Oakland, CA

Run. That’s the first rule.

“If you see Security, just run,” he tells me while his friend hops over the rod-iron gate to welcome us into the cemetery.

We’re all a little buzzed, a little cold, and a little restless. It’s nearly midnight and there are no responsibilities the next day for these thirty-somethings.

The three of us start on the path up the cemetery’s hillside. A view of a sparkling San Francisco from the top, our prize. Slowly, we veer from the pavement and fan out into the dark, leaving behind the incriminating glow of the path lights and weaving our way around the headstones and trees. We don’t speak. That’s the second rule. And it’s not long before we can’t see each other, the canopy of tree branches blocking out the stars and moon. We’re walking blind over graves and only the squeak of our sneakers occasionally slipping on the dewed grass notifies us that we’re all still here.

I stop and look down towards my feet but can’t make them out. Then, there are no more squeaky sneakers. No sounds of cars in the distance. No breathing but my own.

I wait.

I hear nothing but can sense that I’m not alone.

I clear my throat.

The two fellas whisper from yards away and I find them at the top of the hill, sitting in front of a large tombstone on a concrete bench. One fella removes a tallboy from the inside of his jacket. The other lights his pipe and blows smoke into my mouth.  We watch the lights of San Francisco wink at us from across the bay, and we sit there, smoking and drinking and watching until the night dampens our clothes and the frozen cement stings our skin. Then we pack up our trash, say goodbye to Mr. Tombstone, and stroll down the hill, out the gate and along the Avenue. We were never here. Not at all.

September 2013

 

Portland, OR

There’s no catching up at first with the old friend; there’s too much to do and too much to see in one day for all that.

There’s the New Seasons market with its organic produce. There’s the Townshend tea room with its hundreds of jars of tea. There’s the old school bus that sells hot dogs. There’s the restaurant with its tapas and wine. There’s the bicycles. And there’s the vegetable garden, and caprese, and a campfire, and dinner under the stars. And there’s no sense that any time has gone by.

There aren’t any pictures.

July 2009

 

White Water, CA

For my birthday, I head to the desert— a present to myself before moving to the Northeast. I visit John, who has left sister Jenn and the Lou for a dusty piece of property not from Joshua Tree. No more hoosiers, he tells me. Just roadrunners and scorpions. 

He shows me the frozen Sarah Lee that he got me for my birthday then we celebrate with his special punch and some Amy Winehouse. I wake hours later, alone in the dark of his living room, looking at through the sliding glass door for any roadrunners and listening for the hiss of a scorpion.

July 2013

Las Vegas, NV

Ninety miles from the strip on Interstate-15, where the asphalt still wears shades of black, the first billboards spring up along the road’s shoulder. “Casinos, Shows, Clubs, & More!” and “Clark County Visitor’s Bureau! 50% Off Hotels!” The five of us– me, the boyfriend, and three friends– follow the signs into the desert, driving in the late afternoon with the windows down, the summer heat blasting their faces. The speed limit is seventy, but the little four-door went ninety, sometimes ninety-five but never over a hundred as we had already passed three crashes: two fender-benders and a possible fatal. The engine croons and competes for attention against the crackle of the radio. No one speaks. More billboards hail. Magicians and singers! Cowboys and Elivis! Buffets! Chapels. I move my foot towards his.

This is our first time in Vegas.

September 2005

New York, NY

I get into his cab at Penn Station. He asks me if I’d like to sit up front with him, but I tell him I’m comfortable in the back. He says that he can read people and he begins to tell me about myself; that I am an only child, that I have a birth mark on my left leg, and other truths that leave me fairly convinced. 

“You do something artistic. A writer?” he says.

I nod. And he is pleased with himself.

“Yes, ” he nods. “You’re going to be famous one day,” 

I laugh.

“You don’t believe me?”

“It’s just nice to hear that from someone other than my mom.”

-Taxi Driver

February 2009