The Continuing Adventures Of JT Hilltop/Homeward Bound (part I)

Ben Gogna/Tempest Jericho, a drifter since June, sits off of Interstate 80 and waits for her adventure to unfold.

Ben Gogna/Tempest
Jericho, a drifter since June, sits off of Interstate 80 and waits for her adventure to unfold.

Halfway There And listening To A Prayer

I’d just spent two weeks in a blissful sexually charged romance that rocked the shit out of my world. Everything that happened after that just seemed boring and unremarkable. My new focus was to get back to where I once belonged, back to the place of my birth, Centerlawn. Why I’m not even sure but something was eerily drawing me back there. Maybe my hometown has some magic magnetic pull on me. Maybe this is just me exercising my masochistic self fulfilling prophecy of doom. I didn’t really have anything there other than some great memories, and as I‘ve learned you can‘t live off of memories. So the curse of JT continues. My best friends are gone, Carries married now, Tina is who knows where, Mom James and Kayla are dead, all my close friends with the possible exception of Patrick are gone, and Mandy will probably never go back to Long Island. Dad? Well he is another story entirely, not sure where he lives and don’t care. But Centerlawn has my old hang outs and the comfort of familiarity. Maybe what I desperately needed now was some mindless mediocrity. Shades of mediocrity. Clearly there is no greater purpose for me. I am as average and mundane as the town itself. But Centerlawn is also a town that had a dramatic impact on my life and my most recent travels have been……. Interesting. Mediocrity. That’s what I needed most. Go back home and just be boring.
Hard to believe I could take leaving Josie Rae so hard. I had only known her for two weeks yet I felt more empty and alone than any other point in my life. Maturity is bullshit. No one ever told me it could hurt so much. Pain is a state of mind and my mind hurts. “ I whispered my mantra “This too shall pass.”
When you’re out on the road hitchhiking you have a lot of time to think. Perhaps too much time because at times all you can do is think and thinking when you‘re alone and depressed is a Molotov cocktail. Still I reasoned it was important I figure this thing with Josie, love, and my sudden influx of maturity out before I get back home. Realistically I couldn’t have been in love with Josie there simply wasn’t enough time. She was beautiful, the sex was fantastic, laced with heated passion but that’s lust not love. True she reminded me of the best of the two chicks I had really loved and that may have had something to do with it but when it comes down to it I think I was just in love with being in love. After all I’ve been through, addictions, deaths, break-ups, jail, it felt really good to be in love. I wanted to love Josie but what I really loved was the feeling of stability she gave me which is crazy ironic because I knew from the start our time together would be short. A two week sexual fling. I just didn’t want to admit we were using each other. I gave her two weeks away from her life sentence with Randall and she gave me hope at having a real relationship. What puzzled me was what in the hell made me think I would find it back in Centerlawn?
Yet here I am out on Route 17 way down in Conway with my faithful thumb in the wind searching for a rainbow to take me home. I copped a ride with a fair haired young lady and if I didn’t know better I would have said Josie sent a friend to see me out of town. She gave me a ride clear into Myrtle beach and deposited me right at the boardwalk. I had one last look at the beach, The Gay Dolphin Store, the arcade, and the Magic Carpet where Josie and I had danced before doing the bedroom lambada just a week ago. I wiped a tear with my Harley Davidson bandana, wrapped it around my head, kissed my thumb for luck, and off I went. Point me north I’m coming home.
I had no idea how difficult it would be getting back to New York via the scenic route. Perhaps if I had gone straight to 95 it would have been a day or two but the scenic route was far less traveled and for much shorter distances. I was encouraged when my first ride took me over the border from South Carolina to North Carolina but after being dropped off outside Columbia reality would come back laughing its ass off at me. There are two things about Columbia North Carolina I will always remember. One, if you’re a hippie stay away from a military town, and two, Columbia NC has the nastiest bitiest god damn red ants in the world. These fuckers were so aggressive they jumped me like I was being mugged by a street gang. Out of nowhere I start getting these sharp pains first on my feet then quickly up my legs. When I looked down it was like red ant apocalypse. They were running up in flanks as fast as I could brush them off and biting the entire time. I jumped up and down and did a ninja spin while still brushing them away. I could see their faces, the anger in their eyes but kept the fight to them. When I saw what I had inadvertently done to their sand mound, their military base, I understood. I was the invader not them. They were defending. My only move was a quick retreat so off I ran hopping and slapping myself with a new reality and a few wise ass kids laughing at me.
So my visit here to Columbia was marred forever. I didn’t stay to look around which would probably only have gotten me an ass kicking anyway because the military school was full of testosterone driven young cadets with something to prove. I refused be their example so I made a bee line out of antville. My hitchhiker digit now in top form I got a ride in the first five minutes. As great as that sounds it was not without a downside. I was in back seat of a VW bug with what had to be the smelliest couple ever. Now I was probably a bit ripe myself but these two were downright raunchy. The stench had it’s own area code. It was horrible.
