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Desperate Conversations at the Denver Greyhound Station

By Mark Kneeskern

Desperate conversations are best had on a pay phone at the Denver Greyhound station.

The depot where ambitions go to expire is also a good place to learn about homelessness. I myself look like a vagabond, and drifters, like birds, are drawn to those whose plume (and smell) they recognize.

There is no escaping CNN as I wait in line to get my bus ticket. In fact, no place in this station is safe from the broadcast. I’m tempted to push through the steel doors and past the human chimneys in the cold damp streets to get away from the news. The only consolation is some abbreviated, dark, abstract humor scrolling at the bottom of the screen … a similar humor crawls across the gray tile as I wait for the sassy hip-hopster chick in front of me to finish her tirade. She’s at the counter, bellyaching about how her first bus had a flat, her second bus broke down, the third was delayed, and now her hair is a wreck. The Greyhound representative, whose fingernails look like surfboards, seems to empathize.

Artwork by Mark Kneeskern
Artwork by Mark Kneeskern

“Been drinkin’ the last coupla’ days.” Albert, hunching next to me on the long empty bank of gray plastic seats facing the street outside where pigeons have sex on the No Parking sign, couldn’t get a ticket when he came in last night because he was too tipsy. He’s still drunk, but as they say, “Try, try again.” Maybe the new representative will overlook the fumes visibly wafting from Albert’s cellar of a mouth when he speaks. “Heck, it was only 3.2 beer, but when ya drink twenty I guess it don’t make no diff’rence.” A few days ago, he’d been living in Grand Junction, if you call it living.

A clump of bushes across the road from a truck stop there in “G.J.” was Albert’s primary residence until the fateful night when Lucy, his lady friend, stumbled across the road with red scratches all over her arms and face. He’d pushed her into the sagebrush during a heated argument. She said she was going to call the cops from the truck stop, another of the rare and enchanting locations where you can find a pay phone, but he didn’t believe her. Albert thought Lucy would cool off by the time she got her mouth to the receiver, that she didn’t have the ovaries to call the law. They were both damned drunk and drugged. Lucy even more so, being the skinnier of the two. Albert himself is no fatty, a dirty hoodie hanging off his spare frame, old jeans draped over wobbly legs, jarring cheekbones, and a shark fin nose which hooks over a wiry moustache and a stubbled crag of a chin.

Lucy did buzz the fuzz, and now Albert is on the move. He’d gone to those bushes in the first place because he wore out his welcome at the shelters. Besides, he detests the sermons which homeless are subjected to in church-sponsored lodging. Additionally, Albert is skipping out on a ticket he received for sleeping under an overpass. He vows never to return to G.J. Attempting to make his way to Sturgis, where he used to live, Albert has high hopes for an important reunion. His kid is there and he hasn’t seen her in years. “Sally must be 12 b’now.”

As Albert talks, I hear a man behind me on his cell phone. He was headed to Bismarck and got stranded here for two full days. He calls it an “interesting” experience and is irrationally excited about having gotten four free meals here at the Greyhound cafeteria. Sleep deprivation can really twist your noodle. Truth is, he could get free meals any day in any city. At one of the shelters in Grand Junction, Albert said they sometimes got sirloin, and their meals were of approximately “Applebee’s quality.” Although that’s nothing to brag about, it’s better than much of the food served to homeless folk … not to mention schoolkids.

Albert has been catching up with old friends. He lived in Denver in the early nineties, sleeping in the shrubs behind a pizza place. One day, his legs were sticking out through the forsythia into the sun as he snoozed, after a night of passing the bottle amongst friends (around a barrel fire, I imagine). Albert was woken up abruptly as a pizza delivery car ran over his ankles. He’s never walked the same since.

Luggage wheels clack, clack, clack across the floor, the sound reverberating. Departure announcements echo too, signals from a satellite in this tired vacuum of space. Occasionally, a peal of laughter erupts from a disparate part of the room. It’s hard to tell where any sound is coming from, much less where it’s headed. Outside, feathers float down from the metal rafters supporting the roof over the bus dock. Pigeons are humping everywhere, it seems.


Mark Eyeball Kneeskern is working on a short novel about riding “The Dog” and all it entrails … er, entails. Go to to see more of Mark’s writing and other creative works.