Scroll to the bottom to play the song that this piece concerns.
It was summertime and I was riding the bus to Santa Ana. I was dressed in denim from head to toe, despite the fact that there were ninety degrees of dry heat outside and probably at least a dozen more inside of that bus. I was sweating straight through my denim, but it wasn’t the heat—I was fiending.
Riding the bus to go pick up is a hellish endeavor no matter what the weather: four hours of slow window-gazing, plus a couple of transfers and however long the runner makes you wait when you finally get there. Sing those shaky, sweaty, sickly summertime blues, kid—ain’t no cure but the cause, dig?
Yeah, I dig: unemployable, clothed in rags, carless, and reduced to hunting down highs on a glorified Greyhound bus.
The only thing that made those excursions somewhat manageable was my iPod, one of the few material possessions of any value at that time that didn’t get pawned. It wasn’t that I wouldn’t have pawned it though; the model was too outdated to be of any interest to anybody save somebody as fucked up as I was. Furthermore, the screen was broken to the point where it was just pitch black; I could only get music out of it by holding it up to my ear, rotating the control, and pushing the button after the sixth click because I knew that was the shuffle setting.
I did that dopesick shuffle many, many times, but on this particular occasion it really turned on me. Tens of thousands of god damn songs for that halfwit little jambox to choose from and it picks the absolute worst one.
On the bus, that’s where we ride…
Camille wasn’t anything like any of the other girls I had ever dated—or ever met for that matter. She was different: smart, grounded, devoid of daddy issues and tattoos. She was the only one who didn’t become a willing accomplice in my extracurricular activities, and in the entire nine months we were together, I saw her take a drink fewer times than I could count on one hand.
Basically, I don’t have the slightest fucking idea what she saw in an irredeemable degenerate like me.
But I don’t want to give the impression that she was a total square. Far from it, in fact: she had killer taste in music, went to shows, and even wore fishnets once in awhile. She also had a very adventurous streak in her, which manifested itself one night in a spontaneous show of romantic recklessness that would forever change my relationship with the song “Kiss Me On The Bus.”
I was so staggeringly sloshed that I couldn’t get myself over the fence. Camille had to help me and I kept asking her if what we were doing was a good idea. Couldn’t we get into trouble for going onto the school bus yard at night? I wasn’t very well versed on the legalities of it all, but I was pretty sure it was trespassing.
You see, no matter how fucking loaded I was, I could never completely shake this ingrained fear of getting rousted. I seemed to have been born with it; I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop, and in spite of my habitually reckless behavior, I was really a coward at my core.
I calmed down once we were actually inside the bus. We sat in the very back and huddled together. I remember thinking about how small the seats were and how small I was and how big the sky looked through those little “break in case of emergency” windows. Camillle was lying across me with her arms around my neck. She looked me in the eyes, laughed, and told me what a scaredy cat I was. She was absolutely right.
“Kiss me,” I said.
One year later I was riding the OCTA Opium Trail to Santa Ana as The Replacements came through my blind iPod. Camille had split a few months prior because I couldn’t get it together. I didn’t blame her then and I don’t blame her now, although that didn’t mean I placed blame where blame was due. I blamed fate, I blamed my seemingly hereditary bad luck, I blamed the economy—I blamed everything but myself.
Not on that bus ride though. Not while that song was playing in my ears. For the span of about three minutes all I could think about was that sweet girl and that deserted bus yard and how I would never, ever have any of that again.
From the first to the last chord, I knew exactly who was to fucking blame on that one. It was an epiphany, and like all proper epiphanies, it was completely disregarded. There was to be neither penance nor redemption that day,* just a double helping of heroin for the hopelessly heartbroken.
After all, I’m a scaredy cat.
*Although I did stop bringing my iPod on those bus rides.