Fear and Loathing Below the Mason-Dixon

Politics in The South is just an over-complicated suicide pact.

Fear and Loathing Below the Mason-Dixon
Photo by Raphael Schaller / Unsplash

By Lee Pearson

November 2016

Dixie was flopping sad in the humid Jell-O breeze, tilted at forty-five off the white porch at the front of a red brick house gated in some haughty community adjacent somewhere off Peachtree. Sheet of ol Confederate blood dangling, geriatric flaccid cock, limp relic. Back in high school, Mr. Holiday thought it was such a tragedy that nearly half of Atlanta was burned to the ground in the summer of 1864, gave his history lecture like the eulogy for a murdered child—fuck em all. I was navigating ever-southward from the passenger seat, taking us left then right, stilted, getting confused, trying to get Andre to dig Bill Evans, swimming high off the score of ditch weed we’d made back in Little Rock—this was back before the advent of delta-8 and the legalization push, so ditch weed was about the best you could get unless you had a decently connected plug. Like when I first learned of Sherman’s March to the Sea back in school, as the skyscrapers peaked up into my vision, I saw in my mind’s eye the whole city caught in the wash of a purifying hellfire—its cement and its soil melted into trinitite, its poplars made ash, every square mile reduced to a glassy cum stain smeared over the earth’s face.

Me and driver Andre were heading down from home in Northwest Arkansas to meet up with my chick, who was attending school in Savannah—we figured we’d get together briefly in Atlanta and see a show together. A trio of punk bands were playing at The Masquerade, two of which are no longer active after it was revealed their teeny-bopper acts were just their cover to fool around with underaged fans. We picked her up from the bus station and crawled into a Mexican joint that didn’t bother carding me for my pair of Malibu Sunsets. The food was cheap and greasy, layered spicy slime on my insides. 

Me and her dropped acid so that it’d peak sometime around the middle of the set. The show was fun, intense, just three or four hours of dumb, chaotic noise to bob around and dance to. My body was not my own down in the rock n roll kiln full of throbbing, sweaty meats clashed against each other, smelly little war. I started to imagine I was dying as it crept up on me, making new music in my head, warping the splashes of reverberating distortions and amelodic rhythms, careening into macabre headspaces I had a hard time crawling back out of. I couldn’t feel my heart beating but for the tingles of white-hot electricity sizzling at the unsheathing pink tip of my dick. The muscle palpitated, turned off and on in unpredictable intervals. The off felt like a shudder followed by a dull stab behind the ribcage. I tumbled foolishly into psychic autofellatio yogas, incorporeal body origamis. Spittles of drool roiled down my chin while I screamed and yawned out at the terrors I couldn’t shake—everyone there laughed toothy and yellow while they cut away at my ghost. Erection went slack and the little ghost leaked out into my jeans, pearls and diamonds, embarrassment. The soft squish between my joints simmered hot. Sweat perspired out from every pore, glacial cool and salty at the tip of my tongue. I left the shallows and swam down into the kaleidodeath whirlpool, orbited its oily suckling sphincter but never went in to drown. Something at my center, intangible, was being destroyed and reforged over and over, every tune a new same-ish so-so lifetime. Though I’d died, I never returned any different than I was before—I’m doomed to always repeat the same mistakes.

The show was painted in strange hues when they’d chitchat between their two-minute songs, not sparing me the chaos of the election anxiety typhoon. What no one there knew was that I had already foreseen Trump getting elected long before the ballots were ever counted—scryed it off the shiny back of a bald guy’s head right there in the moshpit, saw the future’s omen while I seized and died and lived a dozen different lives at once. The future is made years and years before it happens, and you can see these things coming if you got the eyes for it. One of the punk rock creeps on stage was talking about voting for Hillary like that was supposed to mean anything to a southerner on the political left. Maybe voting blue meant something wherever he’s from—LA, San Diego, San Francisco—but it didn’t and doesn’t mean shit down here. Politics in The South is just an over-complicated suicide pact, and you’re in on it whether you like it or not because it’s way easier to just die than to try and change anything. It all revolves around that inevitable suicide—bloodsucking VValmart, obese children with food-insecurity, methamphetamine, teen pregnancy, prosperity gospels, eight bucks an hour, pray the gay away, state troopers bravely gunned down a local chocolate labrador named Faygo after he dug his way out from under his owner’s fence, cop is suing Faygo’s family for emotional damages. It’s a death cult suffering for our Capital-Demiurge—poverty and destitution are our flagellants’ lash. The world wasn’t created to be sustained or enjoyed. It’s a one-way road through hell until the final, perfect rapture, when our thirst for annihilation reaches its crescendo and we spasm our last in an omnicidal orgy. Until then, all is suffering, and all must suffer.

The Pabst piss-water Andre bought for me hung just below my nose as I crouched in a corner, trying to sweat out some of the venom in my blood that was quickly becoming too much to handle. The place emptied out to the sounds of some Van Halen song being played over and over again through the sound system. The divinatory bald man was chugging a Bud Lite, singing along to the tune, alone in the middle of the sticky beer-soaked floor. Andre parallel parked on the wrong side of the street and got a ticket that I ended up paying by myself because he got fired from the Arby’s in Russellville just shortly after returning home from the trip.

