I was an average looking guy. Maybe I was a little too clean behind the ears with a sharp looking goody goody two shoes haircut. But I guess I wasn’t all that bad looking among all these rich Bay Area bitch-ass punk-ass chicken-shit kids. After a long conversation with a Harley Biker, I felt as though I had pussyed around long enough and that the time had come for me to man up and ask for this girl’s number. The Hell’s Angel, or so I imagined, cleaned the billiards table and the game ended. I bowed in idolatry praising his mad skills. He looked on in disapproval as I ignored his advice with my dumb spoof.
It must have been the talk with the biker dude that made me nervous; no it was the size of the rack on this girl. I strode up to her and started second guessing this whole thing. How was I going to talk to someone this hot? The way my hands swayed next to me suddenly made me feel like an orangutan. I wondered if I was wearing that dumb smile the Kendra warned me about; I was crossfaded as fuck so probably. How many Great White beers had I had at this point, ah twelve, maybe seventeen, shit I forgot. When I stopped right in front of her and her friends, she gave me this condescending look of disgust. I just kept grinning like a fucked up monkey man, and then I asked her the question.
“looook I’m maybe a little fucked up right now, but I saw you across the room and think you’re hot as hell. If it doesn’t put you off can I ask for your number? If you’re willin’ I want to take ya out for dinner or somethin’.”
She crossed her shiny black leggings, and her look of disgust mixed with contempt. She pulled a golden curl out of eyes, “Ahhhh, nooo.”
The bar erupted in laughter and cheers. Her male friend sitting next to her became hysterical and fell off his stool. I heard someone comment in the background, “The balls on this guy; this guy kills me!” Fucking spectators.
I turned around in rejection and shame. If you ever meet a Harley Biker with a leather do-rag, a gray beard, and plays damn good billiards take his advice; he’s a wise man. I slunk back to my stool and the lovely, and still single Kendra bought me a shot of whiskey and patted me on the back for her condolences. She returned to flirting with some professional climber. He is sponsored so you know he’s a hot shot. I thought to myself good try, no luck this time, C'est la vie. I wandered out back to the alley to be alone. More people complimented my guts or courage or whatever, and I closed the door behind me.
I swayed for a second trying to figure out whether alcoholism was included as an exception to Newton’s laws of gravity. I felt something brush against the hairs of my neck me whispering something inaudible. With dull inebriated senses, phantom senses didn’t surprise me really. It was six months later, I didn’t want to think of her, I didn’t even want to say her name. All I could make out was the clacking sound of clip-in shoes walking farther down the alley, and a glimpse of a shadow with black hair wearing a blur of green and turquoise wisp out of view. I realized my own dizziness and looked down at my spinning feet. The nausea kicked in. I fell to my knees and threw up what was left of my holy ghost. Oops just kidding, that appears to be a veggie quiche from this morning.
* * * *
I graduated with Bachelors of Science Philosophy degree from the University of San Francisco with a 3.9 G.P.A. In a sense, I think I have a right to say my background makes me a professional in the area of hedonistic thought. I tell ya, that Epicurus guy was a real smart ass. He was the father of this idea that a life is virtuous when it’s conducted for pleasure. But anyways before the incident that must not be named happened six months ago my life was pretty predictable. Before then I was a devoted catholic, I went to church every Sunday, I was lead conductor of a scripture study, and I was just sort of twiddling my thumbs while I waited to turn age to apply for seminary school to become a priest. Shit happened as shit happens, and suddenly I thought maybe I should reconsider this whole Catholic priest ambition. The whole Catholicism stuff didn’t really jibe well for me anyway. It was too clean, too starchy, had too many ironed white shirts if you know what I’m sayin. But anyways, I got my degree in hedonism so why not give this Epicurus idea a shot and play around with my lifestyle.
When I woke up in the afternoon my headache was a savage sonavabitch, and I almost regretted last night’s explorations into pleasure. The sun was cleanly sliced up through the window blinds, and I could see the humble specks of dust as they gently floated aimlessly across their beams. Like a pile of shit coming out of a donkey’s ass, I dropped off my bed onto the floor. Rallying for the Petaluma warehouse party tonight was going to be a challenge. I fumbled a pair of fake ray-bans over my eyes and made like a slender man on all fours to my phone I left in my jean pockets. Six missed calls, 2 voicemails, and 1 text from the lovely and still single Kendra. I played the first voicemail.
“Hi sweety, this is your mom I was just checking on you. I haven’t seen you for a few months and was wondering how you’re doing with all this everything going on. Dad tried stopping by your place but saw you sleeping through the blinds and didn’t want to wake you. When you get a chance I think he would appreciate it if you gave him a call, he’s worried. Also, I don’t know if they have gotten a hold of you yet, but the San Rafael Police department keeps calling us trying to get a hold of you. There’s apparently a few loose ends with the paperwork, but when that’s done it will all be over. I hope you’re doing well. I was just calling to let you know we’re going to have dinner on Sunday and would love to see you. Just checking in, love you.”
