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Monday, February 26, 2001
By Scott Rahin
Get that bastard out of here, and put him on the bus.
Too many variables, said Ford, festering.
I encouraged him, often, to do something, but he stared at his computer screen, checking email, reading science trade paperbacks, getting into further and further grinds, skull shrinking around his brain.
That evening, as I tried to fall asleep on his futon, he presented a complicated theory of all language and textual meaning which I have no interest in reproducing. I watched the red LED of his clock. Finally, he was finished.
Listen, I said, how much money do you have?
Who knows? Six thousand in mutual funds. Nineteen in checking. A bunch of checks around the apartment, I already paid the estimated, but there's probably some of that--
What you need is some couch life. Some not-this. Where could you stay?
He was quiet. The house rattled as the train went past. Philadelphia. Pittsburgh. San Francisco. Miami. Denver. Rochester.
America's urban heartland! Golden Gate go! Carhenge go!
We'd spoken about this before. You could see his face warm to the idea. We planned, and named it Operation Muskrat.
I'm not taking a notebook, he said. I'm not writing. I'm getting on the bus with a single change of clothes and a credit card. He kept playing it out, speaking into the air above his bed, the room lit by orange streetlamps creeping through the plastic blinds.
I could go to Port Authority, just go. I forgot how nice it was to take the bus. I took the Olympia bus from Port Authority to to Newark when I went to Israel, wedged into a back seat at night, peering out the window. We drove through those empty patches of Jersey, over bridges; I read my magazine. Have you ever taken a passenger bus at night - riding all night? The roads are clear and everyone sleeps. You just hear the rattle of the wheels over the asphalt and watch the roadside embankments blur, read the signs, hear breathing. People pad back to the bathroom. It rains and the world melts into ridges and rivulets. I never get bored of it.
These are not champagne tastes you have, Ford. You can have cross-country bus happiness. Clear your head out. Take 2 weeks and a thousand bucks. Get whatever it is out of your system.
It won't work. I've tried everything. My throat-soul-monsters will not leave, he said. But still, they can be quieted, and travel calms them. Food hushes them. It's sex makes them furious. Maybe Pittsburgh to see Steve, then back up to Cleveland if Megan hasn't left. Crisscross planet Greyhound in celibate lower-class calm.
Poor bastard. How did he end up so worn out at 26? He hints that he did something horrendous, but he won't bring it into the light. I know people who've done terrible things; Ford is deluding himself into thinking he's evil. Anything which puts his skin in the light terrifies him, but he'll run around the world for a dollar. I have the opposite. I can't wait to show you the scar and tell you the story, but I never get anything done.
I went with him to Port Authority last night. Before we left, he showed me how to build pages on this site and handed me the keys to his apartment.
I'll call in, he said.
All will be fine, I said.