Monthly Archives: August 2011

He Is Gone

Posted by M. Matthews



He is gone.


I waited until I posted his final message.  But he dissappeared four days ago.  The FBI still tell me he is not a wanted man.  But they do wish to know where he is.

He was questioned.  Tested.  And then vanished.  The tests evidently were simliar to what Oliver went through.

I wonder what the results of his DNA  were .



Next Steps

6/27/2011 – 6/28/2011

Ray and I talked for most of the afternoon and into the evening.  Not about much, just filling the space between us.  The next day, he lent me his old truck.  Told me I could use it as long as I needed.

So, I drove.  Don’t know where I’m going or when I’ll get there; chasing phantoms most likely.  But I have nothing else left but those beings that live between the cracks of life and dreams.  Hopefully, I will catch one and by capturing them, get the pot of gold I need to finally find my place in the universe.

Pick-up truck in dirt road: Pick-up truck passing by in a dirt road in the country, midday

Gallup to the “Site”


The next morning, there was no discussion allowed.  They were going to drive me to the place of my birth.   No discussion because I was not allowed to decline.  The trip was a bit over two hours.  After getting their car, we began the drive into the Arizonan outback.

I wasn’t sure how I really felt about having anyone with me.  I wasn’t sure I even wanted to go there, the place where I just magically popped into being, a desert wayside of no importance except to me.  But my dreams, my failures, the synchronous event of buying Sam Shepard’s book, whatever I was to do, I had to start from the beginning.

We chatted for the first hour.  But, they sensed my tension the closer we got.  I sat the last hour quiet in the back seat.  As we pulled up to the spot, I saw a familiar truck parked off the road.  A man of the “first people” stepped out as I pulled myself from the car’s back seat.

“Took you long enough.  It’s goddamned hot out here,” and Ray extended his hand.

I took it and shook.  “Didn’t know you were pining for me.”

“Someone’s got to look out for you.”

I introduce Ray to Beth and Sissy.  I wasn’t sure what Ray’s reaction would be to their status.  We’d never discussed things like that.  Ray, a good person, took it in stride and offered them a cold drink from his cooler.

I left them to walk through the brush.  Intense heat rained down on me as memories dripped through my mind.  It was familiar yet different now.  The energy, the “vibration” had changed.  Oliver’sappearance?  I had no idea.  But the place didn’t call as it had in the past.  Now, I felt the power but not the draw.  It was as if I was a moth and felt the heat of the flame but repelled by the light.  Ray cracked pistachio nuts in his teeth behind me.  I could hear him spitting the shells on the ground.

“Different, ain’t it,” he said walking up behind.

“You feel it, too.”

“Yep.  Soon as Oliver popped out, the whole area took on a new hue.  You know me, even without psychedelics, I see the auras of a place.  This one’s changed.”

“Yeah.  I need to leave.”

“Bad choice coming back?”

“No.  Needed closure.  Now I need to move on.”

We all drove to Ray’s house and had some lunch.  Ray makes the best tamales and always has some stashed away for guests.  After lunch, Beth and Sissy drove home.  I thanked them for everything and told them I would write.

“If you do, we’ll read it.  If you don’t, know we’re thinking of ya’,” Beth said with a smile.

“Find your purpose.  Then you’ll find happiness.”  And with that, Sissy gave me a peck on the cheek and a hug.

Oklahoma City to Gallup


They had seen my “moment” over my coffee.  Somehow, they gained my trust, took me back to the station and put me on my bus.  And as irony would have it, Beth and Sissy were going my way.

Trust.  Rejection.  Am I insular by choice or design?  I know not.  But these two must be witches of the most powerful order because by the time our bus reached Gallup, NM, I had told them my life’s story and they had told me theirs.  And when I say, my story, the whole enchilada.  My appearance in the desert, my search for meaning, all the bizarre theories I’d cobbled together over the years, Melanie and Oliver and of course, my dreams which led to my current wanderings.

Beth and Sissy were in their sixties, had been married previously with children and now, lived together.

“We’re lesbians who did the mainstream thing for a while.  Found it wasn’t working.  Found each other.  Bought an SUV, a dog and moved to Gallup.”  That’s how Beth described it.

They had been housewives, Beth with two sons and Sissy with two daughters.  They were friends whose children grew up together.  Same barbeques and parties and yet they both felt like it wasn’t right.

“Like you said about yourself,” said Sissy, “I was out of sync, living a life that really wasn’t mine because I was told to live that way.”

They were good listeners, good counselors and to become good friends.  I do not understand why they took me under wing.  As you can see from my picture, I don’t really ooze “sane, trustworthy male.”  But they saw something in me needing rescuing.

