Rated NC-17 for graphic descriptions
of drug use, m/m sex, foul language and what we would
definitely describe as "Mature Themes". So please do consider your limits before proceeding.
Author's Note: This is the fifth
story in the Heroin series, and picks up directly after Perforation
Problems. The rat gets on a bus.
Dedicated to my partner in crime, slash, and greyhound rides, Zen - The Pushy Broad In Charge.
Special thanks to Melissa and Suze, the junkrat's champions.
Title borrowed without permission from Soul Asylum, all song lyrics used without permission.
Port Authority Bus Terminal 7:45 a.m.
In the taxi, he held my hand
so tightly, I still have the red imprints of his fingers on my skin. He
wanted to stay, and put me on the bus himself, but I wouldn't let him. I don't care how many
steps ahead of the game we think we are, it's still dangerous to be seen together. Failure is only a camera snap away. In spite of the condition I'm in, I force myself to stay alert, and make sure that no one is taking too much interest in me.
He wanted to stay with me until
the last minute, and see for himself that I actually get my sorry
ass on the bus, but I made him leave me outside the station. I wish to God I hadn't. The Port
Authority is too big, too loud, and much too bright, even from behind my sunglasses. I've only
been on my own for ten minutes, and already I feel bereft. I want him back.
I shuffle another step forward
in line, pushing my backpack ahead of me with my feet. Thanks to
Mulder, it weighs a fucking ton. There's all sorts of things he decided I need in there. A second
sweatshirt, batteries for my Walkman, a scarf and hat and gloves, thermal socks and long
underwear... It's amazing what you can get at Walgreens. He even bought me a box of granola
bars, and made me promise that I'd eat them. Leave it to Mulder to worry about my nutritional
health while I'm sweating out the aftermath and we're trying to play spy counter spy in a flop
house. Ridiculous and surreal. With Skinner's help, no less. Something's not right about that, and
it pisses me off that it took this long for me to realize it. I'm a lot farther gone than I thought I
Skinner? Helping me? Tracking
Mulder down out of nowhere to warn us of impending danger? I
don't think so. You lied, Mulder. You lied. I could worry about that, a lot, but somehow I can't. I
can't think that he would double cross me this quickly, that I could be played that easily, even on
heroin. No, I have to believe unconditionally that if he lied, he did it to protect me. Or himself.
Probably himself, I know my Mulder. He lies rarely, but when he does, it's to save his own skin.
Finally, I've reached the front
of the line. One of the women working behind the counter calls
"Next", and I drag my bag to her station. I watch her eyes flick over me, and I can hear her
thinking, "Junkie." I don't give a damn about her contempt, I just hope she'll sell me a ticket.
When it's questionable whether
or not you look good enough to get on a Greyhound, you know
you're pretty bad off.
"Destination?" She's got her eyes turned off; she's looking through me. I hate New Yorkers.
"Eugene, Oregon. One way."
"Two hundred and sixteen dollars."
I dig into my jeans pocket and
shove three crumpled one hundred dollar bills across the marble.
It's the last of my money, not counting the fifty Mulder slipped into my pocket when he hugged
me good-bye. I told myself I wasn't going to spend it, but I probably will. He was slick, I didn't
even notice. Well, maybe not that slick, I am in absolutely last rate condition. At this point, you
could set me on fire and I might not notice.
She's careful not to touch my
hand when she takes my money, and even though I reach for it, she
puts my change down on the counter, pushing it across to me. That's fine with me, lady, I don't want you touching me, either. I'm still aware of the last places he touched me; my arm, the middle of my back, the back of my hand. I don't want anything to distort or replace that, not yet.
I pick up my change and my ticket
off the counter; I don't bother to thank her. Walking to my
gate, I notice that just about everyone cuts a wide path around me. Normally, it would give my
ego a boost to be taken for a dangerous character, but inconspicuous is the name of the game here. I make myself stand up straight, and paste a plastic little smile on my face. There, that's a little better, the women don't look as scared of me.
I've got almost an hour before my bus leaves. Maybe I should go to the bathroom and try to clean myself up a little before I get on the road. I've heard plenty of stories about the men's room at the Port Authority terminal, but inside, it doesn't look any different from any other public rest room. Not very clean, but not the worst I've seen, by far. There's an old guy taking a leak at a urinal, and two Mexican kids sharing a cigarette against the wall. They look up when I come in, but their eyes flick right over me. I'm not a potential danger.
Moving over to the sinks, I set
my bag down and get my first look in a mirror since Mulder
shattered the one in the room. I take off my sunglasses, and stuff them in the open pocket of my
coat. Holy shit. I didn't know it was that bad. No wonder that bitch thought twice before she sold
me a ticket. I've still got the black eye; it's more green than purple. If I'm lucky, it won't be this
bad by the time I get there. My split lower lip is starting to heal, but it still looks like shit, still
Definitely horror show, I think,
staring back at my reflection. Somehow, it's more depressing to
know that I look just as bad as I feel. It's not just Mulder's handiwork, either. I look like I've been
holed up in a hotel room shooting dope for the last four days. My skin is pasty and disturbingly
green under the fluorescents, and my eyes look like they've sunken into my skull. The rings of
green, red and yellow around the left one don't help, but I'd look almost as bad without the
Did you really look at this face
and think it beautiful, Mulder? Well, you're a weird one, that's for
sure. I splash some water on my face, remembering Mulder washing it for me. He was so gentle
with me that at some point I stopped remembering who did the damage in the first place. I know
he does it too, forgets the things I've done that he can't live with.
