[Originally written on this date in 2005]
The last time I was down in Englishtown, I was wrapping up a successful run as a seller and had managed to rid myself of a lot of things that I no longer had a need for, eliminating much of the clutter that had been following me around for far too long. Some of my best Sundays were spent sitting in that dirt, protected from the sun by a massive umbrella and amusing myself with the wide assortment of sellers and buyers. My best friend was right beside me, flashing the Showman Smile and using his charming voice to attract attention and even persuade a purchase. One can never tell who is going to buy what, and their appearance certainly did not dictate what item they might be drawn to. Some of the most straight looking people were into the fetish magazines and spiked accessories, while tattooed bikers wanted a stuffed animal for their daughters.
Speaking of tattoos, we definitely saw a lot of them; some good and others not so great. There were plenty of people to keep us entertained if none of the stuff was being bought, not to mention constant smoke breaks in the Chevy and engaging in lengthy conversations while listening to the drag races that took place right next door. It was easy to find a good bargain if you knew how to haggle with the sellers, and it should go without saying Jon could do so to the point the salesman would be giving him money.
Before I get lost in memories, the weather that morning was too damn nice to waste; since Winter can’t seem to make up its mind whether it wants to stay or go, whenever the temperature is unusually warm I tend to have a desire to take advantage of that. There were a few things I wanted to pick up for future sideshow use anyway, and I couldn’t think of a better place to scour than the flea market. Of course it’s still pre-season, so only the vendors that are there every weekend braved the slight cold to sell their stuff. This was actually the first time that I went inside the buildings to check out the things that were available for purchase.
After that I went back outside and headed over to the mud pit, which is what the selling area had turned into due to the fact that the snow melted and saturated the dirt that is usually there. That’s where I found a bunch of stuff that people have left behind for one reason or another, most likely because they were unable to sell it. Picked up two leopard print lampshades, a tarnished tray thing that will come in handy at some point and a heavy black wool military jacket; I love free shit.
During my scavenge fest, I hear footsteps come up behind me and figured someone was just picking through the leftovers. Then I see tattooed hands and I follow them up red leather clad arms, the late afternoon sun hitting me in the eyes as I try to adjust them on a face. How is it that I run into Jon at the strangest times, especially when I randomly decide to go to a place and yet our paths cross?
Questions were set aside as he took me in his arms and we had a Hollywood Moment in the middle of the barren wasteland of Englishtown. His face looks weary but he smiles anyway as he asks me what I was doing there, our fingers intertwining as he leads me towards the exit. Soon I am talking fast, my words colliding with excitement as I tell him about Electric Sideshow and the Rail. He listens intently as we walk across the parking lot and I slowly realize that he is following me to my car instead of the other way around, which brings me to inquire where it is.
Jon tells me that he has been hitching around, traveling up to NYC and down to DC with no real destination, just taking in the sights and enjoying the break from Jersey. By this time I am navigating my way out of the lot, I happen to blurt out “Why would you need to do that?”
The car fills with silence and I can see that this has hit a sore spot because his expression changes instantly. He quietly gives me instructions to pick up a highway, slips one of my tapes in and turns the volume up, rolling down the window as he lights a joint and tells me to just drive. The music swells and the irony of the situation brings a tiny smile to his lips, but that is the extent of any positive emotion he shows, the furrowed lines of his forehead causing wrinkles in the aged tattoo etched there.
He points out a diner on the horizon and it feels like the chrome exterior acts as a magnet, drawing my car into the parking lot with nerves swelling in my stomach as everything goes silent once again.
“You know what today is?” he suddenly asks, turning to me so that the yellow beam of the light above catches his face.
“Well, it happens to be the anti-holiday that we used to go out of way to celebrate,” he states, pulling a flask out of his pocket and wasting no time drinking some of the contents before handing it to me.
“Oh.” Yea, great conversation there – I took the flask and hoped whatever was inside would help me relax.
“That was a nice show you put on the other day,” he says flatly with something in his hand that goes up his nose. “What the fuck was that? My replacement?”
My jaw drops slightly at the sting of the accusation and being totally unprepared for it.
“It figures you had no idea I was there,” he continues, snorting again and not even waiting for any answer. “As much as I expected for you to keep performing, I didn’t realize it would be with a fucking gixauchixo.”
What the hell was going on? This is what I should have said but he was more than entitled to his opinion, even if it was coming at a really awkward time. “Well what else was I supposed to do when you tell me to keep performing but float in and out of my life as it suits you?”
We stared at each other for a minute before he snorts a final time, grabs the flask and chugs the remaining whiskey, a flash of anger dancing in his eyes as he tells me we are going inside for a talk. We take a booth in the back corner, Jon shoving change into the tiny table top jukebox and punching a bunch of buttons. He tells the waitress to give us some coffee and privacy, the later of which is bought with several bills folded up and tucked into her apron. She seems too tired to argue and in need of the cash, puts on a cheery act and says she will be right back with the coffee.
“What is your beef?” I ask Jon before he gets the chance to launch into another verbal attack.
His gaze lowers to the table and he seems to concentrate on flexing the fingers of his right hand, mumbling something before bringing his eyes back to me. There is sorrow pooling at the corners as the story begins with that night I saw him crash on the Wall of Death, where he felt his life end and begin again in a way that had haunted him ever since. He confesses to hiding the extend of his injuries because he thought they were temporary, but after four months it is obvious that they are not going away. Superficially he could still make people believe he was fine, but there was no denying the fact that he could not even make a coin disappear without it dropping loudly on the table. This was his big secret – the fact that he had paralysis in his hand, which sometimes extended down to his leg, and the way he dealt with it all was to consume drugs and alcohol.
He admitted depression and that as much as he loved watching me perform the other night, it was a reminder of what he would never be able to do again. Though insisting the physical challenges could be overcome, Jon said his mental state was suffering far too much and did not want that to affect any possible future I had. Taking everything in was slightly overwhelming, and I was at a loss of how I could comfort him even though I knew that he needed me to be strong for a change.
Then he got up from the table and pushed of the diner without a word; I sat alone for a moment before I left as well, finding Jon smoking a joint in a dark corner of the parking lot. When he turned to me his face was wet with tears though an apology dripped from his lips, the back of his sleeve wiping his nose. “There is something I have wanted to say to you for a long time now.”
At that point the whole day no longer made sense and I was in no mood for games. “What is it?”
Taking my face in his hands, Jon sighed deeply. “How long has it been? Over five years?” He paused to kiss my forehead, cheek and lips, lingering for a moment while holding me close. “Angel, I am so in love with you it fucking hurts. All my heart wants is you and I am fool because I keep putting my head first, loosing the battle against demons that should not even be there. You are everything to me and I deny myself from having what makes me happy because I am scared.” He paused again to laugh and discard the remnants of the joint. “Me, the fucking devil who has dared to taunt death, yet cowers at the first sight of love, the only thing real in a world of shit.”
He kissed me again, with passion and for as long as he could before letting me go completely. “Never forget that my heart is always yours, and keep your eyes open darling; I am always there for you.”
With that he walked away, glancing over his shoulder a few times to smile and wave as I was stunned and glued to the spot where I stood, otherwise I might have gone after him. Instead I watched Jon wander out of the parking lot, scanning the dark highway before crossing over to the other side and sticking his thumb out.
The entire drive back to the house was filled with much blubbering, but I managed to compose myself before going inside to spend the night plagued with bad dreams.