Midnight at the Oasis (A Story)
There was a flash storm of electricity shimmering through the midnight air, the bus having crossed from one state into another, neodes and flashbulbs arching awake the previously slumbering passengers. But Ray Fisher never slept on a bus, something physiologically prohibiting, call it ain’t no sleeping sitting up chump, so the shock was enhanced by his wide awakeness versus the trolls crawling slowly up from dream-ville. Imagine, sleeping on a bus, and so give that a moment’s pause, here he was in the same seat five rows back from whatever driver happened to be driving his 600-mile stint, over across the aisle on the other side, make that the right side of the bus, seeing this is a cross-country east-to-west vehicle of transportation make that the north side of the bus (for the most part) and by this time Ray’s been awake something like 75 to 80 consecutive hours, having handed his bag to the driver for under-the-bus storage back at the Stuart Street terminal in Boston and now here crossing from Utah to Nevada, and it’s midnight in West Wendover (which would make for a great song title) and if the stars are out you can’t tell by our electrified wash, white out baby, and the casinos are jumping and there is human pumping in one room after another on the motels lining the main drag and the driver pulls over in front of the “Desert Air” casino for a routine 45-minute stretch-our-legs stop and there are varying degrees of ambling into the casino
And the right-away slots and just beyond roulette wheels and Texas-holdem’ tables and serious as-all-get-out motherfuckers and first-timers in from Bumfuck, Indiana and Ray heads over to the food counter and orders a large coffee to go, might as well awake further to the middle-of-the-night desert air, will they ever make buses where you get to roll the window down?, and bathroom visits and food orders and snappy gambling shoot-em-ups and it’s back on the bus and let us make out way west, let us make our way down to and through Elko and all those fun little towns dotting 80 as it winds and turns and straight-aways all the way to the freakin’ Bay Bridge, and you know that Ray is jazzed to get out there, first time out on the “coast” in his young life –
Which is an interesting and somewhat funny turn of speech since he has grown up and lived the entirety of his days until 80 or so hours ago never more than two miles from the Atlantic, which both technically and logically is – yup – ‘the coast’ but you never hear people say that, you never hear someone in Arizona, for instance, Flagstaff probably, plan a visit to their second cousins’ in Rhode Island and tell a friend they are taking a trip to the coast – yes, even though in fact they are going from a complete inland existence to “a coast” but the way we Americans think they for sure ain’t going to “the coast” because everyone and their Aunt Cilla knows that in order to go to “the coast”, even clearer to say “out to the coast” that means a journey to the west, not exactly like Bohdidharma bringing Zen to China but not exactly different either. Which, all that, is absolutely relevant when it comes to this midnight pause at a casino in West Wendover, Nevada with the destination in mind of the Greyhound terminal near Jack London Square in Oakland, CA, from which you cannot exactly see “the coast” but just right over there a couple of hundred yards is water, Brah, the bay, and it swings up and around under the Bay Bridge and by Alcatraz and out below that beauteous Golden Gate and the Marin headlands, and if you head south from Jack London down under the Dumbarton and all the way past Stanford and call it the South Bay and there is a shitload to see and a shitload going on, so yes there is a shitload of opportunity for an enterprising soul out on “the coast”
And this exactly is Ray’s intention, to make it there and then make it there, you get that, and live a life out in the sun and fun and with those California girls, and all of which will become “the big irony” when Ray finds himself right back here at this very same cross-country Greyhound pause place and the High Desert Casino and gamblers and sexers and bus passengers and even people who live here 365 days a year – somebody’s got to turn the lights on, well, the ones that actually get turned off once in a while, and make the morning coffee and cook the three-egg specials and pancake platters and the four-wheeler rental for desert runarounds — but now the bus is off again, it’s headed west, it is hours before the sun will spin around one more time and chase these kids toward the 65-mph horizon and eventually get there, but it’ll be close what happens first, the sun sinking into the coastal range fronting the big old Pacific or Ray walking up Telegraph, hitching actually, his plan to hook up with a friend of a friend and crash until he gets settled, feet under him and all that when his new life begins all promises and new adventures — and the joke is, a joke is we’ll say since life is filled up with them, but this particular joke is is that Ray is going to find himself with the title of head barista and bottle washer at Debra Anne’s Coffee down around the corner right here in this building here at this high desert inn and also make a deal for a month-long room at the Rialto Motel half a mile down Highland which will through reasons too numerous and slightly strange to go into here turn into the place he finds himself waking up and stretching his 31-year old bones this very morning, six years down the road from that trip when the lights came on in the middle of the night and Ray found himself with a large coffee and all kinds of misinformation about what his new life was about to look like.
So, can we get an Amen?
Oh – P.S. – there is more to this story. You’ll read about it one day in a little scribble titled “Wendover Wonder”.
By the way – West Wendover folks and its ghostly spirits tell time in the Mountain Time Zone. The rest of Nevada – Pacific. Dig that.