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The Sell-Out

Ryan Priest

    The seats were made out of hard orange plastic. The ground was concrete, like a locker room with cracks and stains all over its otherwise smooth face. Thirty-years old and in a bus station, was this failure? Max ran his hands heavily down his face trying to wake himself up a bit.
     He looked at his watch. Twenty-three hours awake, forty-five minutes from his bus out. He looked around and saw the relative things one expects to see in any gathering of the poor: A drug deal of some sort was going on outside. Someone stood inside talking to himself angrily. He looked familiar to Max.
    “I’ve known more madmen than millionaires.” Max whispered under his breath and thought, he may not have even known one millionaire.
    He got up taking his only bag with him. His only bag, a black gym bag with a Misfits patch sewn crudely onto the side. His only bag with his only possessions left in the world inside. A few shirts, a Discman and toothbrush.
    There were other items of property but not in any one centralized place. He had a DVD player that was at a friend’s house. He’d left it there planning to come back for it a few months before. There was a Playstation he’d chipped in on upstate while he was staying with five other guys and two girls in a three bedroom apartment. He doubted he’d ever see that Playstation again. Everyone had scattered the day of the lockout eviction. People in Max’s circles never leave a forwarding address, so when one goes they’re lost to time.
    Some unattended children stood in the way of the brown bathroom door. As Max tried to get by them one of the kids decided it’d be fun to jump in his way. Max hissed at the child and stepped right past him.
    The sight of a six-foot man in snow-camo pants, a black Marilyn Manson T-shirt and a leather trench coat, with long hair down his back but shaved on the sides hissing usually made noisy kids or staring housewives shit themselves. Max smirked to himself. People shouldn’t leave their kids unsupervised in the middle of the night at some bus station. Max hated kids.
    The white tile of the bathroom floor was anything but. Grime, feces and blood from countless unmentionable moments had rendered the bus station facilities a vomit inducing pit of stench. Max looked at the urinals and, incidentally, the glistening puddles around each. The kind of puddles where you had to mosey on up to the urinal with splayed legs like a saddle sore cowboy just to avoid standing in someone else’s piss. None of them had been flushed, for some time, and the white porcelain was imbued with shining, miniscule pubic hairs sticking out every which way. Not only did the poor have bad aim but apparently genital mange as well.
    Max needn’t wonder why he never found stockpiles of pubic hair in nice toilets. For two months when he was twenty six he’d shacked up with a girl and they, in exchange for fifty-bucks a week and a room all their own, took on the maid services of a small inn. Two months of urine soaked pubes every day and drunken sex during the night. Max didn’t know whether to think of it as good or bad times. The girl, Melissa had told him she was in love with him. The day they were kicked out (they hadn’t cleaned for a week.) Melissa took off to stay with some friends in Akron. She was supposed to call Max’s friend, Ragged, when she got set up with a number. The phone call never came but two years later Max saw Melissa at a nightclub. She looked horrible and she was pregnant by some fuck buddy. The two made small talk but it was only strangers passing pleasantries. Neither one felt the slightest bit connected to the other anymore.
    It was only now that Max felt a sort of sorrow about her. Maybe if he’d found a way to stay with Melissa then things would have worked out better a couple of places in his life. Max stepped closer to the urinal and then realized he didn’t have to pee. He tried to remember why he’d even come into the bathroom. Probably something to keep him awake. He decided to clean up a bit.
    The water out of the tap was cold but that didn’t matter, he’d taken cold showers before. He took a handful of the pink soft soap and smeared under his left arm, then his right. It wasn’t deodorant but it did the job for a while. He hadn’t had a real shower in three days. Three days prior the water had been turned off in the apartment he was staying in with a couple guys who were friends of friends until twenty-three hours ago when they had been evicted.
    “You have five minutes, take what you need.” Were the words that had awoken Max. They came from a silhouetted figure standing in the doorway who seconds later turned into the apartment manager.
    Max held his toothbrush under the cold water facet. You can still brush your teeth without toothpaste if necessary. Max looked up ready to brush his teeth and he saw something he’d dreaded his entire life in the mirror. An old man.
    He immediately threw up in the sink.
    He cupped the iron tasting water from the faucet and rinsed his mouth out. The sink was still filled with the puke that had yet to make itself down the drain. Max wondered, with a bile taste in his mouth, how many others had puked in that sink. He’d have bet money more people had vomited in that particular bus station sink than had ever heard any of the five bands he’d been a part of play a note of music. Max took a deep breath and looked back into the mirror.
