Jesus says homebums are the lowest tier of homeless since they don't move. They work the same corner day in and day out until the drugs they're pumping into their veins kill them. Scumfucks are a step up since they can at least handle change in life. They run a circuit of three cities, New York, L.A., and Philly, usually. And then right at the top there's Asphalt Jesus and the rest of the Dirty Kids: trust fund babies, educated youths, those who use drugs but don't let it control them; musicians, tradesmen, freight car riders. The volunteers.
I fell for Jesus on the side of State Route 47. It was the beer bottles, McDonald's bags, tampons and cigarettes spanned into a tripwire across the road. Everything came from the gutters. You could see Jesus pacing, eyeballing for more trash. Sweep stood off to the side trying and failing to look away. I marveled. Arms out, I pronounced it ugliness brought into focus. Garbage civilization threw into nature brought back as a nuisance. Jesus called it "fucking disgusting." Proportionality doesn't hold much weight with Jesus. He does what's absolutist and loud.
When Asphalt Jesus held up that gas station at gunpoint it was someone else who pointed the weapon, did the talking. They all got away. None of us moved our eyes from the fire but after Jesus finished, Sweep asked if it was for the adrenaline. One of those questions that's just a statement. I tensed with Jesus. Thought he was almost there. Then, "That's O.K. You've grown a lot," and we knew Sweep didn't get it, not really.
Rules piss Jesus off. The hostel owner asked us to take off our boots and wash our hands. "Are you fucking kidding me," Jesus yelled at the sign that asked him to keep his shower to five minutes. But he got it out. Grabbed a loaner guitar and wailed. Even when Jesus scream-sings, his voice is pure honey. He breaks classics, dismantles melodies, makes every song soft or sharp as he pleases. Even the owner, scowling, couldn't help but tap her foot.
We left Asphalt Jesus three weeks later in Virginia. The others went off somewhere and it was just me and Jesus around a fire. I told the story of the homeless man burning a ten-dollar bill, to show money had no hold over him. Jesus knew the story. Had been there when it happened. I told the story because I wanted to say it, to feel the words grind out of my throat. Because I didn't understand it yet and because I was tired and because I didn't want Jesus to leave me. Soon I'd be back with Sweep and the rest, creating change through my vote and my dollar and tut-tutting at the day's news, even while Jesus dips his hands into the gutter and throws our trash back at us.
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