Starting All Over Again

These were men without cars, wives, maybe some kids in another state, perhaps a family in a different country.

The bus picked them up in front of a cheap rundown hotel outside of Gary. Their clothes were dirty, smelled like cigarettes, liquor, men.

All of the men were old and black. Worn out from life. They’d worked in factories up by Detroit, steel mills in Gary, got drunk in Hammond, could never quite figure it out; the American dream had escaped them. Now they were just hanging on to the threads that make up America; the suit had been torn long ago.

And so they boarded the Greyhound. Got on in places like Burns Harbor, South Bend, Mishawaka, Fort Wayne; heading east, leaving another town, tossing eviction notices and gas bills into dumpsters downstairs.

They’d start all over again as dishwashers, car wash workers, day laborers, just keeping one foot ahead while the other dragged behind.

Benny had been out West. Spent time in Denver, Albuquerque, bummed around St. Louis and when he was younger, worked on Alaskan fishing boats and canneries cutting up guts then hauling them out to the garbage. He’d worked on farms in Georgia, picked cotton in Mississippi and was up to his knees in rice paddies in Arkansas. The old man had worked a hundred jobs and lived in a hundred places. He was getting tired.

This would be his last bus trip. The wrinkled work pants he wore was his only pair. In a bag he carried a few shirts, some underwear, socks, not much.

He was heading to Pittsburgh where he would live with a cousin he’d kept in touch with throughout the years of rousting about. But for now he slept with his head against the window. Dreaming of starting all over again. They all did.

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