Out of Munchies
I crept back into the apartment and pretended to fall asleep. My mind was made up. I was leaving. No one knew.
I had come home from the Navy, only to discover that I was homeless. My father, who had remarried while I was in boot camp, had sold the home I grew up in, and moved his new wife and her four kids into a new and much larger home. This new place did not include me. My involuntary, non-participation, in this new "family" unit, was made all the more clear when I discovered two important details left out of the wedding announcement. 1) All my stuff had been disposed of. All items from my childhood, from school projects to class photos, from stuffed animals to GI-Joes, and all my non military clothing had been thrown out. It was all gone. 2) My one remaining possession, my motorcycle, I was told, by the step-bitch, was still here. Just before she wailed, "get that piece of shit outta' MY garage!"
Walking out to the garage, I quickly found my Honda 350-4 next to the work bench in the corner. Covered in dust, and more disastrously, rust! The tank was empty and the tires were flat, but thankfully no dents, and nothing broken. Still, it took me several hours to fond my own way to the gas station, and knocking on strangers doors to see if I could borrow a tire pump to inflate my severely depressed tires.
Tenuously my right thumb reached for the starter button. Feeling it's way across the throttle and over the retaining ring as it had done thousands of times before. My bike, that I maintained with pride and devotion had never, not once, not even for an instant not started. Until now. Ha na na na nah. Nothing. I adjusted the choke, and tired again. Sputter, cough, na na, sputter-stutter, click, and then; the familiar whine and growl as the engine and my spirit simultaneously resurrected themselves. A bit heavy handed on the choke I thought as the garage filled with dense blue-black smoke and the smell of unburned gasoline. "Serves them right!" I muttered. I let the bike idle for a few minutes, as I tied my remaining possessions to the back of the bike. Without thinking, I turned towards the door that led to the kitchen, but caught myself. "Did they say goodbye to me when they trashed my childhood things?" Saying this out loud, I realized, they did not. The message though, I now got, came through loud and clear; "get lost" they were telling me. The little boy in me, looked sheepishly at the garage floor. Perplexed. Confused. This was not the garage I played in as a child. Home, for me, died that day. It was December tenth 1976. Cell phones were some twenty years in the future, so I did what we almost never do now. I drove to my friends house to see if he was home. Wind in my hair, I rode.
Lying there in the bed, eyes closed, as I carefully reviewed the last four months. It is April first. I didn't plan it this way. Leaving this way, on this date, in the manner I had chosen would be a cruel joke. At best. But, I had been telling myself for over a week now, it had to be this way. The only way a clean break was going to happen. My sinister plot to escape, brewing in my head for over a month, was now complete.
For weeks now, I had been buying stuff. Lots of stuff. A bright yellow, Jan Sport backpack. Even by 1970's standards it was huge. It had to be. It was a beautifully engineered, external frame pack that was to hold: my new sleeping, a light weight, equally state-of-the-art, two person tent, a single burner white gas stove, clothing and most importantly, a month's supply of freeze dried food. All of this carefully hidden on the patio. Under a tarp in the corner. It didn't matter really. The patio was the junk pile. Nobody ever went out there. I could have placed "big yellow," my pet name for my back pack, right in the middle of the patio, in full view of the door, and it would have gone unnoticed for months. I, however, was not about to take chances. Timing, wording, it all had to look normal. I was saying goodbye to my closest friends. Walking out of their lives. Forever. Perhaps. I did not know.
I parked my bike next to my friends back door. Slid open the patio door and walked in. No one was startled, I was nearly family. Shannon and Shelli, Rob and Joann, Joann's brother Rex, Dan and the two cats. Misha and Roger. "You're back!" they all say.
"I am, just.”
“I need a place to crash?"
Shannon motions his head to the back bedroom. "mind the litter box, it's been moved!"
I stashed my junk on the floor and returned to the main room. Sitting at the smallish no longer round kitchen table, where a Budweiser, in a long-neck bottle, was already open and waiting for me.
"Figured you'd need that. How'd it go at your dad's place." Asked Rex.
"How do you think it went? Piped in Joann, “Honestly Rex, your such an ass! He's crashing here, for God's sake"
"As expected," I said. "Worse, actually, they trashed all my shit. It's all gone."
Shannon, now coming back to Earth, manages to encapsulate the moment, "Fuuuuuuuuuuck,.....man, bummer" returning to his home made bong, Shannon, a moment later, was safely back circling Jupiter again.
"Least you still have the bike,” Rob said “Oh, you do still have the bike, they didn't sell,..."
"No, I interrupted. It's registered to me. They're bastards, not motorcycle rustlers" We all tried to laugh.
The sound of footsteps and the sound of the refrigerator tell me it is time for me to get up.
“Shit, there’s nothing for breakfast!” my friends mumble in non harmonious quasi-chorus fashion.
Actually it was part of my plan. In a house full of drunks and stoners, no food outlasts the night. I wait for a few minutes. More noise in the kitchen tells me my moment has come. I walk slowly into the kitchen. I am already fully dressed, with my shoes on, but nobody notices.
“Dude!” says Shannon. “No breakfast!, I got munchies man, serious MUNCHIES!”
Here, perfectly and unwittingly played by my friend is my que. “No problem, I’ll make a munchy run!” “Hey everyone! I’m off to the store. I’ll get milk and cereal” Without waiting I head for the door. What could I say? I was leaving them. Now. I walked out the door around to the back where my pack and bike were waiting.
Alone, on my motorcycle, I felt reborn. The freeway traffic was light at 7:15 am. All the traffic on I-5 was heading into downtown Sacramento, and I was heading out towards the airport. I had escaped from that hell hole, before it devoured me like it had my closest friends. I had hoped the shock would be a wake up call for them. That Shannon and my other friends, would have that collective aha moment and awaken form the drugs and alcohol wet dream they were living. Two exits away from the airport was the Honda dealership. It had been prearranged that I would drop the bike off for them to sell on consignment, and that their sales manager would drive me the rest of the way to the airport.
A lot happened in that month I was away in Canada. My friends, did actually wake up. Within two weeks of my departure, they had all moved out and gotten on with their lives. I have talked to only one or two over the years. As adults we grew apart over time. even if that time was amped up and foreshortened by my abrupt departure. For me the trip to Canada was an eye opener. I was renewed and awakened repeatedly on many emotional and spiritual levels. My advice? Sometimes just going out for milk and munchies can change your life, in a good way forever.