Through what felt like some miracle, we tripped back to the motel and relaxed. I was goddamn exhausted and completely out of it, but I still tried my best to screw in the shower. I think I did pretty alright giving head down on my knees, but all the hot steam ended up getting to me, and I passed out like a dumbass when I stood up too quick. Landing on my head, I split my left brow open—just a small cut, but it bled so much. My streams of ruby trickled out the opened meat and dissolved into the soapy water down the brown-stained drain. I went to bed feeling pretty pathetic about it.

We headed out in the morning, hungover, bodies still reeling in the wake of last night’s hedonism. We ate some breakfast before we dropped her off at the seediest Greyhound station in the city. The station’s parking lot was occupied with tents and sleeping bags, heaps of bodies huddled together for warmth, surrounded by the corpses of a dozen broken crack pipes charred black from heavy use. I drooled over the steering wheel while we eased onto I-20. As I gaped my mouth to yawn, a hard-to-describe, disgusting sensation spilled out from under my chin, a hernia induced from all the hoopin n hollerin I’d done the night before. I gagged as I stuffed whatever was bulging out back in, easily the most vomit-inducing bodily sensation I’ve ever felt.

Cigarettes and coffee kept my eyes open enough to keep the car on the road and the speedometer between 60 and 80. We were binge-watching some Gundam episodes Andre torrented onto his phone through most of the trip. Heading east out the city, cruising behind some big, coal-rolling bubba truck with the Tennessee battle flag plastered over its rear window, we watched as the white trash behind the wheel eagerly swerved into the shoulder to flatten a stray calico—skipped lunch. 

After my turn driving, Andre took over. We got as far as Birmingham before he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed headfirst into a concrete divider going sixty on an on-ramp just outside the city. We pissed and moaned next to the totaled car as commuters passed by and gave leery side-eyes while we threw what was left of the weed stash off the side of the overpass and keistered our acid blotters before a cop showed up to drive us to the nearest bus station. We had to take a Greyhound from there to Memphis, then to Little Rock. We were so busy getting back home and crashing the car like a pair of dumbasses that we totally forgot it was election day—the traveling bum scene at the bus station was high-strung to say the very least. One guy accused us of cutting the line at the kiosk and yelled about it for a bit.

I’d never heard anyone besides my dad say the hard R in a fit of anger—much less call someone it out in public. It was some toothless twenty-year-old asshat voicing this or that grievance with the lady behind the kiosk. I think he was hoping it would be his triumphant coup de grâce in the petty argument, but some absurdly jacked dude just came out from behind there and carried him out to the curb like an annoyed parent handling their screaming toddler mid-tantrum.

We took a taxi down to the cheapest Motel 6 we could find for the night, and I ordered a pizza with the rest of the little money I had in my wallet—tipped with all the change we had on-hand, a sum of about six bucks. My dad called and asked if I was okay after the crash—and then he rubbed the fact that Trump got elected in my face, smug. I got off the phone and went back inside to watch some TV before passing out, still dressed in my dirty jeans and a t-shirt stenching with dried layers of sweat and sneakers caked in beer and the southern rust-mud.

We had a five-hour layover in Memphis—shit was wild there. People were yelling and screaming arguments about the election. Hillary’s gonna go to jail and Trump’s gonna leak info that proves, without a doubt, that Obama is actually a Muslim man in cahoots with LGBTQ deathsquad commandos and the CEO of ISIS to do 9/11 times a thousand and destroy America, nuke Mount Rushmore, publicly execute every God-fearing American in a bloody satanic tribunal—just saying the dumbest shit with absolute conviction. I was afraid there’d be a fistfight. As it got later into the evening, one guy asked me and Andre if we could watch his bags while he took a shit. We hadn’t talked to him or even looked in his direction the whole time, but he asked us specifically. And we weren’t exactly the most trustworthy-looking pair, just a couple sleazeball kids obviously fried on something or another—this was also a point in my late adolescence when I was liable to steal all his shit just for kicks, to break up the boredom of the long layover. I didn’t think about it then, but now I realize that he asked us because we were the only other white dudes in the place—should have stolen it.

We made it to Little Rock around midnight. Andre’s aunt and uncle picked us up and took us to the Waffle House. From their place in Russellville, I drove through the night up to Bentonville, vomited a waffle out on the side of the road somewhere near Fort Smith. I drove through the night because I just desperately wanted to be in my own bed, and because I figured the only thing worse than Russellville at night is Russellville during the day, when you can actually see the town. I called my boss the next morning and pretended I was still stuck in Memphis so I didn’t have to go into work that night, ended up getting high and watching some anime with my little brother.

Lee Pearson is a writer who lives and works in Northwest Arkansas. He has no credentials or accolades to speak of, but he does have work either published or forthcoming in Cephalophore 3: Capitol, SCAB 14 and Back Patio Press.