Road Prayers


No matter where I live it seems I’m rarely there. Even if I like the place the call to press on passes through me. So I enter the road, my land of insight and escape. I pack the car and outfit its trunk to act as a second home. Then I plug in coordinates and blast off yet again. For days or weeks I’m largely alone, thinking on life then trying to avoid it. While rolling down blacktop on darkened nights I buzz in this search for purpose and peace. To clear my head and think of nothing for hours or days in a continuous streak. I look for these passages of time in a place that’s always in motion, that offers glimpses hard to hang onto. I’ve long lived an unsteady life, perched upon a shifting set of dreams and desires, all guided by the road. It shucks the old and presents the new. I’m not always sure of what I want to shed but I fear stagnation, knowing how easy it is for me to fall into a loop of listlessness. So I stay in motion.

Deep in the night I’m oft taken over by a rotation of excitement and nerves as my arms hang out the window and cold air blasts across me. I suck raw coffee grounds to keep me going and hock that snus across the lines. These dashes of white and yellow pass by in an endless stream, my speed making them appear as one. I’ve been so many places they sometimes blur together. In each I seek what’s new and yet familiar –parks, libraries, downtown, and the displaced. I enact my routines at each, making a mental catalog of where I’ll return, even if it’s years down the line. I’ve seen so much of this country yet am always grasping for more.

I sleep in the trunk with booze, antlers, and other props that entertain. Each night I bed down and drift off ’til the heat or police wake me. “Put your hands up.” “Do you have weapons in there?” “Christ, when I saw your feet I thought ya were a corpse.” In the past I tried bartering reason for release: The only difference between me and a retired RV couple is they have more money; I didn’t know a sleeping person could commit crimes. But these words are useless. I give a rundown on what I’m up to and where I’m headed. They run my ID and see I’ve lived a clean life. They’re always relieved to know I’m moving on, just passing through. They let me go and I’m on my way, another night disrupted but at least a good story gained.

I haven’t made a bed in years but within the car I carefully arrange my blanket and pillows. Sometimes I sleep in there for weeks so try create the best home I can. I open the trunk and wait at the entrance until whatever street I’m on is empty. I strip to undies, slide my feet through, get my head down, and slam the trunk atop me. In this darkness I create light from a cell and music machine to adjust and find my way. I play with my toys and finish out the day’s thoughts before drifting into dreams. At times the sleep is comfortable and comes easy. At others I swelter in the heat or wake in a cold state. External noises rattle by, their eyes or headlights peering over the blankets cast atop me. Mystery items dig into my back, giving me pain that lasts for days. To flip over is a slow process that scrapes my hips against the metallic ceiling. Dozens of times I’ve crawled from my cave come morning only to find watching eyes upon me. I throw a t-shirt on my dirty body and roll on. I’m sure they make their suppositions but the trunk life is a free life and that’s all that concerns me.

For four years I’ve lived in motion, swirling through more in these earthly orbits than the twenty-four before them. I’ve gone from knowing so little of my country to sifting through some of its deepest pockets. I love the little towns and massive festivals. The city parks to nap in and mountain paths to hike. I love finding used condoms in places they shouldn’t be and bum bags along the river. But of course what I love most of all are the goofy characters, street prophets that populate my imagination years after our physical encounter. And while all these things are great it seems after some time I always start to wonder, okay what now?

So my mind always has a sniff on the next step, never content to settle down or merely retrace what I’ve already done. Whenever I’ve tried reaching back to the past I come up empty. Everything shifts, resistant to be relived. So I move on. And moving on is nothing new. I plan my motion around money, music, and the places I call home. I travel by day and night, speeding from one state to the next, trying to get somewhere that gives me something. Along the way I see so much beckoning to be explored, inspected, or filed away for future times. There’s so many good places left to go.

Signs for states and the land they encompass are indicators of a gradual change from place to place. Billboards and roadside curiosities are another. Wisconsin’s exit 89 advertises diesel, cheese, liquor, and bait. Iowa rest stop have snakes and toads. Along the Oklahoma freeway towers a massive billboard for . All across America fog envelops the same billboard: Actors, models, and talent for Christ. It seems God is building an army of artists. I’ve seen thousands of billboards, some peeling and falling down, offering up a product or politician long after their time has come. Homemade signs rage against abortion and Obama. I catalog all the goofiest ones and while bored envision my own: Is your pet’s magnetic field misaligned? Did your son develop female breasts after eating peanut butter? You may be entitled to compensation

Trucks ride the road alongside me. They’re the only others sleeping at the rest stops I turn into temporary homes. These giants of the road park in packs along highway shoulders and spit off hunks of rubber to be dodged like a deer carcass. One had Xmas lights stating JESUS CHRIST IS LORD bolted across its trailer. It passed under an ad for the Wisconsin Adult Superstore: Toys, Lingerie, Hookah, and Truck Parking. In the deep south I’ve seen towering crosses backdropped by six lanes of semi parking. These lots offer respite from the road and dark booths where thousands have jacked before rolling on. I sometimes wonder what it feels like to pass beneath the shadow of a fifty foot cross after cumming to choke porn.