“You need to find your place.  No matter what crazy ideas you have, you won’t be settled or happy unless you come to terms with yourself.”

Beth was the no non-sense of the two.  Sissy, softer on first blush but with time, one realized she was the anchor of the two.  The next twelve hours flew by.  Their kindness a balm to my souls’ rends.

Stepping off the bus in Gallup, Beth asked, “What next?”

I thought for a moment.  “I think I need to rent a car.”

“How far you going?”

I looked at Sissy, “To the beginning, I guess.”

“Your spot in the desert.” Beth looked at me.  It was a statement not a question.


Looking at Beth, Sissy grabbed my arm.  “Rental Car offices are closed till morning.  First we’ll get some dinner at Earl’s.”

Beth locked step with us, “Then you’ll come back to our place to clean up and get a good night’s sleep.”

“Thank you.  But how do you know I’m not some mass murderer or worse?”

“Then the coroner will have fun putting what’s left of you back together after her .45 and my 20 gauge are done with you,” Sissy responded.

I guessed she was talking about guns. I followed.  Earl’s was a classic Route 66 diner that now catered to the historical tourist rather than families and travelling salesmen.  With my penchant for things old, I felt right at home.  As I already knew, Beth and Sissy had been in Oklahoma visiting their kids and grandkids.  The reason they had taken the bus, I learned, was their car had to unexpectedly go into the shop.

After dinner, which I paid for, we took a cab back to their home.  It was nice to be taken care of somewhat.  Not something I was used to.  I showered and had a glass of wine with the ladies on their front porch before turning in for the night.

Stories – St. Louis to OKC


St. Louis to Oklahoma City

– 6:35 PM, sat down in the back of the bus hoping to be left alone.  I was.   Digging in my backpack, I saw Sam Shepards’s new volume of stories purchased in New York.  Not even cracked.  Will filled my time the previous day.  Not wanting to sit in my own melancholy, I began to read as the bus pulled away.  The sun blushed on its fall behind the horizon.

The setting was perfect for this type of a read.  Mr. Shepard’s stories were of beheadings, long car trips and youth lost to a life long-lived.  A day ago, these would have been entertaining and possibly thought provoking but their deeper meanings lost to my linear need to find answers.

In his prose, Mr. Shepard seems to float in the past while remaining grounded in the present.  I, who feel out of time, need order.  He is Bird to my Soussa, able to float on riffs only he can hear while I march to the heavy beat of a bass drum.  My time with Will had broken my rhythm.  I was more accepting of this prose.  I did not always have to know a stories meaning but could now allow it to just affect me.

That’s what I did throughout the evening.  I read.  I read things unimportant to my work.  Things that made me think not about me but about life, about the living.  About what life is outside of my little sphere of experience.

I woke next morning, the book half read in my lap.  It was early and we were pulling into Oklahoma City’s blue and beige bus station.  I had about an hour layover and needed coffee.  Amazing, less than a mile away, I found a Starbucks.  And again, I passed a sports arena on the way.  Similitude, synchronous or just all down towns are the same?

I cleaned up a bit in the washroom and then bought a large coffee and some type of breakfast sandwich.  I sat and read while I ate.  Shepard is very bittersweet in this volume.  I was hit hard and fast by one story’s theme about the desperation of not being like one’s father.  I put down the book.  For the first time, I realized my whole existence was that of an orphan.

This may seem obvious to everyone else but right then, it struck me like a jolt from a live wire.  And then, I don’t know where they came from … tears.  Crying.  Me.  Into my coffee, tears dropped from my cheeks.  Luckily, I was in a corner and so turned away to regain control of myself.

I wanted a father.  I wanted someone to explain what life was all about from their own personal perspective.  Mr. Shepard’s narrator had railed against being like the man who sired him yet in the end, they were one and the same.  This was a realization I would never be able to come to terms with.  I had no father.  And this thought cut me so deeply, I wasn’t sure I could recover.

Then I met Beth and Sissy.

New York to St. Louis

His journey’s next leg.

M. Matthews


New York to St. Louis

Port Authority awaited me in its mix of brick conformity and multilayered human morass.  I found the Greyhound ticket booth and purchased a one way ticket.  Travel I would and to an origin I thought my beginning.  The next bus left a 9 am and I just made it.  Walking down the aisle of the blue womb brought comfort.  I would travel but as so many of the stories in the book I was to read, the country would pass by just outside the window.

I would have time to think, meditate and possibly dream for dreaming was the only reality in all this.  My dreams speak and I listen.  Now, maybe this traveling vigil will clarify the message and I can find solace in answers.

