We're curving around the I-80 S, hugging the back-and-forth of the highway against the coast, and there it is.
All of it.
"Wait," I say, throwing my hand on the dash like it would stop the car.
"What?" you ask. "Are you okay? What's wrong?"
"Yeah, I'm fine." I pull into the furthermost right lane and slow down, veering into the shoulder. Car into park, hazards on.
"What is it?" you say.
On our right, it's San Francisco. You can see it out there, floating in the water, isolated from lesser cities. I don't give a shit what people say about that place--modern Sodom and Gomorrah, Hippie Capital of the World, a place where left-wing peaceniks look at Carl's Jr. like it was Auschwitz and unironically use words like "sheeple" and buy $8 cups of coffee ("The beans from which it's ground are picked by US expatriates who emigrated to Columbia because they got tired of the American War Machine and its dirty dealings and they're paid $5 a bean because that's fair and they're fed fresh organic grass and they suck on tea leaves to get the antioxidants so that they don't die from the poison that is processed food.").
But it doesn't matter. That place is mine. The hills, the pizza, the fog, the entire Dirty Harry oeuvre. The Republican Party may think it's a place of evildoing and social sin, but black magic is still magical.
I wonder what it's like to live there. I have friends out there (Cate, Elissa, Kambria) that would surely be able to answer the question in their own way, and those answers wouldn't come within miles of satisfying me. This is something I want to know for myself. This is something I will discover. I look at that island, that sociocultural fortress, the gorgeous architectural monument of a bridge that connects it to the Real World, and there are few things I want more than to be there, right now, with you.
To show you Embarcadero and drive past the Warfield and show you Cupid's Span and recreate the awesome car chase from Bullitt (strictly within the legal speed limits, of course) and take you on a trolley car and you'll not anticipate how jerky its start is and you'll fall but I'll catch you and then we'll find a hotel and stay up late and wake up early and see the pier and maybe do some touristy crap like go to Alcatraz (which is totally awesome) and Fisherman's Wharf and eat some overpriced, undercooked fish and laugh at the morons going to In-N-Out when there's fresh seafood to be had literally less than a hundred feet away and I'll smile when the water reflects the sun into your eyes and they catch a glint of the sky in them, mixing earth brown and clear blue and bright yellow (it's a sunny day) into some mishmash to which I'm all of the sudden feeling really compelled to say "I love you."
And I don't know how to explain my hesitation. Not my hesitation in saying the words--it has been nearly six months, which is pretty substantial, you ask me--but my hesitation in pulling back onto the highway for the final stretch of the first half of our journey. I do not have the vocabulary to articulate it, this nagging that's been nipping at my emotional heels for the better part of the last two hours.
"I know we're almost there and we've only been driving for a few hours, but can we stay in Berkeley tonight?"
"Why don't you want to go?" You look rightly confused. "I thought you were so excited to get there today."
"I am. Really, I've been looking forward to this for a while, this whole you-getting-restless-and-me-spontaneously-pulling-packed-bags-out-from-under-the-bed thing. And I'm so glad we're almost there. But I'm looking out there at where we're headed and I guess I just kind of want the journey to keep going, you know? Everyone always talks about destinations like they're the only thing, but they're not. Everything is a destination in a way, isn't it? Everything that's happened on this long trip so far has been something. It may not be a 'destination,' per se, but hell, someone has driven to Mystic, See-Eh just to go to Mystic, See-Eh. And yeah, maybe it wasn't where we meant to go, but we went there, didn't we? And we saw it and we kept going. And that's a story now, you know? That's something we can remember and that's as much of a destination as anything I can think of."
"Is this a speech? Did you prepare this?" you smile.
"No, it's all spontaneous, and that's what's making me feel kind of weird, you know? Hesitant to go any further. This whole time, San Francisco has been the destination, and it's right there, practically a, a medium-length jog to get there, but I don't want to go there yet."
"Are you saying you want to go back home?"
"Are you saying you want to go back home?"
"No," I say, frustrated hands through my inarticulate hair, "I just want the journey to be a little longer. Because when we get there, we'll have our time and it'll be great and yeah, there'll be plenty of stuff to remember there, too, but that's all...destination-y."
"So what do you want to do?"
"So what do you want to do?"
And then you look at me with those eyes. Those goddamn eyes. Every time. My limited verbal faculties dissolve into the two dark sepia drops looking back at me. I lose track of time. I sit in silence and stare at your face for an indeterminate period of time that could be either two seconds or two years because your eyes destroy time and gravity and spatial relations and geometry and I put both of my open hands on the back of your head and pull you toward me (and meet you halfway) and kiss you the way I've always wanted to: without restraint, without caution, and without hesitation.
This also goes on for some unquantifiable amount of time.
We pull away seconds/minutes/hours/days/months/years later and your eyes flutter open like epileptic window shades, and--I swear on my life this is true--your irises look two shades lighter than they did before.
"I just want more things for us to remember," I say, not meaning to whisper as softly as I end up doing. You sit up in your bucket seat and your focus drifts to just noticeably above my eyeline. You push a small strand of renegade hair up from my forehead to the top of my head and brush your thumb against my temple.
"I'm pretty sure I'll remember that."
We pull into the parking lot of the Hilton at the next exit and, after checking in, fall into an unintended afternoon nap while watching Cheers reruns.
I dream that we're jetskiing and you're going 60+ MPH (not a safe speed in any one-person vehicle) and you flip the jetski and I can't see you but you emerge from the water riding the shark from Jaws like it was a Shetland pony, grinning like a banshee and screaming to match.
We wake up to a cell phone alarm that neither of us remember setting.
"Let's go find something to remember," you say, leaping out of the bed with an enthusiasm that dwarfs even your fabled 10 PM Latte Buzzes. "Get up!"
I take a three minute shower and spend the subsequent ten minutes trying to determine which shirt I want you to remember me wearing. I decide on the green. We leave our phones in the room and exit the hotel, walking in a random direction that you point to like a bloodhound would if it had caught a scent and grew fingers.
We walk slowly--we're in no hurry, you see.