He lay listening to the chimes in the wind. A lullaby without words. A thought crossed his mind; what if he didn’t speak to anyone ever again? His days and nights could drift by, without incident, without syllables. He saw himself walking valleys alone, open sunlit spaces, long trails. Was there anything else that needed to be said? No, he thought, there was nothing left. In his mind, it was settled. He would listen to the wind at night without saying another word.
At some point, a shouting match started, then the kicking of dirt, then fists, and finally, screams. Something wasn’t right. I saw Victor pull away from a guy after landing a punch, he lunged away and ran back towards me. I was fucking terrified. He slammed into the car, barreled in, and threw it into drive. Guys were racing towards us. We pulled away and Victor shouted out the window, Fuck you you fucking rednecks!
I thought they were your friends?
Shit, those guys are assholes.
Driving back north on I-95 the car was swerving badly. Victor was wasted and I was in the back trying to find a seat-belt. I’m gonna die, I thought, I’m really gonna fucking die. He leaned out his window and puked. It slammed right back into my face and all over the back seat. Shit, I had Victor’s fucking puke all over me.
Fuck me man, this guy is nuts. Goddamn Marines.
I think Victor was 24 or something. His t-shirts were always too tight, and he had that shit-eating grin that only brute force leathernecks had. Victor’s mouthful of braces, which gave him a twisted, grotesque smile, always spit saliva when he got excited, which was often, because he was always hopped up on speed. Sometimes he would babysit me. I don’t know why my parents let him watch me, but I was afraid of him just enough to stay in line, which was all you could ask for in a babysitter, I guess. Victor was into noisy, harsh music; The Dead Kennedy’s, Suicidal Tendencies—shit like that. Shit I didn’t know anything about. He said he heard it on the base and it got the guys revved up and pissed off, ready for anything. He blasted his car stereo while he worked on the transmission in his driveway on weekends. I remember him changing his oil out there, then dumping the refuse in the grass behind his house. My dad said you weren’t supposed to do that, but he was a Marine, and it’s better to let a Marine do what he’s gonna do.
Davie County was Victor’s stomping ground. He and his old buddies from high school used to look for people to start shit with. I guess that’s what all Marines did after they got out of wherever it was they went to get brainwashed and beat up. His nights were spent speeding through container parks and storage warehouses, finding dumbass long hairs to get wasted with and get into fights. These guys were just pot-boiling steam, aggressive pin rod assholes ready to blow, overloaded on cheap pills and booze, with too much testosterone and no where to put it.
Young, dumb and full of cum, Victor liked to say.
I started shouting, Pull the fuck over, pull the fucking car over.
Victor took the next exit. One of those pine-strewn playgrounds that close when the sun goes down. We weren’t supposed to be there, but we were. Victor wanted more beer, and I wanted the keys. I helped him to the back, he crashed into the seat. I was nowhere near old enough to drive, but I thought getting pulled over with a drunk Marine in the back of the car was better than flying off the interstate into somebody’s backyard.
Shit, I was deep into now. Did I even remember how to get home?
I wanted to give myself over to the impossibly black night, the bleeding fluorescent highway. Me, the super-fast conductor, riding the rails over the old train tracks that ran parallel to the highway. The tracks I passed hundreds of times with my father, sitting in the back of our tiny shit-house ’78 Corolla. The untamed Florida night, running through my head, my hair. This was my only chance, I thought, but Victor was not going to get me there. Fuck, he was passed out in the back, covered in his own puke. Victor scared me. For the first time, I was afraid of someone besides my father. Victor was a loose canon, a blown transmission, an overheated muffler that was seconds away from dislodging and scattering across the open highway. He was angry and always pissed off. What the fuck was I doing here?
We made it home. I left Victor passed out in the back-seat. What an asshole.
Then one day, Victor just left. I think he shipped out somewhere, or got arrested. Who knows, but I never saw him again.