Across the country I listen to bad Christian radio. Too often the Kansas FM airwaves declare themselves to be your flag waving, meat eating, god fearing radio station. The preachers of each state all deliver the same message of end times and a society stirred in sin. As entertaining as that is the message grows stale. But as I fade from place to place the AM stations fuzz out and mix together. Don’t forget that today we celebrate the corn cob/This country has become exactly what we escaped. You have to think a certain way or you’re labeled racist, anti-semitic, and even homophobic/Stay tuned for more sports with an attitude. Over the ever fading AM I pray along with my own incantations.

“We pray for the gas station attendants and hot dog vendors. Lord hear our prayer.”

I think of road prayers as the thoughts and hopes that bubble forth while in new lands and alone for so long. A vocalization of things tucked away deep, those ignored or forgotten. Sometimes these journeys in weeks-long solitude stir more serious thoughts within, all that time alone bringing forth reflection no matter how I resist. After asking to be injected with the cum of successful friends I then may offer forth from a more genuine place:

“May I live this life forever. Fuckin’ A.”

No picture of the road is complete without a portrait of where the money comes from. Minus a month, I haven’t worked in six years, instead spending that time with a needle in my arm. I’m a lab rat with dozens of studies under my belt and hundreds of pills that’ve passed through me. My body’s had drugs tested on it from across the Midwest on down to Texas.

In college I found out I could make $250 or more a day as a lab rat. Though they’d rob my blood and make me shit in bags that seemed better than $7.75. So I began being experimented on. For most studies you check into a clinic, stay there for anywhere from days to a month, then walk out a richer person. You live on their schedule, are unable to leave, and eat only what they give ya. If I forget q-tips I swab out my ears with vaginal antiseptic towelettes. Once I forgot toothpaste and cleaned my teeth with hand soap and salt packets. Most of my time is spent in bed or having blood drawn. I’ve puked a bunch and was once constipated for a week but most medicines have no effect. Some studies have upwards of 80 draws, leaving a permanent hole in my arm. The nurses always compliment me on my fat veins from which they can draw with ease. It seems these arms are packed with nightcrawlers.

After finishing college I decided to forgo grad school and fund my travel with a few studies a year. I began a new lifestyle, one I enjoyed much more than academics. I was now free to flit about the country. But I never knew when a study might come and so could never plan life far ahead. I had trouble describing my job and lifestyle to others, and soon realized it was one incongruent with creating consistent friends and stable relationships. I dissected it all and chose the road.

Once I got the pattern down I’d be on the road for weeks, living out a variety of lives. Over the course of a month I’d sleep in a trunk, on picnic tables, in dirt, beside beautiful girls, and then finally in a cirrhosis study bed with tubes out my arm and a pan for pissing. I almost always had the freedom to drop it all and go somewhere with a few thousand dollars to back me up. I primarily did studies in North Dakota but that company unexpectedly closed. I was distraught and didn’t do one for a long time. But then over this past year I started traveling once again, hitting up studies in new places. This is how I wound up on my first trip to Texas.

I came to love Austin immediately. It had traces of my two other favorite locales, Minneapolis and Portland. Within days I decided it’d be where I moved after finishing out my time on the west coast. En route to Texas my car broke down and I missed the screening for my original study. I signed up for another that began in just over ten days. This gave me time to explore the city. By day I hung out in the parks and libraries or would go hiking on trails. In the library lot two hobos smoked crack while sitting on the hood of my car. On the trails I once went sixteen miles and wound up being lost in the woods for hours. I came across a hobo camp well off the path that was populated by nothing but sleeping bags and a year’s accumulation of trash. There was no one there to greet me.

camp (2)

Each night I swam then showered with hobos at a public pool. I’d strip down to nothing and scrub off alongside those who live on sidewalks and the street. I often saw an old man whom I named Mister Missile due to his Reagan era extremity. Even though he was homeless I was pretty sure that thing got him laid more than me. After cleaning myself I’d either catch a concert, the free hillside play in Zilker, or wander the downtown party scene. I came across it one night while walking. Out of nowhere were blocked off streets and thousands of people wandering below rooftop DJ parties. It was Easter weekend and so down on 6th the Austin girls were twerking against a prayer team lugging crosses. I picked pizza off the ground and fed myself for dinner. It was all so great. Then after eleven days of sweaty Texas trunk sleep they began infusing me with chronic Hep C medication.

I slept in a room that held eight guys, many of whom spent the day talking about their felonies, their guns, and how Rhianna deserved to get beat. Nineteen days later I emerged with $5500. I was now free to get drunk so I wandered the downtown party in a gone state and spent a few more days enjoying Texas. By the time I got back to Oregon I decided my life would now be lived out in a triangle: Portland to the Midwest to Texas to Portland once again. I was going to make so much money and have so much fun.