“Lot of people out there?”

Pulled from my inner thoughts, I turned to see an older gentleman sitting next to me.

“Lot of people, don’t ya’ think?


He was talking about all the people on the streets as we pulled away from the bus station.  And yes, there were a lot of people.  I had hoped for a solitary journey.

“William. William Johnson.  Most people call me Will, though.”

He extended his cordy, black hand for me to shake.  I accepted it and was crushed by an amazingly strong grip.

“And you are?”

“Moses.  Moses Haygood.”

“That’s a name, now, isn’t it.  Name of a prophet or prize bull.  No offense.”

“None taken.”

So we travelled from New York to St. Louis where Will was to visit his daughter.   At first, I was annoyed, having to talk with this stranger.  This was to be my time.  But then I realized how long I had been shut up in my house alone except for Melanie.  Maybe the journey was more than self-awareness but humanity on an experiential level.  I was not only to be among people but with them.

“Where you from, Will?”

“Oh, South Carolina originally.  Been to a lot of places the world has to offer, though.  Army.”


“Ranger.  Korea and a bit of Vietnam.  Did my twenty and then got out.”

It didn’t take much.  Just a word here or there and Will regaled me with his life’s story.  His father had been one of the foremost garden and landscape men in South Carolina.  So Will was a veritable treasure trove of knowledge on all things green and growing.

“Don’t just throw grass cuttings on your compost pile.  Most of the nutrients seep away.  Put ‘em in plastic trash bags, seal them up for a couple of weeks until they turn grey.  Then, come fall, throw ‘em about on the lawn as cover and fertilizer.”

“Tomatoes.  Don’t stake them up with that plastic crap from the garden store.  Plant won’t have any place to grow.  No, you take strips of old t-shirts and use that to tie the plant up.  That way, the stretchiness gives the stalk breathing room.  I’ve seen stalks reach an inch in diameter.  Plastic ties cuts off the sap.”

We traveled like that the whole day, Will talking, me listening, both of us just watching the scenery outside the window.  The first stop outside of New York was Norristown, PA.

“That’s a big chunk of glass building,” Will commented on the bus terminal.

It was a newer building.  Better than most I would see along the road.  We didn’t get out, just took on passengers.  In Harrisburg, we transferred.  I offered to help Will with his bag.  He refused.

“If I can’t carry it then I packed too damned much.”

He put on the air of simple but was anything but.  I soon learned this as more of his life story came out.  Army stories!  Not tales of blood, guts and glory, though I am sure he had his share of those.  The man served in Korea and Vietnam as a Ranger.  They were not desk jockeys.  No, his stories were of overcoming adversity, solving problems with his mind.  Almost a Dr. Who resolving conflict by peaceful means if possible.

One of the last stories he told as we cruised through Illinois was from his youth in Korea.  Hit platoon had pinned a bunch of North Korean soldiers up in these mountain caves.  They were supposed to secure the area but the enemy had the high ground and wasn’t coming down.

Will got this idea.  He goes to the Colonel or Captain in charge and asks for two of the best riflemen in the unit.  He also asks that they take a couple of big barrels and fill them with water to boil over a fire.  When asked why?

“See, I figured those guys up in that cave hadn’t eaten in days, maybe even weeks.  They were scared, crazed and starved.  So I said let’s feed them.  They’d have to come down for that.”

The commanding officer thought the idea worth a try.  Sure enough, the butchered meat of two deer in the boiling water wafted up to the caves.  According to Will, it took about two hours before every hidden enemy soldier down and surrendered.

We both chuckled about the simplicity of the scheme.  It was dark by then and the next stop wasn’t until morning.  We both dozed, the rumble of the road rocking us to sleep.

Stopped, seven am and hungry.  The bus snacks helped but were not enough.  I stretched and looked around.  Everyone else had left the bus.  The driver was shaking me.

“Hey.  Hey.  This your friend here?”

“Yes.  I mean, we met on the bus.  Why?”

“I think he may have passed away.”

I turned and looked at Will.  He lay in his seat, a peaceful expression on his face.  But his chest was still.  I felt for a pulse that was not there.

“I’ve got to get the supervisor and call the police.”

“Okay,” I replied not moving.

What was I supposed to do?  Just get up and leave him?  I waited as the bus driver left to get “help” or supervision or both.  I looked out the window and saw a nicely dressed African American woman waiting outside the bus.  When the driver left she started to enter.  I instinctively got out of my seat, careful not to disturb Will.

She entered just as I was heading down the aisle.

