failure except by those trying to avoid marriage.

 Jake went home with my backpack which had my extra shirt, money and passport. I don’t have a wallet or drivers license. I had to borrow money from Jolie as if blabbering to her roommates and sleeping on her couch wasn’t bad enough. Since she didn’t have much money to give me and I felt bad asking I mostly laid on the couch and read her roommates books that were on the shelves next to the TV. I read Darma Bums by Jack Kerouac and Angela’s Ashes by Frank Mc Court. The days would come and go and so did the roommates but I just laid there drinking water and reading. Jolie said it wouldn’t be so bad if I actually left and went to the park to read. Or went for a walk. I didn’t have the energy to move. I felt even worse not having the energy to do things and when I saw the girls I tried to act invisible. I didn’t want to piss them off any further than my physical presence in their living room already did. Whenever I used a glass to drink water I made sure to wash it and put it back.

 I get up and put on the clothes I’ve been in almost all week. I put on my sweater with no undershirt, my pants with no underwear and my shoes with no socks. I fold the sheet I’ve been using and put it away. I say good bye to the girls and they just mutter ‘see yous’ to me. They are relieved to get me out of their flat. They think I’m very lazy and when I’m not working I probably am. I don’t have enough for a cab so I walk across town to the bus station and get a blister on my right foot. Luckily Madison is a small town to walk across.

 I stop in a café to get a coffee but when I’m in line waiting I stand behind some Graphic Designers. They are a lot like the young Architects I saw at RISD when I went to check out the Brown campus so many years ago, only less eccentric and more hip. They are really annoying talking about Frank Lloyd Wright in their Urban Outfitters outfits. The prices for caffeine are more than I can afford. I walk out of the café and go two doors down to an illiterate Bukowski bar where nobody can read the writing on the walls. I sit down at the bar next to an old women who I can tell was never beautiful, she is saggy and craggy and didn’t enjoy a prime she is now well past. I order what everybody else in the place seems to be drinking, (the other two people in the place being the old women and the bartender) flat beer in a dirty glass that costs seventy-five cents.

 The old lady looks at me for awhile and then says, "Youse have beautiful blue eyes." She is missing more teeth than she has.

 I tell her thank you.

 "In Asia," she informs me, "theys think if youse have blue eyes youse don’t have a soul."

 I’ve been to Vietnam I tell her. I tell her it was beautiful.

 She looks at me hard staring into my eyes, maybe looking for a soul. "Don’t bullshit a bullshitter, kid. Youse is much too young."

 I tell her I was in Vietnam recently. After Clinton lifted the embargo. For some people after America has a war with a country that country no longer exists. It makes me feel bad for all the killers with US Army tourist passes that die on foreign soil. Heroic or foolish it’s all just forgotten.

 She takes another long stare.

 "Wheres else you been?"

 I tell her a few of the other places I’m proud to have seen. "Whets are youse a Hobo Prince or semethings?" she asks.

 I tell her I don’t think so.

 She doesn’t say anything after that. I think about Jack Kerouac and how he would go 3,000 miles across the nation and I just want to go 90. I think I’m a coward for not hitchhiking but they said it might rain today. I try to convince myself that it’s different now. You always had to be careful, with the sex perverts, but now instead of just trying to cop a feel they will shoot you dead with a gun. All the non insane people won’t pick me up because I might be a weirdo with a gun and everyone is fearing for their safety. People are meeting each other on Web sites instead of in person. Nobody wants to get out of doors and have physical interaction because that is a lost art and we are all evolving inward, retreating from each other. People would rather watch MTV than dance together at a party. This is what happens to society when sex kills and the chemical Band-Aids aren’t big enough to conceal everyone’s emotional scares. The distinction between pain and pleasure have blurred, a sleeping blink of the eye the only difference between wet dream fantasy and nightmare reality. I don’t know if its always been like this or maybe sometimes it was different. If anti-heroism ever really existed all the angry young men are now dead. James Dean won’t come out to play. I see this all as a problem keeping me from exploring the open road. I also have that damn blister.

 I walk out of the bar leaving a quarter tip. Now I only have enough for the bus ticket and maybe a soda. Depends on where you buy the soda, that quarter could’ve helped. I think about my poorness. I think I would be a very good person to meet at a party if I only had some money and an ecstasy pill. I don’t like being poor and wish my parents would help me out. They have helped me out in the past. I went to school in Madison and then in Paris and even though I was in school for almost ten years, I graduated from university a few days before my ten year high school reunion, I only received a BA in Film and Philosophy.