I just realized that I didn't
even ask him why. Whether it was revenge for the gulag, or his father,
or for Scully, or if he did it for no reason at all. I wonder why I didn't ask him, why I didn't even
think about the reason for what happened until now? Well, time to think is something I'm going to have plenty of- maybe I can figure it out myself.
Leaving the bathroom, I encounter
a middle aged white man walking in. He's carrying a briefcase,
but no luggage. His eyes sweep over me appraisingly, and for a minute I'm sure he's going to
cruise me, offer me a ten for a handjob in one of the stalls or something. At the last minute, he
changes his mind, and I am both relieved and distressed by his rejection. I don't want to deal with
it, but I could use the money.
I'm sitting in line at door fourteen,
waiting to board, and the prescription bottle he gave me just
before we left the hotel room is burning a hole in my pocket. Man, I could really use one of those.
Like, now. As soon as I get on the bus, this is all going to get a lot less painful.
I was really surprised that he
gave them to me. Eight 10mg dilauded, the closest thing you can get
to a shot in pill form; pharmaceutical heroin. On the street, they sell for as much as ten dollars a
pill, and are the most highly sought after barbiturate. I wonder what sort of elaborate lie he told
to get them for me? I would have loved to see that; Mulder being bad.
It was an extremely compassionate
thing for him to do. I don't know if I really believed any of the
things he said to me over the last two days, until he put the bottle in my hand.
"Something for the road," he
told me, putting the bottle in my palm and closing my fingers
around it. He didn't let me read the label. I felt the safety cap, and the paper and plastic surface,
and put it in my pocket, and then he kissed me. He kissed me for a long time, no tongue, just his
lips covering my mouth over and over again. And then we left. He held my hand in the cab, and he
pulled me against him and wrapped his arms around me outside the station, but that was the last
kiss. Neither of us are compassionate people, but if a kiss can share pain, we shared two lifetimes
worth in the space of, I don't even know, two minutes? Less?
It's foolish to believe that
we're both going to live long enough see each other again, but I can't
handle the idea that this is the last time; that fifteen minutes ago he was holding my hand and now
I'll never see him again. I don't know what's wrong with me, I just can't handle this. I don't want
to go through the rest of this come-down on a Greyhound, I don't want to go away alone to the
middle of nowhere and live on hippie food. I want to stay here, with him, and face whatever
insanity the future holds together. I might be a ratbastard, and a killer and a thief and a con
artist, but it's not in my nature to run away, to play it safe. I don't want to do this; I'm doing it for him.
I know that, and it scares the
hell out of me. I can't pull myself together, and finally, I have to put
my head down on my knees and press my closed eyes hard against my kneecaps. Otherwise, I'm
going to come apart, and I'll be just another junkie having a hysterical fit on the floor in the bus
station, and they won't let me on the bus. I don't want to go to jail today.
Finally, it's time to board.
My leg fell asleep sitting cross-legged on the floor, so I'm doing this
limping shuffle as the line starts to move. Two teenage girls behind me are laughing. The driver
takes my ticket, and I'm relieved, because he doesn't look as much like a drill sergeant as the
driver of the last Greyhound I found myself on. These men are to be feared, they have total
power. They can leave you stranded in a cornfield at four a.m., and they really get off on doing it. I should know, I like absolute power as much as the next bastard. On my good days, I can make
presidents change their travel plans and turn certain F.B.I. agent's worlds upside down. On my bad
days, I'm lucky to slink my way past mass transit employees. I hate my life.
Hauling myself and the survival
equipped backpack up the steps of the bus, I'm seized with a
claustrophobic kind of panic. There's too many people, I don't think I can do this. I hear Mulder's voice again, the last thing he said to me. "Promise me you'll get on that bus and go all the way to Oregon. Promise me, Alex."
And I said, "I promise."
I never promise.
There are still a few empty seats
in back, and the chance of having a double seat to myself is worth
the long shuffle down the aisle. Old people scowl at me, and a man in a black leather jacket meets
my eyes, and then looks quickly away. Everyone else just ignores me, as if by pretending I'm not
there they can keep me from inflicting myself on them. I drop my bag into the first empty spot, and swing in to collapse in the window seat.
This is hell. There's a baby
somewhere behind me that's going to scream all the way across the
country. Across the aisle a hippie girl with bare feet, who smells almost as bad as I do, is sound
asleep and snoring. Directly behind me, one gangbanger is talking shit to another. The guy who's
talking isn't for real; I checked him out before I sat down. He sure the hell is annoying, though.
He's talking to his seat mate, a guy with a teardrop tattooed under his eye, who hasn't said a word.
Looks like he just got out of jail. Mr. Badass is telling him that he's a third generation Killer,
talking all this shit and trying to bond, and even from here I can feel that Mr. Just-sprung- from-Rykers has about as much patience with him as I do.
