This is an imperfect love story between an imperfect man and woman that starts in the early eighties and goes nowhere because happy endings are not how real life works. Mistakes and misfortunes keep them apart until by chance they meet again twenty years later. Despite their emotional baggage, scars, and her reluctance and his doubts, they get together, wondering if they deserve a second chance.
Like a wanted man, I'm leaving Youngstown, Ohio. The Greyhound station reeks of hot rubber and oily fumes and pulses with strange life: a skinny old ****** in white cowboy boots and a red Stetson nervously moves around the other awaiting scum who hides into the anonymity of their winter coats with collars drawn high. Mud and grease splatter under my feet and dad's as we walk to the platform. The droning of an idling diesel engine shields our conversation from prying ears but we don't have much to say to each other.
Fred and Tony got busted, and I should have been busted too, but my quick thinking saved my ***, bolting out of Fred's car on my fours and hiding behind a pile of farm machinery. The cops got them both; I heard the cuffs snapping around their wrists. At least they kept their mouths shut and didn't say something like "Hey, where's Ken?" Believe me, that wouldn't be beyond their stupidity.
Anyway, I was the stupid one by agreeing with them to go into the District looking for Christmas trees to sell. We dragged those sorry looking pines for miles of knee deep snow, heaved them over a chain link fence and hog tied them on top of Fred's car - which is still sitting at the police lot. Just as we finish strapping the loot, we see a flashlight beam moving up the railroad tracks, sniffing the snow. "Cops!" screams Fred and the light beam connects with us. Thanks Fred.
Cops and a tow truck chased us all over town. The pine trees clung to the roof of Fred's car for dear life as we bounced between snow banks and frozen sidewalks. Fred and Tony are going to see the judge in a week, and my dad, who knows people at the D.A.'s, advised me that it would be a good time to pursue an out of state education. A friend’s loyalty is sorely tested when the D.A. promises sweet deals in exchange for accomplice’s names. I know Tony’s mute stubbornness is beyond the reach of leniency offers, but I’m doubtful about Fred’s loyalty. As they say, there is no honor among thieves; not among the likes of Fred.
My dad agrees with me, so here we stand, huddled shadows expelling frozen breaths under cold and anemic lights.
The old nigger is the first to board the bus, cutting through the line, obviously in a hurry to skip town. We all have our reasons, I suppose. I'm heading for Florida, Daytona Beach, to learn to be an airplane driver, and to get out of this cold and mud and the pathetic sight of abandoned steel mills and unemployed drunks.
From my seat I scan the station for cops rushing toward my bus, but only dirty slush and snow and a darkness jagged by the spillover of electric lights lie under the cold air. My dad waves good bye as the bus departs and I reciprocate. He turns his back to me and starts for his rusted pick up, sloshing through the station under his burden of incoming solitude and college tuition.
It's a heavy load for the old man, but he didn't hesitate when he offered to help me. Tough old Polack, he would eat his own old boots to save money to feed me. It's not stinginess; it's just that every penny he earns adds a layer of rough skin to his already too callused hands.
The bus accelerates, and lurches and continues to accelerate, and I look in the direction where the old nigger sits, and his grin full of white teeth greets me, glowing in the semi-darkness like a half moon, and he says, "It's good to be outta here. Yes sir."