Third day out, the oddest feeling overtook me. A hybrid of nostalgia and deja-vu, this fuzzy childhood sense-memory of melancholy bliss. I wanted to cry. Was it just the desert? Sand in my eyes? Dehydration? No matter. I unwrapped my fingers from the buzzard’s neck; the gangly fucker was dead all right. I sank my teeth into its gullet and drank deep the freshets of hot, life-giving blood.
What was that feeling, I wondered, crawling west for the fuck of it, my shirt hanging off my sunburnt back in one-panel-cartoon shreds. Some kind of sepia-toned lost innocence that had to be a fiction; my childhood was as anxious and overrated as the next guy’s. But that wasn’t really the point. The point was, I suddenly realized under that sadistic asshole-shaped sun, that I’d been subconsciously nurturing this delusional emotion all my life, hording it, and for what? Whom, more like. For some as-yet-unmet girl. I’d recognize something in her that’d unlock that happiness. Our shared suburban weltanschauung would be the twin keys to launch the ICBM of our boundless joy.
“You homo,” I chided myself. Here I was, lambing it from a half-million in calls on the most vicious shark in Vegas, and I was still heavy-leveraged on the biggest sucker bet of them all.
* * *
The nauseating dryness had closed up my throat when I reached a truck stop that evening. I opened the glass door with my head, crawled across the cool tiles and pulled myself up on a stool at the lunch counter.
“What’ll it be,” the waitress asked.
My tongue was too swollen to work. I snatched the pen out of her orange beehive and grabbed a napkin.
“Coffee,” I wrote. “Black.”