 My parents are rich but think I need to learn the value of money but it’s hard to get to know something that’s never around. My mother told me that Bill Gates said he wasn’t going to give his kids any extra financial support. I said yeah right. His kid is going to end up a heroin addict on the streets of Seattle. He’ll be overdosing next to the Jack in the Box on Broadway. My mother looked at me very peculiar after I said that. It was like I had deflated all the alacrity of motherhood right out of her. Maybe when you are almost thirty and your mother is in her mid fifties you shouldn’t say things like that. My parents are rich, but not anything like Bill Gates, nobody is, but they have that same new rich American idea where everything should only be for one generation. I’m not a fan of nepotism, I just want the money, not the job. Spoiled yes, happy no.

 I think about Bill Gates and his children and that is a relationship that is doomed to fail. It won’t be Bill’s fault and it won’t be the kid’s fault but it will just be. It is such a contrast to the childhood in Angela’s Ashes. Gates has so much money and genius and sobriety but knows nothing of Irish love the way Frank Mc Courts dad had. The drunken dreams of affection only go so far but just think about how many people love Mc Court’s book. It’s impossible to enjoy a nice childhood but everyone likes reading about a harsh one. Since nobody can teach love and Dr. Spock’s hypocritical hippie babyboomer pupils where the last to fail, it just reinforces the fact that it’s all up in the air when it comes to parenthood. No one gets it right and most get it wrong even though having children might be what life is all about. That’s the cruel bastard of human fate.

 I get to the bus station early. I buy my ticket from a man with an Abe Lincoln beard and Marilyn Monroe voice. There are two genders at work but I can’t tell where it started or where it’s going. I try not to stare at my fellow travelers at the station but there is not much else to do.

 A couple of young coed’s want to store their luggage but the man behind the counter, who might be a lady with a beard, tells them they can’t. This infuriates the sorority girl.

 "I could have flown you know," she says.

 She walks back to where her luggage is.

 "These people are assholes!" she yells to the whole station.

 This startles me because she looks so well mannered. Now the whole lobby is talking about the bullshit of the Greyhound Bus service. A three hundred pound man, who would of fit right in at the health food store, from South Dakota talks about busting heads. He says he’s come all the way from South Dakota and hasn’t received any respect. He says he is going to smash up the Depot, and he pronounces the T making it sound like ‘tea pot.’ His bravado is increased because it’s the first time he has been on the same side as a pretty young girl. He is fighting with the beautiful people who are of average weight and bathe daily, if not more.

 The guy behind the counter who might be a man with a sultry voice looks a little worried. He/She says, "This is more fun than a person should be allowed to have in one day." And sits down to do paperwork hoping everybody will settle down.

 "I just want to get home!" the young coed says with tears in her eyes. Her boyfriend puts his arm around her and the fat guy from South Dakota sits down next to her on the other side of the boyfriend but the girl makes a face and the Dakota guy gets back up and walks over to the vending machines.

 An old couple are sitting in front of me. They are hunched and shriveled and I’m guessing neither one of them has made a quick gesture in over a decade. The man has a cane to help him avoid running into things and the woman has a hearing aid.

 "The Days must’ve taken a different bus. I don’t see them anywhere!" the blind man yells at his deaf wife. The wife doesn’t answer.

 "What! You asleep?" the man shouts in the old lady’s ear. He whacks her with his cane.

 "Huh?" the wife asks. "Don’t do that I’m here."

 "The Days must’ve taken a different bus!" the man yells again. "The Days have been dead since ’82.’ the wife says.

 A young white kid with pale skin, pimples, a diamond tattooed on his neck and an oily thin mustache walks in with a young black kid with a shaved head and wearing a dirty over sized yellow North Face jacket. They make a b-line to the bathrooms. They come out a few minutes later with crack smiles, high for the moment.

 The bus comes and we all try to get on. I’m in line waiting to board as the she-male helps load the luggage along with the driver.

 "No one hiding down there today," the driver says about the luggage compartment and the bearded lady laughs.

 I get on the bus and read the ONION. The funny faux headline reads ‘School shooting solves all of troubled youth’s problems.’ I laugh at this. The headlines of the ONION are always the best. I look over the shoulder of the guy in front of me and read the real headlines from the Wisconsin State Journal. Another teenage shooting happened yesterday, this time in Oregon. I read the other headlines. ‘Two teens charged with hanging, torturing a girl.’ and ‘Acid put on the door handle of a Miami Abortion Clinic.’ I sit back in my uncomfortable chair ashamed and confused.

 After a while I wonder where everybody else is going. What they are all doing when they get off the bus. If anyone else is wondering the same thing I am they probably think I’ll be sleeping on the streets tonight. But they would be wrong. My dad is waiting for me in his Lexus when the bus finally pulls into Milwaukee.

 I get off the bus feeling low and looking about as bad as I feel.

 "You look like a bum," my dad says when he sees me.

 "Hey dad, I’m a Hobo Prince," I say.

 "You’re an idiot."

 We drive home in silence. My vacation is over. I have to get home, shave, shower, change and get to my job.