I'm grateful when the bus starts
moving- at least we're on our way. Sitting still on a packed bus
was starting to make my skin crawl. It's only a few minutes before we're on the highway, cityscape flying by. I press my face against the cold glass, exhausted and relieved that nothing else is required of me. Okay, Mulder, I got myself on the God damn bus, are you happy now? I can't help wondering if there was any other possible outcome to the events of the past two days.
Settling myself into the confines
of the narrow seat, I'm very glad nobody wanted to sit with me.
These seats were not made for someone my size. If I had to sit facing forward I'd be eating my
knees. I sit sideways instead, my legs curled up and my body twisted sideways so that I can look
out the window.
I wish he were here with me.
I miss him, badly, and that's such a frightening revelation. I don't
think I've ever missed anyone before. Not like this at least; it's a physical pain, the loss of Mulder.
It just feels so wrong, not to have him right next to me, after all the hours of his vigil. Maybe it's
something you get used to, missing... Right now I just feel like there's this big hole in the middle
of me that not even smack could fill.
I dig in my bag for the bottled
water he bought me, and inside my pocket I get one of the pills out
of the bottle. Thank you Mulder. Saint Mulder... Suddenly, I can see him so clearly that for a moment the pain of not having him is gone. I can see his face, lying next to me on the sagging mattress. I think I know, now, what he was feeling while he laid there watching over me. I think I know what it was in those lakewater eyes.
The next half hour is a rough
one. I'm nauseous again, praying that I won't have to use the
bathroom at the back of the bus. I don't even want to think about having to put myself in a space
that small. It's hot on the bus, but I don't want to have to take my jacket off. So far, I don't think
anyone's noticed that I only have one arm. I like it better that way.
It seems like as soon as I find
a reasonably comfortable position and get settled, we're stopping
again. The driver announces that we're in Newark, New Jersey, and that only those passengers that have reached their destination and those who switch busses here are allowed to get off the bus.
There is a collective groan from the smokers; I turn my Walkman back on. I don't have patience
for anyone's misery but my own. We pull into Newark and some people get off, a couple more get
on. I keep telling myself that in only a little while now it will get better. Oh God I hope I'm right.
I've got these shakes that won't stop and my cough is acting up again.
Sorting through the pockets of
my leather I find Mulder's handkerchief. It's not clean, but it's his
and I'm glad to have it. I blow my nose and hack up a piece of my lung into Mulder's white linen
hanky. I've been sick often enough to know that green mucus isn't good, but black is really bad.
Least it's green. The girl across the isle from me has woken up, and she's staring at me in morbid
fascination. What the hell am I doing on this bus?
Milesburg, PA 12:25 pm
Four hours later I'm feeling
no pain. Dilauded is so similar to heroin it's nearly indistinguishable.
Floating on this bus has come to be not such a bad thing after all. The world rushing by me is
nothing but a watercolor, some impressionist's view of farmland and hills and trees. If I tilt my
head down I can see the white line, flying under me. I feel connected to it, as if the line is being
pulled directly through me; powerline. The buzz locks up my jaw; the constant vibration of the
buses forward motion rattles my teeth.
The driver pulls us onto an offramp
and deceleration feels like coming in for a landing. I'm a 747,
a freight train, a big, mean, black bird. The intercom crackles, and the driver speaks a few
scratchy sentences. It makes me laugh a little, because as far as I'm concerned, he could be speaking Swahili, I can't understand a God damn word he says. The gangbanger behind me wakes up, and asks, "How much time we got?" Someone answers back, "Twenty-five minutes, man."
Okay, that's good. I don't think
I'm going to stray very far from the bus. I don't have a watch,
and I don't trust myself to keep track of the time. Stumbling off the bus is what I would call a
gravitational challenge. I follow the dude in front of me, watching his feet to get some kind of idea
of which way the floor's going.
The air is cold and clear once
I get away from the bus exhaust. I zip up my jacket and stuff my
hand in my pocket, looking at all of my fellow travelers milling around me. Most of them have
gone into the gas station. It's a truck stop, I guess, but there's only a couple of semi's, and the
building isn't any bigger than a normal gas station.
I guess I should go inside and
take a piss. Jesus, do people really look like this? I can't believe I'm
here, in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but the word of Mulder's slacker friends to rely on.
The bathroom is clean and smells like floor cleaner. In the stall, I shake another pill out of the
bottle. Six left. I wonder if they're going to last me all the way there?
Back outside, I walk through
a cloud of cigarette smoke on my way to the bus. I think me and the
old guy who slept through the stop are the only non-smokers. Maybe next stop I'll bum a cigarette from somebody, just to have something to do. I don't like sitting on the bus when it's not moving.
The rest of the day passes in
a slow, hot, haze of sleeping and staring out the widow without really
seeing anything. I talk to him in my head, and it's almost as if he is really here with me. I press as
much of my face as I possibly can against the glass, until the world outside is distorted into
patches of color and lines of black and white highway. Up against the glass like this, it really
doesn't feel like I'm moving at all, the world is moving, but I'm not. It's a simple illusion, but it's
something to amuse my brain and pass the time. The turnpike's curves and sharp turns make me
nauseous as we wind through the mountains. I can almost feel his hand at the back of my head,
almost. I wonder if it will always be like this, if he will always be with me.
You'd think I'd be sick to death
of this music by now, but I'm not. Axl and Lou I can listen to
forever. I think my batteries are dying, Axl's whine sounds awfully slow... I lead a reckless life,
and I don't need your advice, I lead a reckless life, And you know it's my only vice.
