Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Road trippin', pt. 9

"It's chilly," you say, rubbing hands on opposite elbows as we walk through the hotel's parking lot. "I thought California was supposed to be warm."

"Babe, it's seven PM in February. That's winter all over America."

"Can't believe I didn't bring a coat."

"You did." We walk to our car and I pop the trunk, revealing a secret bag(!).

"What's this?" you ask, pleasantly surprised by my forethought.

"Winter bag." I slide the zipper down one side and reveal a dark red toggle coat. "I didn't know the exact size. Plus, when I bought it three months ago, I didn't know if you'd get smaller or bigger or somehow, uh, fluctuate."

"Please don't ever use the word 'fluctuate' ever again." You smile and slide your arms into the sleeves.

"How's it fit?"

"Close enough to perfect."

"Good." I kiss you on the forehead and we keep walking.

"Thanks for the coat, hon."

"My pleasure. Plus, I used your debit card to pay for it, so it's no problem." You chuckle and punch me in the shoulder.

Powell Street is just south of us, and is pretty quiet for an evening just getting started. We ignore our better instincts about the rumors of the overzealous Bay Area police force and jaywalk the hell out of that road. We're about two hundred yards from the water, and it's gorgeous, seeing the sun just beginning to hoist itself down behind the bay.

It's strange to not see the sun drip down onto mountains before it makes its way behind them, and although I always associate the west with that romantic Rocky skyline, it's just simply not the case here. Back home, what's jagged and snow-capped and beautiful in its own way is smooth, leveled-out, golden. It's clear where the state gets that stupid name and as we walk against the coast, the waves quieting down like Nature's Ambient Noise Machine (the kind that I'm totally getting you for your birthday for those nights that you've had recently where you had can't sleep), the surf nipping at the rocks like it was a bubble bath, it all makes sense. The name of this place, the legends of gold, the promise that things hold out here. There's a clear reason why people come this way to figure things out, to start over again, to make old things new again and rediscover their roots in a place where they have none.

"I want a picture," you say, pulling your hand out of mine and your camera from your back pocket. "Here." You nudge me just below the sun and sit me down on a chunk of granite so weathered it could be Nick Nolte's ancestor. You walk ten or so paces backward, looking at me through the lens, setting up your shot, gauging spatial relations and, I assume, wondering whether or not I look at you this gratefully even if you're not looking at me.

"Are you gonna be in this?" I ask, brushing the lint from my collar. "It'll be stupid if I frame a print of a picture of me taken by my girlfriend."

"Actually," you say, snapping stills like you're trying to meet a deadline, "that sounds exactly like something you'd do." Your 'something' turns itself up into a giggle and by the time your 'do' arrives, it's a full-blown laugh and, for the first time in my life, a reasonable picture of me is taken.

[you show it to me a few days later, this specific shot to which i'm referring: i'm about to stand up to come and scoot your camera out of the way before kissing you--at this point, i just can't handle not kissing you anymore--and i hold every day to the standard of this shot, this singular moment in which everything i wanted was literally just feet away.]

"If I'm going to be your model, you've at least got to be in one of them."

Your eyes peer from above the camera. "Okay." You set the camera down on an out-of-place tree stump, angle it toward us, push a button, and dash the ten feet to me. "Fifteen second timer."

You push me back onto the rock and sit on my knee. I get a weird Santa Claus vibe but keep it to myself. You lean back onto my shoulder and tilt your head against mine. A tiny burst of wind throws your hair in my face, and I can barely make out the camera's flash from behind your cloud of tresses.

[i eventually get a copy of this picture and hang it above my bathroom mirror for the next three months before you move in. i hide it when you come over because you think it's silly, but i want it there because it's silly. we're sort of silly.]

The sun's gone now, but the night is young. We continue to walk along the beach.

"You know, this would've been a really nice first date," you say. "How come we didn't do anything like this the first time we went out?"

"Because we live in Utah," I say. "The only nearby bodies of water are known for mutant carp and dead brine shrimp."

"You're such a romantic." You kiss me on the cheek and I wonder how long it would take us to swim to some desert island where none of this--none of the car payments or the delinquent rent or the bombed Spanish tests or the wrinkled brown suit jackets or the new sheets or the sad nights apart or the misconceptions of the past or our deconstructions of the future or any of the other things that we came out to dodge for a little while--can follow us and we can catch fresh fish in our mouths like in The Bear and we can make everything out of coconuts like on Gilligan's Island (but not a radio because neither of us have electronics experience) and we can slow dance to the rhythm of the waves and the breezes and waves can be our soundtrack and the rest of it can be far away, back on the Mainland, back where other people belong because we are not other people: we are us.

"What are you thinking about?" you ask.

"Nothing," I say, letting a renegade sigh slip between my lips.

"What was that?"

"What was what?"

"That sigh," you say. "That sigh was definitely not a nothing. That sigh was a something. What're you thinking?" You're grinning like Christmas morning.

There aren't words, so I make one up.

"Gerflankenshick."

"What?"

"Uh, gerflankenshick."

"Is that German?"

"...not that I'm aware of."

"You're weird," you say, halting your step and pulling me by my hand back to you. "But I love you anyway."

"Good. I'd feel pretty stupid if this was a one-sided thing."

You laugh. "What am I gonna do with you."

"Time will tell."

We take a seat by the water and watch blue and clear make its way to white and foamy and I keep smiling as you doze off, knowing that this beach is no one's but ours, and that we're gonna take good care of it.

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