Cape Perpetua, Florence, Humbug Mountain, Redwoods National Park. Eureka. Fort Bragg, Mendocino, where I’ve finally settled down for an indulgent croissant and cappuccino.
Sent a last-minute, impulsive email this morning to an old boyfriend who lives or lived somewhere here with his wife, asking if we can meet, leaving it like that. I don’t even know if he’s still living since he was 13 years older than me. If he gets it, will mine be a voice from the past? What does a voice from the past sound like?
In tired nights, capping many hours of driving and trying to get comfortable on sagging motel mattresses, I read the fascinating novel Time Shelter by the Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov, which is all about how easy it is to take refuge in the past, with its music, scents, lingo, and a big future still ahead, especially as people start losing their memories or their mind.
I’m not there. If the ex-boyfriend were to come here and sit across from me, we’d smile with the echo of our joint memories, maybe talk a little about Bernie whom he certainly knew, but the life would come from now—How are you? What is exciting now? What drives you, makes you happy? The answers to those questions would contain everything, the energy of past years, the shrinking future, all viscerally alive right now.
There’s not just confusion in time but also geography. Back home in Western Massachusetts, when I look west to a sun setting behind beech trees, I see the entire United States, state after state lying adjacent to each other like bales of hay over a few thousand miles. The rest of the country lies there. Two hours east is Boston and the Atlantic Ocean, followed by Europe which I’d visited often enough, and the Middle East, of which there’s lots to say but not now.
Here, when I look west there’s only the ocean, with white breakers smashing against gigantic boulders off the Oregon coast, and across from that, Asia. Highway 101 is dotted with signs: Entering Tsunami Alert Zone and Leaving Tsunami Alert Zone., reminding me that I’m not in Kansas anymore. Standing on many lookouts as I drove south, I thought of how this country (which often, after reading the morning newspaper, I think I barely know) was now behind me, and ahead there are only waves coming and receding, coming and receding.
I am writing this in a café, watching people like me coming in and out, white, leisurely, with money to burn on organic espressos and avocado omelettes. Don’t do this back home so I’m happy to do it here and now, but can’t help noticing that the front desk cashiers are all slim, tall, and white, while those who bring in the coffee and take away the dishes are Latino, wearing black T-shirts emblazoned with the name of the café, which the front-desk cashiers do not.
Just like in the two motels I stayed in, Reception is occupied by an Indian man holding a little baby in one hand as he types with his other hand and gives me my room key, or last night an Indian mother giving me an exhausted smile at 8 pm when I checked in, a scar ringing one of her dark eyes. She wished me a good night and was there today to wish me a good morning and to have a good day, which I wished her, too.
I will finish this, and if ex-boyfriend doesn’t arrive, will look into neighboring shoe store, continue to Santa Rosa for lunch, and in late afternoon proceed to San Francisco to stay with a wonderful woman whom I love and admire, with her husband, on Telegraph Hill. Hang out with another dear friend on Saturday, and another on Sunday, and more on Monday before heading back home on a Red-Eye.
How have I merited such close friendships? It’s not me at all, it’s just the Big Bang still banging away, creating and exploding and bursting forth. It can’t help itself. On a personal level, may my life continue to give birth again and again. They tell me I’m past reproductive age, but I don’t believe it, not for one second.
I went to a gas station bathroom after crossing into California yesterday and saw the sign below. Have a look.
You can also send a check to: Eve Marko, POB 174, Montague, MA 01351. Please write on the memo line whether this is in support or immigrant families or of my blog. Thank you.