Yeah, me and Mr. W. Axl Rose,
we lead reckless lives. Makes me laugh, but I'm not immune to
my own dramatics. Well, sometimes it's easier this way, to see it all as nothing more than a story, one I can tell any way I want to, make it up as I go along. I'd like to try to explain this idea to him, I bet he'd know exactly what I mean. He does it too, I think. God I wish he was here with
me. Where are you now, Mulder? Are you on your way back to D.C., and Saint Scully? I try not
to hate her, but it's a losing battle. She's a thousand times more important to him than I'm ever going to be.
Digging in my pack for fresh
batteries, I find the stash of cherry slices and pull out one of the
bags. The backpack is so overstuffed that I have to wrestle with it to get the candy out, attracting the attention of the hippie chick across the isle.
"How you doin'? You okay?" She
gives me that trusting hippie smile that makes me so crazy.
What is wrong with these chicks? Are they really that oblivious to the world they live in?
"Leave me alone." I stare her
down until she looks away, giving her a look at her own mortality,
if she's even smart enough to see it. The gangster wanna-be behind us starts flirting with her, and she shoots me a dirty look, as if to say, "this is your fault". Wake up and smell the coffee, sweetheart, the world has plenty of nastiness to offer you without my help. I flop around in my seat, turning myself backwards to lay on my right hip for awhile, my knees tucked up and my
head on the seat. Riding backwards like this gives the momentum of the bus's motion an entirely different feel.
It's times like this, when my
brain won't shut off no matter how much silence I feed it, that I
wish I could go back and do everything differently. I can't say I have regrets, I've never seen the point of them; they're meaningless. Maybe that's only because I don't have a conscience; but I do
sometimes wish for a different life, for somebody else's karma.
My mind plays back for me the
moment when the chair fell and the door swung open, and I have
to wonder if one of us wouldn't be dead if it weren't for the fact that I'd been shooting. I shocked
the hell out of him, and he couldn't kill me when I was defenseless. I saw it in his eyes, and the
rage that gave birth to. I think it's funny that smack saved my life. It is by no means the most
self-destructive or the most dangerous thing I do; those usually revolve around Mulder.
Following Mulder, helping Mulder, defeating Mulder only to watch him claw his way back up like a persistent, clumsy phoenix from the ashes. I love that man so God damn much it makes my teeth
ache. My teeth, and every other cell of my body, all of them want Mulder, and he's not here.
The wheels keep rolling, farther
and farther away from New York and everything I've left behind
me. I shove another cherry slice in my mouth. It's not much of a comfort, but it's all I'm going to
get. I close my eyes, and remember taking the crystal covered red candy from Mulder's lips.
Mulder's mouth, dark, soft, lush; full of secret, hidden pleasure and hungry, needy desire. I fall
asleep dreaming of Mulder's no-color eyes.
I know I'm dreaming, but I can't
make myself wake up. I'm in some underground space, bright
white light and cold, flat air. There is a silence to the space that sounds like danger. I'm afraid,
and uneasy is that sickening, precognitive way that tells you this is much, much worse than it appears. I don't know if I'm afraid of Mulder, or afraid for Mulder, but I sense that he's the reason I'm here. He's with me, standing almost close enough to touch, but he doesn't seem to know me. Or maybe he can't see me, he seems to be looking at someone else. The Cancer man appears, and suddenly I can see what it is that has Mulder's blank, rapt, attention. Samantha is with them, and oh man, she's got the purity but good, like nothing I've ever seen. Her eyes are hideous, coated with the blank oil and sunk into a face so gaunt and mutilated that she barely appears human. She's crawling around on the floor like a deranged animal, howling and ripping the hair out of her head in chunks, flinging it to the floor. Soon the white tile is spattered with
Mulder is crying, calling her
name and trying to go to her. I have to restrain him, holding him
back with my arm locked under his chin. I can feel his breath choking against my skin. Suddenly
somehow both inside and outside the dream, I realize it is my left arm, my real arm, and I squeeze
him much harder, needing to feel it, to feel his throat pushing against the bone. I have an arm!
Then we must be somewhere before Tunguska. Is it the tape they want from me? I'm not sure I'm
supposed to be here at all, no one seems to be aware of me, just Mulder.
"Don't, Mulder, you can't..."
It feels as though I say the words, although I hear no sound. Mulder
must hear me; he goes slack in my grip, leaning back against me. Wild joy leaps inside me,
anticipating the feel of his body against mine, but I can't, I can't feel him at all. When I let go he
turns around, wide eyes begging me plainly, pleading with me. I see absolute terror and a longing
for death in his eyes; pure, animal suffering. I can't, Mulder. I know what he's asking for, what he
needs, but I can't do it. I feel as if I am instantly frozen to the this spot; I can't move my arms or
my legs, can't open my mouth to speak. I'm helpless, and I can't help him, I can't put him out of
his misery. The look in his eyes tells me I've failed him; he is done with me.
Suddenly, I'm very afraid, because
it's the Cancer Man who responds to Mulder's silent,
passionate plea, it's his voice that we both hear, mocking us.