“Daddy,” she said.

“Hi, I’m Moses.  I met your father on the bus ride down.”  I tried to block her way before she got to close.

“Did he fall asleep?”

“Yes.  But…,” and I think I paused there.   Words escaped me.  This was a stranger whom I needed to inform her father had died.  How does one do that?  Probably not the way I did.

“But what?”

“He, he, well, I don’t think he’s waking up.”

That statement hung there between us.  Then, with the most direct tilt of head I have ever seen on woman or man, she said, “Died?  That’s what you’re telling me?”

“Yes,” I said all sheepish.

She pushed passed me and went to her father.

“He was 87.  Did he enjoy the trip?”

I was taken aback.  I didn’t know how one processed death but this wasn’t my expectation.

“Yes.  He did.  We talked the whole way.”

“You mean he talked.  Like a blue streak, my daddy could talk if you let him.”

“Are you okay?”

“No.  But, not surprised.  I offered to come up and drive him down myself.  He wouldn’t have any of that.  Wanted some travel time alone.  As a man he said.  Maybe he knew.”

I left her alone with Will.  I didn’t want to intrude on her final moments with him.  The police were coming up to the bus as I left.  They told me not to leave the area.  They had questions.  I hung out with the Bus Driver standing near the Terminal’s entrance.  EMS came shortly after that.  I watched the comings and goings of all the service people, the police, EMS, coroner’s office; it was like a practiced ballet.  Everyone knew their business.

I ask the driver, Bobby, if he’d ever had this happen before.

“Once.  Started pulling out of Tulsa, Oklahoma when a lady jumped out of her seat screaming.  Said the guy next to her was dead.  I stopped and sure enough, the guy was.  Cold like a slab of meat.  Must have been gone for hours nobody noticing.”

I said something I can’t remember now and we both continued watching.  The daughter came out of the bus with a police officer.  They walked over to his car where he let her sit down in the front seat.  An EMS brought her some water.  The officer then walked over to Bobby and me.

“Looks like he died in his sleep,” the officer said.  To Bobby, “Anything to add?”

“No.  Just what I told you.  Pulled in.  This guy and the old man were still sleeping when everyone got off.”

“What did you see?” the officer asked me.

“Nothing.  We both got on in New York.  We talked most of the way and then went to sleep sometime after 11 last night.  Bobby, the driver, woke me this morning telling me Will had died.”

“Okay.  Is this your destination?”

“No.  I’m connecting with another bus.”

“When is that?”

Bobby pipes up, “You just missed it.  That was the 8:35 you needed.”

Sure enough, a big Greyhound bus was pulling away.

“I guess I’m here until the next bus south,” I said.

“Sorry.  Give me a few minutes to wrap up with the daughter.”

“Sure,” I said.

I looked around.  The parking lot was dusty white surrounded by low empty warehouses and fenced off fields.  Not much in terms of scenery.  But I guess who puts a bus station in the pristine part of town.

“Next bus?” I asked Bobby.

“Probably not till late afternoon or evening.  They’ll take care of you at the ticket counter.”


“Coffee shop around the corner.  Starbucks I’d guess you’d need to be on Market Street.”

“Walking distance?”

“Don’t know about Starbucks but if you head a block that way, take a right on 16th.  Walk for a couple of blocks pass the Scottrade Center and you’ll get to Market.   Don’t know which way after that.  I’m more a Duncan Donuts guy.”


We waited until the officer came back.  His questions were basic.  Did Will seem to be in any distress?  Was he taking medication?  Seem upset?  I answered no.  Will and I had enjoyed ourselves talking and watching the world pass by outside the window.  Told the officer that Will wouldn’t let me carry his suitcase when we transferred in Harrisburg.  He thanked me for my time and apologized again for missing my connection.

Bobby took me to the ticket booth and explained what had happened.  My ticket was valid but they gave me a 50% refund for the inconvenience.  I thanked them and walked out.  Using Bobby’s directions I found Market Street.  Took a left and found a Starbucks.  Not more than a mile away if that.

That’s where I spent the day.  Thinking over what had happened and writing.  I headed back in time to catch the 6:35 PM south.  I sat alone at the back of the bus.  Sleep wasn’t easy.  The rocking of the bus no longer a lullaby but a reminder of Will who was now gone.  I didn’t grieve.  I felt guilt for how unaffected I was.  I was sorry about Will, but that was it.  He had touched my life and I hoped I his but we had been moths in the night.  I escaped the hot bulb once more.  He, who had flown longer and truer, had not.

In memory of the real Will, a man of casual acquaintance yet one I trusted my life to daily.

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