Jesse Millner: The Bus Driver's Book of the Dead

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  MEMOIR by Jesse Millner
Polish Wedding  Devolution  Aliens Among Us  
Eddie Jones  Dave   Tom MarionStarved Rock State Park  The Alcoholic Point of View   My Lost Season  Listening for God  I Remember a Pet Peeve  Hair Salon Panic Attack!  
Please Don't Bury Me in that Cold, Cold Ground

Eddie Jones

My wife said Eddie had bedroom eyes, and even though I didn’t know what the hell she meant at the time, I sensed it wasn’t good, didn’t represent some commitment to fidelity on her part, didn’t bring a measure of confidence to our troubled marriage.

In those days I worked with Eddie at the bus company in Chicago, and drank with him every afternoon at the Club del Morocco, and watched Eddie and those bedroom eyes seduce the prostitutes that frequented the tavern, trolling for easy prey among the vulgar crowd that played pinball as they invited the cunts into the bathroom for a half-a-sawbuck blowjob.

But Eddie never had to pay, even took the whores home sometimes to his two-flat on Halsted, leaving the rest of us behind in a smoky haze, whose curtain I am parting now, and I see Eddie again, his only flaw a mouthful of rotten teeth, and now I’m remembering how he drank Nyquil with booze to kill the pain of those blackened stumps. But it’s a testament to his good looks that even with his foul breath, my wife snuck off with him several nights, and I hope he at least walked with her through some south side park, sweet-talked her a little beneath a full hunter’s moon, the kind that transformed the whole Midwest into a red-tinted wonderland. I hope he at least held her hand for a little while and told her she was pretty before he pulled the curtains on his bedroom window and killed the orange streaming moonlight.

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The last time I saw him, ten years after he seduced my wife, Eddie was living over a bar on California Avenue, so his commute from home to work was about one minute. He looked bad in the way booze melts away the once firm cheekbones, allows gravity to pull the face down so far that a mouth disappears into a chin, a chin fades into a fat neck, a fat neck becomes one with the stout trunk, that bloated vessel filled with failing organs.

Worse, the bedroom eyes were faded brown buttons in a yellow-pink sea, and when he looked at me, I saw drowned kingdoms, Sirens whispering “Last call” into the wine-dark sea, the bottomless deep that waited for Eddie, region of strange fishes without eyes, of sunken ships like the closed taverns we frequented before they were lost in the fog of dark and tans, of good Irish whiskey, of old music in an older jukebox that sings of the looming rocks, the jagged ones that will pierce our bodies and leave us cold and naked on foreign shores.

All these years later, I don’t hate Eddie, nor do I argue against the right of any man to choose alcohol over living, to choose drunkenness over these sober days of bill collectors and animal services banging around in the alley looking for that scared, bewildered dog.

If the body is the temple of the soul, Eddie’s has been cut open by priests, his intestines bared to reveal bad days ahead, cold nights on the rocks, and the terror that comes when the liquor finally fails, when the nerves themselves become wires transmitting quick and fiery messages of a new dawn, one of broken glass and extinction, one of dead batteries and late buses, of cold coffee in the one diner he had still believed in.


© 2010, Jesse Millner

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