"Oh no, Agent Mulder, you have
it all wrong. It's you who must make the choice. A man's
passions and his obsessions are very tricky things, Mr. Mulder, but you might say I'm a man who
thrives on taking chances. The right chances, mind you. What's it going to be, Agent Mulder? The
thing you love, or the thing you can't live without?"
I can smell his Morley smoke,
bitter and chemical. I try to clutch Mulder to me, but he's
staggering away, a look of combined horror and fury on his face I know all too well. I can feel his
rejection; it's as if I can see his mind turning away from me, from us.
"There is no choice!" Mulder shouts, his rage echoing off the walls.
"Mulder, please, don't trust
him! He'll kill her anyway; she's better off dead, Mulder, after what
they've done to her. Mulder, please..."
"It doesn't matter." Mulder's
voice is flat, dead, like his eyes, as his hand goes to his gun. I throw
my hands up in front of my face, as if I can ward off the bullets. I don't know why, it's an
instinctive reaction, I guess.
"Mulder!" I'm going to die, it's
about to end, and every fiber of my being is screaming in terrified,
desperate denial. I don't understand! I don't even know what I'm dying for, unless it's his honor.
That doesn't seem to make any sense to me, and I struggle with the question frantically, trying to
grasp the meaning of it in the seconds I have left.
The explosion of a gunshot shatters
my eardrums, I hear my own gasp for air as I fling my head
back against the window, returning to reality in a frightening, horror stricken start. Mulder,
please. Do it! Get me out of here, away from the constant motion and all these fucking people and the cold, smelly air.
It's really cold and I'm moving
fast, my joints ache and my head is doing that spinning-rushing
thing. It's comes back to me slowly; I'm on a Greyhound, bound for nowhere, stoned on Mulder's
I shake my head hard, trying
to dispel the horror of Mulder's dream. It is Mulder's nightmare, not mine,
somehow I'm sure of this. Will that be all I get to keep, Mulder? Your
darkest fears, your
horror and your warped morality? Please, God, if you exist, I need something more than this, if
I'm going to survive. I need more than his pain.
The flat of Indiana is strange
and dizzying after the turnpike. I get lost in the almost infinite
distance of empty cornfields. I'm glad when we turn north, and soon cornfields give way to the
stench of Indianapolis, flat and ugly and left behind, a miniature Detroit.
"Mulder." I whisper his name,
taking comfort in hearing the sound of it, trying to call back the
sound of his voice in my memory. "Mulder." A mantra for the miles. I have nothing else to think
about, nothing else to feel. I don't care about where I'm going, or what's going to happen when I
get there. I don't care whether or not my enemies succeed in their mission tomorrow, or if they try
to follow my trail. I don't care what happens back in D.C., or what story gets told about my
death. All I want is Mulder, whispering ridiculous words of comfort in my ear.
I remember Mulder singing to
me as I drifted in and out of euphoria, The Needle And The
Damage Done. Was that really only last night? That seems impossible. It must have been at least
a week ago. It's not possible that this pain inside is that young, that new. This pain has weight; it has strength and longevity. It sneers at the two thousand miles ahead of us, and I know that it is
stronger than I am, stronger than anything I've ever had inside me.
Almost everyone on the bus has
turned off their reading light, and it's a little better, because I
can't see them, and it's finally quiet. I close my eyes, imagining the walls of the room around me
and the bed underneath me, telling myself lies of security. It's a new fantasy, but the process is
experienced and dependable. I lie to myself with frightening consistency.
When I wake up again everyone
on the bus is shifting around, pulling their stuff together and
getting ready for the next stop, the Chicago bus terminal. It's amazing how many people consider
paper shopping bags to be a luggage item. I have a two hour layover here, and I don't honestly
know if I'm going to make it or not, if I can bring myself to get on another God damn bus.
I know how easy it would be to disappear in a city this size. I know that I could most likely cop within a mile of the bus station. I never thought it was possible for someone else's will to control me, let alone my habit, but temptation never met Fox Mulder. All I have to do is think of him, and every thought of countermanding his plan goes right out of my head. I'll do it, I'll take the only course that gives me even a chance of seeing him alive again. I'll get on the fucking bus and go to Oregon.
A few people are waiting to meet
passengers, leaning against the wall where our bus pulls up in the
long row of loading lanes. Everyone is lining up in the isle, anxious to get off the bus. Watching
them, it's easy to guess which people have reached their destination, who's happy to be home and
who isn't, and which unlucky passengers, like myself, still have a long way to go.
Idaho, Interstate I- 80
12:15p.m. Day Three.
I've been on this bus for so
long that when we stop, it feels wrong, unreal, for the world to be
standing still. It's only been three days, but it feels like forever. I itch all over; I'm filthy, hot,
sweaty, and alone. Totally alone. There's not a single person on this bus, or anywhere I've been
for last forty eight hours that knows anything about me, not even my name. I like that, It's always the thing I appreciate most about travel, the state of suspended being, when no one knows or cares
who I am, and I don't have to be anyone at all. I'm not ready for that to change, to stay in one
place and talk to people and make a new persona for them, but I don't have any choice.
I haven't been thinking much
about my destination, but as we cross the state line into Oregon it
starts to hit me; that there really is an end to this ride, that soon now, I'll have to get off this bus
for good. I have no idea what to expect; if there'll be someone there to meet me or how I'll get
directions to a commune full of hackers and survivalists out of the locals if there isn't. I have no
idea how I'm supposed to live with these people, or what sort of story to tell them. I suppose I'll
do what I always do: stay quiet at first, get a feel for what they want to hear. Langley's friends...
shit, I'm fucked.
