chapter 01. march first (1993)

I swore I would never do this again. Eleven years ago I stood over a barrel garbage can with a lighter and all of my “diaries,” burning up the bad memories with the good. Not that there were all that many good memories in those notebooks. None that I can remember offhand.

Names are floating around in my head. Christian Wall, Zeke Matthews. People I don’t want to remember. Memories I thought I had forgotten. But as I lie here naked on an unmade bed in an unclean room, they are coming to life again. Maybe that’s why I promised myself I would never do this again.

I should know better than to make promises to myself. Sworn or otherwise. Since the last diary, and even before then, I’ve been taking chances, breaking promises. I seem to be compelled to ruin myself. Put myself out of my misery. I should be wasting a dollar a day on those scratch-off lottery tickets. I should’ve been doing that all along. The odds are probably better than the ones I’ve been playing with.

It seems a shame to end up here in a (not so) cheap roach motel (the “Budge In,” thanks to a couple of burned out bulbs) next to the interstate in the middle of Texas, of all places, halfway to my destination.

But is San Francisco really the destination anymore? Now that the car is gone, burned up (another part of my life up in flames), Mona’s ashes with it, my original reason for going there no longer exists.

Yes, that was just an excuse. “I’m going to California to sprinkle my dearly departed mother’s ashes off of the Golden Gate Bridge.” Those were the words I practiced to say to anybody who cared to ask. But nobody asked. Nobody cares about me. Anita has her Roscoe. August has his tranny lover. I’m really all alone in this world. And once I’m gone, there will be nothing to show for my time here.

What a pitiful life I’ve had! Maybe it’s best that I just fade into the ether. Curl up on this mangy mattress and let them find me here, naked with this page-and-a-half of nonsense to explain me away.

Maybe I should catch myself on fire! That would be a fitting exit from a life that went up in flames.

I should have thought of that out there on the interstate, when Mona’s Dart was going up in flames. I should have just sat tight and gone up in flames with the plastic, fabric, glass and steel. Mona in the passenger seat.

Oh, but I would never have the balls to do such a thing. So I doubt I’d have the balls to actually set myself on fire. And that wouldn’t be very nice to the Chinese man who runs this place, I don’t guess.

Now I’m back to thinking about the many promises I’ve made to myself and broken. Broken promises are what got me into this situation in the first place, I suppose. I was going to say “this mess,” but it’s not really a mess I’m in, it’s just a situation. The mess was out there on the interstate, the burning car and the commotion around that, and me just walking away from it and coming here, stopping only long enough to heave up a week’s worth of vending machines and trucker speed into the ditch.

And now that mess has been cleaned up. Mona and her car are gone for good. The car that carried me from that awful place in Florida (my childhood home) to this awful place in Texas (my deathbed?) has been hauled away and I’ve been left behind.

I’ve been here since yesterday, I think. I don’t know for sure. I only know it’s March 1st because of the calendar on the wall in the diner where I just got back from eating. That’s where I bought this spiral notebook, from the “gift shop” behind the register.

Whenever it was that I arrived, I stood at the front desk of the Budge In across from the Chinese man who stared back at me like I was death warmed over, the burning vehicle over my shoulder out the glass door, across the parking lot, the frontage road, the big ditch (where I puked), on the shoulder of the interstate.

He didn’t say much. I didn’t say much. I just handed him my credit card and stared at the plastic white cat on the shelf behind him with the one paw ticking forward and back like some kind of fucked up clock, without any numbers on it. Actually, I think it’s some sort of a Buddhist thing.

But anyway, now I’m here. Room 105.

March 1st. It seems like a fitting time to start a new diary.

The “situation” is I’m stranded here. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. It could be a lot worse, I guess. As long as my credit holds out, I figure I can stay here in Room 105, eat at the Train Car Diner across the street, watch tv and write in my diary.

Here’s my morbid thought: This is my death journal. Something for the world to read after I’m dead and gone. Maybe I’ll even get famous from it, posthumously.

I have a headache that won’t quit. I woke up with it. I thought it was hunger, so I ate. I’m glad I ate. I feel better after the pancakes, eggs, bacon, orange juice and coffee. But the headache is still with me.

I know what it is: Withdrawals. But I’ve also entertained the thought that it’s the Grim Reaper tapping nonstop on my skull with his sickle. Tap-tap-tap. “Here I am, Randy Reardon. Come with me to the dark side.”

Well, Mr. Reaper, I’ve already been to the dark side. I’ve spent most of my life there. I’ve strolled those deserted back streets and creepy alleyways, opened myself to all manner of destruction. You don’t scare me!

Hello, dear reader. I hope that you will find something useful in these words I’m writing. Perhaps not. I don’t know which entry will be my last. Isn’t that exciting? You’re reading this knowing that I will die in the end. It’s just a matter of seeing what things pass through my brain as I make my way toward the light at the end of the tunnel. (An interesting concept, since most of the tunnels I’ve ventured into were dark, moist and rather rank.)

Maybe you’re only reading this because you want to see how it might be for you when you go. There are no promises. It isn’t likely we have much in common. But who am I to cast aspersions? I don’t even know you! I am long gone and you are just trying to get an inkling of understanding.

Well, good luck!

More names are popping into my head now. Rich White. Charles Hatch. Gone forever. Spider, June, Dar, Tom Collins. People I don’t even know, but whose stories I seem to know well.

I feel a strange urge to write about them. All of them. The strangers and the acquaintances. As if in doing so I will figure things out.

What things? My life?

That seems unlikely. But whatever. You’ll have to indulge me, dear reader, because I’m no longer here for you to tell me to shut up!

At the very least, I hope I’ll be able to offer you some interesting reading. Maybe I’ll make something of myself after all, leave something of value behind with the Reardon name on it. I’m fairly confident in saying that I would be the first one in my family to do such a thing. Mona is more gone than gone, like twice-baked beans.

And my dear half-sister Rona. She was headed down an even more dangerous path than Mona or me many years ago. It doesn’t seem likely that she would have gotten her act together.

So it’s up to me. That seems a noble, if selfish, cause.

Well, anyway, here goes:

I was born on Halloween, 1963. An accidental birth. A ghoulish prank on a woman who would come to wish she had aborted me, who perhaps wished it all along.

Hm… My odds are starting to sound better already.