A most unpleasant journey but a journey none the less. I was on the move but the highway had gone from a three lane racetrack to a one lane road winding in and out around the shore. Between trying not to breathe and chatting with my body odor spewing taxi I ended up somewhere else in North Carolina. They were going west and let me out on what looked more like a local road than a highway across from some strange looking church. I was glad because I couldn’t take much more of a VW cockpit filled with what could be the steam of a decomposing body in it. Hell, maybe they were serial killers with a body in the trunk looking for another suitable toy. Either way, my joy of having escaped possible cellar torture and being able to discard the layer of stink was short lived.
As well tuned as my thumb was even the magic digit is unable to rustle up a ride if no cars come by. Hours passed and darkness crept in. The only sign of life was an occasional car, more often than not headed the wrong way, and the filling up of the church whose members found me oddly interesting. At least it seemed that way, they all seemed to look over my way, talk to each other, then honor me with a second glance mixed with an occasional surreptitious finger point. Just what I needed, some born again Christian cult members viewing me as a potential new sacrificial lamb. Seems the reed ant army has communications abilities because on top of the dark setting in they apparently sent an aerial assault via the mosquito squadrons. I found myself itching for one of the church goers to save me and if that’s what it takes to get me from this buzzing ghost town back to a real highway then praise the fucking lord!
As if on cue two parishioners ambled my way. It seems born again Christians never do anything strictly out of the goodness of their hearts. Every last favor entails an obligatory thank the lord combined with a slick segue into a preaching parable. But again, attitude of gratitude! So when the young black couple came over and offered me a ride I jumped at the chance. At least they smelled nice. I told them where I was heading and they informed me of the err of my ways. First directionally, then in my life choices. I was headed into a very coastal one lane highway which would get me nowhere if I kept on the way I was and a very downward spiral which already is nowhere if I didn’t find the Lord. Apparently he’s not on that coastal highway and thankfully neither would I be. The couple gave me a ride all the way to Interstate 95 and left me at a rest stop which gave them ample time to recite scriptures and generally make me feel inadequate in my faith. I thanked them reverently for the ride and direction. I knew they were disappointed I excluded to thank their lord but I was pretty certain they would thank him in redundancy for me.
It was great to be out of mosquitoville by the shore but it was now around ten o’clock at night and hitchhiking at this hour was a bad idea. Besides I was really tired here in Lumberton NC so I walked down by where all the truckers rested looking for a little alcove or something. Anything but an abandoned gas station or the side of the road which I swore was a thing of the past. The best I could find was an overturned wooden picnic table under some tree’s. It was like a wooden pillow fort so it would serve two purposes, giving me minimal shelter from the elements and instilling a bit of comforting childhood innocence. I leaned up against my wood fort, closed my eyes, and listened to the cricket orchestra playing stage right. I needed to take my mind somewhere else so I wouldn’t be surrounded in negativity. I couldn’t get the sex with Josie Rae out of my mind so I fell a sleep with a shit eating grin on my face. I did not however, wake up that way. Over the course of the evening the insect world mistook me for Gulliver and began exploring all parts of my body. ALL parts. I never had so many itches in so many uncomfortable places to scratch in my life. It was like the red ants of Columbia and the Mosquito squadron of No Sin City sent messages up about a delicious tasting human being headed their way. Ants, centipedes, some beetle like bastards that had hard shells on them, all kinds of creepy crawly critters claiming me as their territory. Having become experienced in insect warfare recently I took the battle right back to them. A few jumps, shakes, and then any stragglers were destined to meet their end in the great waters of the men’s room as I raced them to their doom. To my tiny enemies it was the great flood without Noah to save any of them.
It took me about ten minutes after being bug free to shake the feeling of their prersence. Phantom crawlings on my legs and arms still had me scratching but I was finally able to get hold of myself. (Not literally) I ventured back out to the truckers area and scoped out the truckers to see if there was anyone I could relate too that might take me north. The first ten or twelve I eyeballed appeared to be speed freaks who were strung out and skinny as hell. Not reliable and the last thing I needed was to be around drug users again. Then I spotted him, a normal looking dude around my age with long hair. He was driving a furniture store truck and from the looks of him I could cop a ride. I put on my lost puppy dog face before I approached him. After explaining my situation in which I stressed the “left abandoned and stranded by someone I thought was a good friend” He offered me a ride to Virginia. Hmmm. The place for lovers and Virginia Ham. Why the hell not? Next stop the State For Lovers…..TBC

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