Tag Archives: breakups

Rush hour traffic in Fresno


photo by Stacey Warde

by Greg West

“YOU THINK YOUR DICK’S MADE OF GOLD?!?!” Anne yells, bare heels pounding the triple-digit pavement, tears sizzling down veined face, half-smoked Benson & Hedges between trembling fingers, threadbare nightie she’s been in for days, crawling up old white thighs. She’d have kept coming too, if she hadn’t had to stop and cough. She was up to three packs a day.

At the stop sign he looks in the side mirror and sees her stooped and hacking. If he wants an image, here’s one. It’s rush hour and no one’s letting anyone on the road anyway.

The next time he looks in the mirror she’s on the curb, bent over, clutching her stomach, a safe distance away. The whole point in giving her a week had been to avoid something like this, give her time to vent and yell, purge and talk it out, on the phone mostly, with her best friend Kay Miller, the one who’d helped her conclude that he was an incurably selfish man, a coward, that he thought his dick was made of gold, that it wasn’t, and that he was going to fall on his face wherever he was running away to.

He’d given Anne a week and Anne had told him she’d come to terms with things. Anne had even thanked him.

Hearing his trunk shut in her driveway must have been what changed her mind. He had it in reverse when the front door had opened and she’d bolted out into what could have been her first sunlight in days, leaping off the porch and moving across the dead yard like a stalking panther, lips pressed grotesquely together, kicking and pounding his car, reiterating with each fist and heel, her and Kay Miller’s findings about him, mustering enough strength to leave a fist-sized depression in his hood.

Still no opening on the road, he glances in the mirror one last time, and seeing no sign of Anne, breathes and nudges into traffic. It’s bumper to bumper on this road west, this road taking him and his dick of gold away forever and when he tries to remember how he’d ended up in this smothering grid of hopelessness, or even how he’d ended up with Anne, he couldn’t. It would take an hour for him to clear the tentacles of Fresno and even after that there would be miles of dry beige dirtscape, but by dusk he’d be climbing lumpy hills that descended on the other side into cool moist coastal air.


Somehow Anne makes it to his window, and with the tears and sweat of a second wind rolling through week-old makeup, eyes pink with fear, beating the glass with forceful rabbit punches, she reminds him in the heat of that city: “YOUR DICK IS NOT MADE OF GOLD!!”  Forcing his way into traffic, horns blasting, tires chirping, Anne running alongside and punching, he looks at her through the crackled glass and yells: “I NEVER SAID IT WAS!!” §

Greg West lives in a hole-in-the-wall motel in Nevada where he writes in his spare time between jobs.

Time stops on the train


A couple of guys in shirts and ties board the train in LA.

“Yeah, sure, we could probably add another million dollars in sales if she didn’t have such a volatile personality,” says one as the two organization men take seats across the aisle. “She’s a diamond in the rough. She’ll be all right.”

“You’re too soft on your people,” says his companion.

“Yeah, well….” the first starts to hem and haw, and concoct a story.

He is too soft, I think, just as his companion says. He’s probably a lousy manager, no worse than I’ve ever been. I hate managing people. I’m too soft too, like this guy who’s trying to tell a story about giving people a chance.

His companion stops him and counters: “If you create goals, with clear-cut objectives, and set a timeline….”

“I know, I know,” the other interjects, unwilling to hear what his companion has to say.

I try to listen over the rattling of the passenger car, the frequent whistle of the engineer’s signals, and announcements from the conductor over the intercom, but it’s impossible to hear what he’s saying. It’s better, I think, that I can’t hear. It’s all bullshit any way.

My instincts tell me he’s not saying anything; he’s creating another fiction, feeding the corporate machine that will eventually eat him alive. “What a waste of time,” I think, “put on a shirt and tie so you can spend the day making up stories and kissing people’s asses.”

Time stops for me on the train. I don’t’ do business. I stop, and listen, and watch people; and daydream, and try not to pay attention to dubious talk about diamonds in the rough.

The only diamond in the rough I care about is the one who’s supposed to pick me up at the end of the line tonight. She’s not happy with me; at least she wasn’t the last time we spoke several days ago.

I’m pretty sure she wants me to move out. I’ve been gone four days and haven’t heard a word from her until this morning.

She sent an email: “I’ll pick you up tonight. Will you be buying sushi?”

For a few days, I wasn’t sure I’d have a place to call home. Maybe I don’t, I reason, but at least I’ve got a ride back from the train station. I can always find another place to live. “You fly, I’ll buy,” I wrote back.

The suits, coats thrown casually over their shoulders, jump off the train at the next station, still yakking away about money and setting timelines and goals.

I stretch back my head and arms, reaching as far back as I can with my fingertips, almost touching the panel above my head where the light and fan switches are, and take a deep breath. “Jesus Christ!” I mutter, “what a shitty fucking life those guys…”

I could argue that mine’s no better. I mean, until this morning, I wasn’t even sure that I had a home. In any case, there’s really no need to worry about that now. The train, as it runs, takes care of all my worries. What else can I do but sit back and enjoy the ride? §

Stacey Warde is publisher of The Rogue Voice. He can be reached at roguewarde@gmail.com