    Here’s my life. Here looking at me is my thirty-year contribution to the world. This is my middle age and what have I done with my life? Not a mother fucking thing.
    The lines under his eyes weren’t just bags anymore, they were wrinkles. His dyed black hair had three week brown roots growing at the bottom, with spots of gray sprinkling them. His long hair that had gotten him so many women was looking thin. The high cheek bones the same women had all said they loved now just lent themselves to concave, sunken cheeks.
    His nose ring, Jesus Christ! What was a man of thirty doing with a fucking nose ring, he asked himself. He took the ring out quickly with disgust. When he was younger he’d always laughed at the middle-aged goths. They were jokes. Hanging out with people ten years younger, smoking pot with eighteen year olds and working on the same pay scale as high school students.
    He’d never meant for himself to end up like them. He’d had a lot of plans just none that saw themselves through. He knew why too. For the first time looking in the mirror he realized what factor had sabotaged every single undertaking he’d ever tried at. That culprit was none other than one Maxwell Redding, himself. He was a loser, he couldn’t hold down jobs because he was too impulsive. He couldn’t get off of his ass to do any of the necessary leg work it takes to get something done. He relied on the flakes and was himself an unreliable flake. He’d fucked over in one way or another everyone who’d ever been taken in by his hard luck tales. He was the roommate who never had rent, the guy without a car who always needs a ride. He’s the guy who’d take an evening at a club and find a way to move into your house and sleep on your couch for a month.
    He once met a couple, Josh and Sandi, they were new to the city, they had no friends and they’d been goth at their home. So Max met them, he’d just been evicted that day from one place or another and had subsequently lost his job. They took him in and were happy to let his friends come over to play video games. Josh even sometimes ordered pizza for the guys and even found two of Max’s friends work at his company.
    Josh had gotten Max a job interview as well but Max overslept and said fuckit to the entire process. Instead he stayed home and slept with Sandi. Josh found out a week later and there was a fight from hell. Max and Sandi had both been kicked out. They went to stay at a friend of Max’s but then Sandi slept with Max’s friend and there was more drama. The last time Max had ever seen Sandi she was at a bus station with a ticket back home. He had no idea whatever became of Josh.
    Now Max was at a bus station, with a ticket to Oklahoma City. He had some friends who lived there and he could probably crash on their couch until he had a job and could find a place of his own.
    It was like looking into the future, or more appropriately, the past. Max could already see himself without work, in Oklahoma, being kicked out and forced to move into some one bedroom apartment shared by five people, one of which would inevitably be a speed dealer or some such. He’d spend his time there getting high on free pot and playing video games in between reckless and unprotected sex with the eighteen year old girls of the area who thought it was so cool to be hanging out with ‘adults.’
    Max unzipped his bag, put away his toothbrush and fished around for his plain black t-shirt. Surprisingly or sadly, however you choose to view it, this was not the first time Max had ever changed clothes in a bus station bathroom. He was hoping it’d be the last.
     The camo pants and three concert t-shirts went into the trash. Now Max was wearing a plain black T and black jeans. He had no other clothes left to his name. He took his clippers from his bag and attached the biggest of the unused guards. The first run was the hardest. He ran those clippers directly over his head lobbing off over a foot of black hair. Then again, and again until the man left looking at him had only a short butch brown crew cut, shaved on the sides.
     He had forty dollars in his wallet and the leather jacket would pawn out for about fifty dollars of its three-hundred worth. No matter, Max would never be returning for it. He’d take his ninety dollars and buy a white button up shirt with it. Perfect for desk job, waiter or fucking dish washer if that’s what it took, but there had to be a change. Those friends in Oklahoma would just have to go wanting. He’d rent a motel and stay there until having enough saved, in a bank, to get an apartment of his own. His ticket was to OK so that’s where he’d start. Sooner or later he’d get a job that allowed a transfer elsewhere.
    Max stepped out of the pile of shorn black hair and left the bathroom leaving only his opaque mane, vomit-filled sink and a torn Misfits patch behind. The time to grow up had come a long time ago. Age had rung his bell several times before but finally, Max was ready to answer the fucker.

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