The pills don't seem to be working
as well; I'm not really high anymore. I'm shaky, and tired, but
jumpy too, and I guess you could probably add paranoid to that list. Great, now I'm adopting his
neuroses, too. Can I get any more pathetic? I've been playing a game with myself for the last few
hundred miles, where I pretend I'm Mulder. I watch the people on the bus and the towns we drive
through with his eyes.
It's a very strange perspective.
Even after four years of watching him, of tracking and spying and
dissecting Fox Mulder, I still marvel at the pure, crystallized intensity of his obsession, of the way
it colors every minute detail of his world. For him, everything, even the most ridiculous or
mundane, is a potential source of information, a possible piece of the borderless puzzle, another
key to fit to the lock that holds in his demons. For Mulder there is no rest, no stopping, no
pretense at normalcy, there is only the quest for answers and justice and retribution. Yes, he's
crazy, but I'm not sure, after all, that I've ever met anyone who isn't.
Such a complicated mess, my Mulder.
I wonder just how much of my sanity, of my stability, I've
lost profiling the profiler. Sifting through the layers of his internal conflicts, his anger and his
shame. His desires are so cleverly masked that at first I really believed that his sexuality was as
pathetically simple as it seemed; that Mulder was a man who had sublimated sex to the lonely,
antiseptic realm of magazines, girlie booths and phoenixes fantasies. I don't think it was until we
were locked in that cell together in Tunguska that I saw completely how much more there was. Oh
sure, I could see the way it sparked in his eyes when he hit me; how it would just light up his whole
face, puff up his chest, raise his body temperature, just to let go and crack me a good one. I knew,
but I never carried that particular thought too far, I never saw it through, to make that final
I didn't see it, and then when
I did, I let myself ignore it until it was too late. Until the gun in my
face got replaced with his cock in my ass and he raped me because I left him no other option to
express his rage. Taking power away from him is the most dangerous thing to do. It doesn't just
make him mean, it makes him stupid; reckless and careless and viciously, childishly selfish. I have
to face that, that I let him do that to me. I can hide behind the heroin, and tell myself I was
defenseless, but of all the people on this planet, I think I know the difference between weak and
defenseless the best. Well, Mulder knows that too, and I know that he knows that I let him exploit
the weakness in me.
I can resist many things, but
heroin and Mulder are the two things that I simply can't, no matter
what it costs me. I don't know exactly what it is about his particular brand of self-indulgent
madness that's so appealing to me, but I think it has something to do with the fact that he's
unstoppable, that he will never give up, no matter how hard I work against him.
There's a crack, a gap, a fallout
line somewhere inside him. A long time ago, the greater part of
his ego caved in, but he kept right on going. It never even slowed him down. He is by turns manic,
sadistic, narcissistic, insecure; larger than life in his own eyes, and lost inside his skin. A solipsist
that doubts the existence of his own soul.
That's where I come in. No matter
how much he denies it, Mulder sees something of himself in
me. Or maybe it's that thing's mirror image; maybe I'm his opposing pole, the negative charge on his battery. Whatever it is, Mulder needs to tell himself the very convient and comfortingly familiar lie that I am his catalyst, an enemy he must understand completely before he can
conquer. He will never face the truth, the things we have in common, the part of himself he sees, and desires, in me. What Mulder recognizes when he has me pinned and fighting underneath him
is a total rejection of every value, law, authority and societal norm. He sees a man who has only one agenda, and a total lack of any kind of faith. He sees someone desperate enough to kill with total impunity, and adaptable enough to have learned to like it. What can I say, Mulder, you
bring out the best in me.
I'm going to get over everything
that's happened, I'm going to sort it all out in my head. I'll pick
it apart, minute by minute, until I can understand it from every angle, just like Mulder would. Then I'll put it in a box and shove it under my bed and forget it. I have to, I have to put all these
thoughts of need and hunger and longing and sick, distorted love away from me, and think like
an animal again. I have to be able to turn it off, and put survival before anything. I just need
some time, enough time away from him to forget his voice and the way he only smiles with half
his mouth when he really means it and the how easy it is to believe that deep, deep down, under
everything, Mulder really loves me.
Eugene, Oregon Bus Terminal
It doesn't seem real, but I've
made it. I'll be off the bus in less than an hour. All the way to
Oregon... We're here, Mulder.
I don't have much idea what "here"
looks like yet; I've been asleep since some time after noon.
The view out the window was high desert when I nodded out, but I vaguely remember going over
some big mountains. I pull my backpack possessively into my lap and hang onto it as we veer off
onto an exit ramp. I hear the driver announce the stop over the intercom, and all of the sudden
it's finally real to me; I really let Mulder put me on a bus and send me away to the middle of nowhere. The bus is a good deal less crowded than it was this morning, more than half the people got off in Portland, which seemed to be the last chance for anything that looks like the twentieth century.
"Eugene, Oregon. This is our
dinner stop, you have 25 minutes. Any passengers who have reached
their final destination have a great day and thank you for riding Greyhound."
