Cosmic how I could pick up a book by Jack Kerouac and feel connected to him in one simple line. I could read it and feel the wanting in his lyric, the desperation in his restless random scribbling. Something new, something different has to be out there if I just keep jumping trains and following sunrises from one state or country to the next I will find it. We are born travelers some of us. Gypsies at the core who never feel at home any where but on the road in between experiences that come to mean everything. I remember walking on the beach my long black skirt and bikini top, my pathetic little green yarn back pack that had seen too many trips and though threadbare still held my journal, a pack of cigarettes, a bottle of refilled tap water and a few dollars. I walked 5 miles on the beach starting before sunrise. I'd slip out from the house with the couch I'd been crashing on in trade for a little cleaning and baby care that I gave the owners that lived there and walk along the ocean. There was a diner down the beach and the coffee was goddamn good, and the waitress always smiled at me like I mattered. Most people just looked right through me, unless it was some guy smiling some develish smile and hoping for a fuck. No one else... I may as well have been invisible that year. I scribbled in my little blue book with tattered pages, poems about a red haired girl that had never left my thoughts or soul for long. I sat down for a cigarette and a sip of lukewarm tap water on an empty park bench on the beach and I looked out across the ocean so far... I love that moment of not seeing anything, anything on the other side and that's where I wanted to be. Either in that diner with hot black coffee and a friendly waitress or out there across that sea. Where I could see nothing and maybe not ache for the fact that I felt like nothing too.
That was the hot summer season maybe '95 when I took busses and bummed rides from Cincinnati to Florida and back again, with my little black suede hat and my leggings, black boots, tank top, stomach showing, ripped blue flannel and guitar. I was the epitome of everything 90's and it was goddamn delicious. It was the summer of my first divorce but would not be the last. I'm impulsive like that. Weddings are fun but marriage a fucking bear trap. Another man seeking to make me whatever he thought in his mind I already was. But I loved it too some how, my obsessed friend asking me to be his wife while we sat on the green carpet, in his gloriously shitty apartment with Hendrix playing and he was so goddamn charming for a minute, till I remembered I'm happier alone.
That summer I went home for a little while to see my religious family who didn't know me or see me anymore than anyone else. Funny how they always took me in though. Their "wayward" vegan daughter with 2 cats. Interesting to think about my parents now, living on faith and art the way always did and now I think perhaps I'm not so different from them.
But the season began to turn again and in Florida there is no fall, I had to get away, back to a Vine street in Cincy where every shit poor punk I passed knew my name. Another boyfriend would do the trick, this one with bus fair money and an epic smile that won me quick. I was lost in another desperate romance and I left home again.
A screaming fight with my Dad about what a selfish bitch I am and he's probably right, I always was rather selfish, maybe I still am. But who else's life can I live. So I slept with new boyfriend on a park bench on that same beach that night and we hitched a ride to the bus station and spent a day scrounging change for whatever vegan food I could discover at McDonald's as there was no other place to go. My bus ticket would take me to Cincinnati I always had good friends there, still do and his ticket would take him further north and home.
I tied my ripped blue flannel around my waste, tucked my short dark hair beneath my suede hat, my little tank top, bra-less and my leggings wearing thin, my favorite little black combat boots, I wonder whatever happened to them and we hopped off the bus some where in Tennessee for a cup of coffee in another diner where the waitress was kind to me. I took out my little blue journal and started to scribble some shit, I never could stop writing. New boyfriend pouted because I wasn't paying attention to him again. Poor guy I never did pay much attention to my men. Then back on the bus. We shared headphones, one in my ear and one in his and listened to Jeff Buckley. "This is our last goodbye" was our song, it makes me laugh now because I think about that boy and about how I knew him already seven life times through till this one and we'd always said goodbye too soon. We would do that again in this life eventually. After a miserable attempt to be grownups for a while. But right then it was good enough just to be on a bus next to someone who claimed to love me and I always was desperate for love.
We said goodbye the first time in this life later that night as I hopped off in Cincinnati, with my little threadbare backpack and the only money in my pocket was a quarter to call a friend. Payphones were the shit back then.
Boyfriend watched me from the bus window as it pulled away. I thought he might cry and was happy that I couldn't see well enough to know if he did or not. I headed into the station and called my friend. I could always find a ride and a ready couch in Cincinnati... I still can.
I thought of my red haired girl friend who wouldn't be there in Cincinnati waiting in my bed at sunrise smiling at me. Her travels had taken her to the other side of the country by then. I thought how life is so fucking cruel the way it takes our friends, but how many times had I been the one taken. Run off to watch the sunrise in Tennessee or some shit and deciding never to go back to the same old state where I used to live, but instead find some place new to crash. And someone from the place I left would send me letters and beg me to come back. The way I wrote ten page letters to that red hair girlfriend of mine. But still that night I was so happy to be back in Cincinnati just in time to see the orange leaves scattered in the dirty city streets. God how I love fall in that city, damn good friends that still visit me... and traveling, fuck I love traveling... drinking coffee and scribbling restless lyrics in a diner by some unknown road, in some unknown state in the middle of the night. And how I love reading Jack Keroauc and the way his writing takes my mind straight back to that time in my life.
Me in Cincinnati sometime in the 90's at my friend's house after she picked me up from the bus station.
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Following my restless traveling spirit wherever it may lead; making art, taking pictures and writing notes along the way.
All Photos and Written Work Copyright ©2022 Charity Janisse