The day began at three-thirty in the morning, five hours after I folded up the book I was reading, shut the light off, rolled my gut onto its side, kissed Saint Christopher off my chest and closed my eyes.
Then, I never fell asleep. Not for a second.
Instead, I had a knife fight with the Sandman. Anxiety up my ass.
It was the loneliness of hours, this time last Tuesday. But, this always happens before I travel.
The next day promised to bring sunshine, warmth, a whole new perspective, once we settled into my late mother’s old condo in Naples, Florida. Flight was for six out of Manchester. Temps called for the mid-70s where I was heading. Bake away. That was the gig. Like the horniest of teenagers, my loins had ached with anticipation.
We had no plan – myself, Sweet Lou and Johnny Boy. We just wanted OUT of this salt pit. All this salt was killing us. On the roads, on our eggs, our chips, our cars. See ya. All set.
It was to be a three-day jaunt, in and out. Find the sun, that was our only mission. Find it, then sit in it. Don’t move. Let our bladders tighten like hot balls of water. Let our skin sizzle, then sip whatever we had holding in our hands. Give us a parking lot and a cooler, so long as it was sunny and hot, we planned on frolicking anywhere the heat was playing.
Back to three-thirty in the morning, around the time I gave up. Pissed-off and hollow, I got out of bed, made a pot of coffee, hit the shower, and by some miracle, I re-entered the morning a new man as I stepped out of the bathroom. Some serious Clark Kent shit was going on. I had washed my foul mood right off. Instead of being worried about the morning, I was ready to take on the morning, at a steady pace, not anxious and gassy.
Manchester-Boston Airport is always an easy ride. Ten minutes door to curb. Bang, bang up Brown Ave. One-stop and drop. Take my ID, take my boarding pass too. Now….freeze mofo!
“You’re flight has been delayed.” It’s five o’clock in the morning. Of course it has.
“New piece of engine is being flown up as we speak.” she said. You don’t say.
As I measured the necks of strangers in the terminal, Sweet Lou gently threw an arm around my shoulders, then whispered in my ear, “Breath, Bobby, breathe.” I knew it. I should have just booked a “Daddy Weekend” at Penuche’s. You can catch a good booze burn holed up in there for three days. Or maybe a weekend reservation at the Cadillac Motel to see just what I got in me.
This was for the dogs.
First they suggested we taxi down to Boston where we “might” catch another flight if we hurry. That just sounded stupid. Or you can grab this flight here and that will get you there, and then that flight will get you to your destination a half-day later than you paid to get to Fort Myers. If all goes well, of course. I cursed the skies and swore at service dogs.
We settled on peace. We took the next flight to Laguardia and lost a few hours. Then we waited and spent $14 for two-sip Screwdrivers at the airport. The pills weren’t helping either. My winter heft was screaming for a higher dosage. I could still hear myself talking.
My winter cough had intensified to the point where the other passengers on the plane were turning around to look at me with a growl in their teeth, measuring my neck now. Sorry, dude. I was supposed to be popping Bud Lights at “Jack’s Lookout” in Marco at this point, where a cough dries up pretty damn quick. Guess not.
Stuck in the very back row of some rat trap with wings, basically seated in the engine room it was so loud, the worm had turned inside Sweet Lou. He looked ashen and defeated as we crammed our 200-plus pounds of wasted flesh into the last row of this Delta tin can. Our knees were in our throats. I turned to Lou for comfort, sad-eyed and needing a hug. He just showed me his hand and said, “I don’t wanna look at you till Naples. Shut your face.” I went back to licking my knees.
Later that day we landed in southwest Florida, desperately in need of the loo, so we chased white lines all the way to Naples, windows down, owning the lanes, thawing by the second. Our spirits had lifted. Takeoff was a bitch, sure. But we were here and it was warm. Game on.
Johnny Boy unsnapped his shirt like a pro wrestler and started shaving his chest with one of Sweet Lou’s razors he found in his shave kit, along with a lot of other weird stuff. Lou cared less. He was too busy with his face out the window, licking at the dewy air like a basset hound.
Myself, I steered down 95 South in silence, thinking about the day, the morning, the cold dark night. Thirty-six hours without sleep brings out sentiment in a man. Hallucinating almost, stuck somewhere between pause and fast-forward, I was elated to be out of the sky and on solid ground. But my bout with insomnia was clinging to me like moss, keeping me from feeling all in. I just wanted to sit and bake. Not wait for the Sandman to return gripping a switchblade.
Then, from out of the backseat, I felt Sweet Lou’s fresh, salty breath hit my ear, saying to me, “Breathe, Bobby, breathe.” And at that point, the trip began.