He sounds about as enthusiastic
as Skinner must have been at Mulder's last evaluation. Peeling
myself off the window, I pull myself around in the double seat that's been home for the last two
days. The backpack is still too damn heavy, but I think I'm getting used to lugging it
around...Mulder baggage. That makes me chuckle to myself, watching everyone pushing and
struggling to get ahead of each other to get off the bus.
Walking down the aisle, I get
so dizzy I have to stop and grab onto the backs of the seats on either
side of me to stop the world from spinning. I haven't eaten much besides Mulder's granola bars
and cherry slices in more days than I want to count; I guess that's why I'm so woozy. That and the
thin air. I already don't like it here, and I'm not even off the bus. The door is open, and I can
smell the outside. No, I definitely don't like it. Too cold, too thin, too clean. I got all the eagle
scout experience I wanted, and more, back in Russia. I don't want to do this, Mulder.
I keep my head down when I shuffle
off the bus; I want to get a good look at whoever is here to
meet me before I have to acknowledge them. I stay with the group of people from my bus,
shuffling slowly into the station. If I wasn't so antsy about this, I'd be laughing at this place,
at the unreality of me being picked up at the bus station like some college drop-out disenchanted
generation X-er. I've never seen anyplace quite this hokey, it looks like something out of a movie.
It's small and dark, old wood benches against the walls and lots of screaming hillbilly kids
running around. Just on the other side of the painted yellow line, a pair of classic science class geeks are holding a cardboard sign that says "ALEX" in red magic marker.
You have got to be fucking kidding
me, Mulder. THIS is your idea of safe? You are insane, Fox
Mulder. Safe is a hole in the ground. Safe is an anonymous SRO in Manhattan, safe is a cabin so
deep in the woods they can't get to you. Safe is not a couple of geek boys holding up a sign with
my fucking name on it in the goddamn bus station! I ought to shoot them, on principle alone.
Never mind the way they look, or smell. They smell like they live on beans and home made cheese.
The oriental one wears black, square framed pop bottle glasses and has a haircut that other dorks
thought was cool in the eighties. The blond one is a hippie, longhair type, with a Grateful Dead
T-shirt and some birkenstockers. They both have more than one pen in their pockets.
I wait until I'm standing right
in front of them before I say anything. I take off my sunglasses as I
approach, going for full intimidation. I think making the right first impression here is very
"Can we go?"
"Hi! You're Alex? Langley said
he had a friend who had a friend who needed some deep cover.
Who's looking for you? The F.B.I.?"
I laugh, long enough to make
sure they both understand I'm laughing at them, and my own great
misfortune. They look at each other, obviously distressed and trying to figure out how to handle
the situation. I guess I'm not what they expected. Well, fuck them. A couple of underage, dorky
kids aren't what I was expecting, either. Unfortunately, they're all I've got, so I guess I'm going to
have to see what kind of "cover" they can provide a double agent who has managed to make
himself an enemy of everyone he's ever worked for.
"I'm Ted," the oriental one tells
me, "This is Scott. Scott is Langley's contact, so we figured we
should be the ones to come get you. Excuse me for saying so, man, but you don't look so good.
Maybe we should take you to a doctor, or something, before we head up the mountain."
It seems that I am supposed to
infer from this explanation that Langley is a person of importance,
and that it goes without saying that Ted accompanies Scott on any and all adventures. For just a
second, my brain weighs the possible chances of getting a small-town doctor to give me something
that tastes like morphine. Not too likely. In my current condition, closer to impossible.
"Can we lose the sign? I'd like
to get going." I look around, trying to figure out if anyone thinks
this is strange. They all look pretty strange to me.
"Sure. Ted, get his bag."
"I got it." I tell him gruffly,
hoisting the bag that Mulder packed possessively onto my shoulder.
It's the last thing I've got of him, the last thing that he touched. I know it's really stupid, but I
think I'm going to shoot anybody who tries to take it away from me.
I'm not thinking very clearly.
I can't figure out if I've had too much sleep, or not enough, if it's
road lag or junk lag or if I just need more of both. Maybe I should get back on the bus. Maybe I
just need a decent meal. Visions of a small town diner, half a fried chicken on a blue plate with a
pile of fries and a smiling, madonna-like waitress that will offer me homemade cherry pie are
dancing in my head. What I get is Dairy Queen. We could be doing all hell of a lot better, here,
Mulder. I think about killing them and taking the jeep, but I just don't have the energy.
My opinion of Scott improves
slightly when he just waves me to a booth in the corner of the
empty dining area. He may be a social outcast with the conversation skills of a doormat, but at least he's not going to make me deal with trying to read the menu. I collapse in a hard plastic seat in the far corner and Scott comes back in less than five minutes with four barbecue sandwiches
and a chocolate malted on a tray, Ted trailing behind him with a second tray covered in french fries. I eat everything, so fast that I think I frighten them a little. They sit on the other side of the booth, sucking strawberry milkshakes and munching french fries, looking a hell of a lot more like high school kids on their lunch period than gun hoarding survivalists. The militia men I could handle, I spoke their language. What the hell I'm going to do with these two, I have no idea.