It was with this purpose I cruised down to Austin once again, this time to gobble drugs meant for treating vaginal yeast infections. I screened and started up my old routines. Then I got a call from the study place. They discovered my piss was loaded with red blood cells. It disqualified me from that and any other study until a doctor cleared me. Knowing my life’s income may be over I went to a McDonald’s lot to steal wi-fi from my car so as to WebMD myself into having bladder cancer. Some homeless man approached as I had open an image search for bloody urine. “Living out of your car?” he asked. “Yeah, kinda,” I replied. He then proceeded to try sell me either crack rock or two used cars for the price of one. I couldn’t quite tell. Later on I was lying in my trunk at night, sweltering in the Texas heat, half gone in the haze of yet another buzz. After sipping more trunk fermented wine I offered up some road prayers.

Let this blood stop.

Just heal my dick.

Don’t take this life away.

I can’t live without it.

Hours later I awoke hungover, once again unsure of what to do next.

I spent a week in Austin, just wandering around, avoiding thoughts of my health. I spoke to my dad and discovered that what was going on might be genetic, meaning I’d never do a study again. My easy life was seemingly coming to a close. The next night I was in the trunk and attempted to find relief by loading up some porn via the wi-fi named HP-Print-22-Officejet Pro 8600. It didn’t work. My fan ran out of battery and I had to sleep outside the car. I nestled down atop a culvert. Bugs crawled beneath my clothes and bit. I rolled into poison ivy and rocks that poked my body. In the woods I heard a crackhead screaming for death. As he carried on I couldn’t help but wonder, how much longer ’til I’m the one out there?

The next night I was wasted on whiskey, off to a concert. I came across a hobo I’d already spoke with a few times before. He said he’d love do studies except he’s been an addict since the age of eleven. As he hit off my whiskey he kept asking if I was a hermaphrodite, unable to comprehend why I’d try out for the treatment of vaginal yeast infections. “Nah, dude. I only got a dick. And just the fucking one.” I grabbed my crotch to emphasize the point before taking back my bottle for another hit.

At the show I drank a PBR found on the toilet seat. After the show I walked back across the river. Graffiti beneath the bridge demanded I fuck sluts and shoot heroin. Hopefully those would be activities for the next life not this one. I returned to the car, drunk once again, sleeping in a space not meant for my body. In the darkness I thought on my situation and kept taking pulls despite being wasted beyond where I wanted to be. I knew I had some money saved and so saw an easy path before me: Get drunk. Wake up. Shit my guts. Do it again. I wouldn’t have to make decisions if I just focused on fucking off. I’d parse it all out later. For now I’d return to Portland and finish out the summer in fun fashion. Through the years I’ve found comfort in wasted days and so have wasted thousands. Perhaps now I could do the same with a thousand more.

Over the past year I’d found the balance and inner comfort that’d eluded me for so long. I had some money, felt more social than ever, and was living at a house in my favorite city. I finally felt fine in both being with others and just on my own. I saw a clear path for myself and liked where it led — studies and festivals to service the call of the road, then splitting my time between each side of the triangle. For a short time this worked great but now my dick was shooting blood and so life was once again awash. It seemed for now the ride was over. Not dead. Hopefully just dormant. I wasn’t ready to abandon the road.

When I’d had enough of Austin I took off back for Portland. My testicles had started to ache in waves of pain that ranged from a constant mild to unbearable pangs that blasted up my belly. I went through a lot of nowhere lands, desolate regions I didn’t know. I passed a cement plant puffing smoke into the night, thinking of how one day my car could be parked there for a midnight shift, my body wondering just what the fuck happened. But for now I sped through the night, just trying to reach a place I knew. To stop shifting for a while and resettle. To regain a stability the road rarely proffers. As dawn drew near I saw black clouds sprayed fuzzily across the warming sky. My dash glowed green and the world changed. I was entering mountains.

I love their look near dusk or dawn. They tower as black shapes cutting against earth’s ceiling, giving form to the land around them. It reminds me of trees in a dying light when the earth’s colors are gone but the figure’s still there. It’s so rare to rise from the world and hold your own when darkness sets. I’d tumbled down but perhaps I’d peak once again. With this I dropped into the mountains of Colorado, Utah, Idaho, and Oregon. I kept the radio on, scanning for the ramblings of a preacher to condemn me. But I was rolling through mountains and each station just grew fuzzy, God’s word unable to penetrate nature’s creation. With the prayers no longer dictated I once again had to throw up my own.

Please fix this dick.

Don’t close this door.

I only know one path.

Don’t force me down another.

I repeated these in refrain but feared it was time to start over. Still, I held to my road prayers.

Please fix this dick.

Don’t close this door.

I only know one path.

Don’t force me down another.

But life as I knew it was closing down. I felt fucked by forces beyond my control. I begged and pleaded but still the prayers lay unanswered.

Please fix this dick.

Don’t close this door.

I only know one path.

What if there is no other?