They stare at me while I inhale
the food, but I don't really think I can fault them there, there's
nothing else to look at around here. The place is empty, the view out the window is the cracked
asphalt of the empty parking lot, an abandoned, dilapidated bunker of a building that was once
a supermarket, and a stretch of two lane highway with sagebrush growing up around it. I'm going to lose my mind.
"It's not as bad as it looks,
there's a Wal-mart, and there's a movie theater. Six screens." Ted
gives me a big, reassuring smile.
"Don't forget the bowling alley."
I tell him dryly, reaching for the last sandwich. It tastes
amazingly good; fast food barbecue may be the perfect food.
"No bowling alley, it closed.
Anyway, home's over an hour away, straight up the mountain, so
unless you can talk Carl into letting you borrow one of the jeeps, it's a long haul. We usually
hitch, Carl's really into the idea of saving the vehicles for after the apocalypse, when we need
Scott rolls his eyes, interrupting.
"Which is totally stupid, because there won't be anything left in
town by that time. People around here are crazy. The jeeps aren't any kind of weapon; it's the
electric fence and the guns that are going to defend what's ours, and we're not going to want off
the land. I mean, Christ, that's the whole reason we're up there in the first place, to have a place
to hunker down and let them all go loco."
"Scott's local, he actually grew up here." Ted tells me, as if this explains everything.
Actually, I'm not really trying
to keep up. I don't give a shit why they live in their little commune
on the side of the ugliest mountain I've ever seen, or whether or not their dead, worthless little
buttfuck town burns, it doesn't make any difference to me at all, all I need is a place to hide. I
need a bed, and about two weeks of sleep. I'm so tired, and I'm trying so hard not to miss him,
not to think about his arms around me and his body heat and the comfort of letting him rub my back while I puke.
"We'd better head up the mountain,
the brights are out on the Jeep." Scott gets up first, waiting
until I'm on my feet before heading for the door. I don't know if he has any real idea of what kind
of shape I'm in or not, they may just both be far too innocent to make any assumptions at all.
That's good. I can work with that, maybe.
The jeep doesn't have a top,
or a roll bar. I get my first look at the road up the mountain and I'm
glad Scott decided we needed to get on the road before dark. Ted offers me the front passenger
seat, but I decide I don't need a bird's eye view of this trip, and dump my bag in the back.
Mulder, Mulder, what have you
gotten me into? The panic comes back, real and intense, as we
roll our way up the mountain road. It all sinks in while I'm being bounced over packed dirt and gravel, going what feels like almost straight up the steepest road I've ever seen. I'm not afraid of heights, but I just met Scott, and although he doesn't seem like a total moron, I don't really feel great about putting my life in his hands. Then again, I don't feel great about anything. If I was in any kind of decent condition at all, I'd make him let me drive, and probably get us there in half the time, but I'm not, I'm about as exhausted as a person can be and stay conscious, and all I did was take a long bus ride and eat a decent meal.
I guess it must be the smack.
It's usually not this bad; I should be feeling better by now. I guess
Mulder's pills didn't exactly help, but I have to admit I'm very sorry to have taken the last of
them. Heroin's a finicky bitch, that way; she fucks with everybody differently. I've seen junkies that puke their guts out each and every time they shoot, but some people don't even get nauseous. Some people can come down just fine with nine or ten hours sleep and a strong cup of coffee. Those are the chippers, though, the young ones with strong veins and strong immune systems.
It's us binge junkies that suffer
the worst when it comes to coming down, I think. I can go a
month, sometimes up to three, without heroin in my life, without the mercy spike of the needle
and the hours and hours of safety and oblivion, but when I jump back into the pit, I take a fucking swan dive from a hundred feet. I shoot big, fat, doses, more and more to keep me high as the days and nights roll over each other, and I ride the cresting wave of death, gentle and friendly and familiar after so many close calls, reduced to the simplicity of drifting off into liquid, barbiturate night, to sleep forever.
When it's gone, you wish you
were dead, you think that even a cold grave couldn't feel worse than
the ache in your joints and the gnawing pain in your gut, the cramps and the chills and the shakes.
If I ever stayed off the shit long enough to get really clean, or if I just did it all the time, every day
I could get my hands on some, either way, the come-down would be better. Stringing myself along
like this puts my body through it worse than any torture my bosses could devise. I hate it, and
occasionally, I hate myself for needing it in the first place, for inflicting so much damage that I
need heroin to pack the wounds, but it's rare for me to be that introspective.
Feeling apart from yourself, while you're feeling.
When you're alone are you sure?
Guess you don't have too much left, do you really?
Pick it all up and go.
Anyway... Here's something to make you feel better.
I guess you will I can't see.
Here's something to make you feel alright.
That you'd kill just to be.
Keeping the friends that you keep, do they keep you?
From coming to terms with yourself.
Even your shadow knows, how they see you.
Neither of you really cares.
Anyway... Here's something to make you feel better.
A bitter pill at your feet.
Here's something to make you feel alright.
Make a wish wait and see.
Having a ball with yourself, you're defeated.
Will you turn back to what's left?
Right at the moment it's clear, you conceded
Will you go back to what's there?
Anyway... Here's something to make me feel better
I got you out of my mind.
Here's something to make me feel alright
Keep it simple and kind.
Here's something to make me feel better
I guess you will I can't see.
Here's something to make you feel alright
I bet you'd kill just to be.
Lyrics borrowed without permission from Soul Asylum