I deleted the message and went to the next. My Mom is such an angel I felt bad I hadn’t seen her and dad for so long. They knew I was trying out an alternate lifestyle but were a little bit too polite to ask about it. Growing up as perfect and flawless disciples of Jesus, I didn’t really see them getting it what I was trying to do.
“Hey, Tyson it's Rick from the study group. I haven’t heard from you for a while and was wondering where our venerable conductor is at? I haven’t seen you at studies or church for a while and I thought I would check in on you. Father Harding told us what happened. We're all glad you didn’t get injured. We’ve have been praying for you during meetings. A few days ago we were reading in James and I came across a scripture that reminded me of you. In James chapter one, verse twelve it says, Blessed, is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the...”
I deleted the message before he could finish. I knew the scripture he was talking about by heart and didn’t care to hear the end. The problem with Catholics is that they don’t know how to keep their noses out of other people’s lives. What a pain. Now the whole god damn congregation knew and would probably start butting into my life.
Kendra’s message said she was bailing on getting coffee again. Apparently, some sort of professional surfer guy was taking her on a date. He’s the sponsored kind of surfer, so you know he’s a hot shot. She sent me the warehouse address and said she would meet me there. This place was supposed to be mythically awesome a kind of neato.
* * * *
Petaluma is a nice place, very quaint, and it's growing up one damn good fish-n-chips shop at a time. But if you really want to know what makes Petaluma nice, it’s these mystery, elusive, sort of speakeasy-ish kind of parties that only happen once in a blue moon. If you want to find one, travel out towards the airport but stay just beyond property so that airport security won’t give a shit. Look around the warehouses on the southwest side, or just follow someone who looks like they know where they’re going. There you’ll find the purebred horses of the real rage-harder types.
Hundreds of people show up at the warehouse, but none of them are the asshole fuckboy cunt-y types. These kind of people are open-minded, inviting, and don’t mind bumming out their cigarettes. I was also a fan of the pristine clean bathrooms behind purple door number two. Whoever was hosting this event thought it would be a cool idea to string purple Christmas lights all over the bathrooms. I admit they were right. But anyways it was here a harras of Arabian exchange students invited me to join them for a few bumps of powder sugar. That’s a cool idea too.
After some quick sniffles, I rejoined the lovely and still single Kendra. She was talking to some mustang looking professional skateboarder. The girl must have been the daughter of Aphrodite; she was tall, with long legs, and silky blond hair that she liked to keep down to look like a TRESemmé shampoo model. Kendra was the self-proclaimed burner type who goes hard 24/six, she teaches Bikram yoga on Sundays. You could trust her to know someone, and by the end of the night, her natural extroversion would permeate across the party to know everyone. We mostly went drinking or to parties together, but we had good dynamic between us. When she got drunk enough, she called me her key chain but not in a bad way more like a robin, sidekick of batman kind of way.
I began to admire the scenery. Wrapped around the steel beam frame of the warehouse was an assortment of cheap Christmas lights, all red, bathing the place in dim red light. Each door used a different color, blue, purple, green, orange with numbers above them. The whole aesthetic gave off this neato red light district vibe that I was really digging. I heard my name from one of the colts repeating it back to Kendra.
“Tyson, do you want to try some radical stuff called salvia? Alex here just got back from some big professional skateboard clash and now Doomsayers want to sponsor him. He invited us to celebrate with him.”
“Sponsored huh, you must be pretty big hot shot. Ya, I’m game.”
Reorienting myself to Kendra’s new company, I said yes before my conscious could speak. They led us through green door number three where bean bags and thrift store cushions had been thrown around a storage room just big enough for a few people to squeeze in and lounge about. All the light bulbs had been replaced with green bulbs. A guy ironically named Guy pulled out a piece of glass with psychedelic smoke colored swirls and started loading it with what looked like black tree bark. Since I was the noob I got greens, or I guess “blacks” in this case?
The trip that followed was original caffeine Four Loco insanity. The room warped into a sphere and skyscrapers popped out of the ground. The green light converged together to form a little yellow sun that floated in the center. As the city grew, I began to stroll in the middle of the street up the inside of the sphere like some sort of retro cartoon character with stretchy legs. I was all grins, happy and cheerful in Sunshine City, and then I saw this athletic Tour de France looking biker chick trying to race faster than me. She kept peddling faster and faster, and I tried to keep up with her. She turned a corner, and I missed the turn because I couldn’t stop my legs. I could feel the trip slipping, and the sphere began to shrink. I looked for her down the street, but she was gone. She just wasn’t there. There was just a bike laying all busted, bent, and mangled. I heard hysterical laughter, and as I came out of my mind-spill, back into reality, I realized I had just been doing backward summersaults for the last eighteen minutes. I was crying. My head was all banged up from the summersaults, and I felt anything but happy and cheerful. Kendra was making out with the skater.
Fleeing through orange door number four, I was on the smoker’s patio. I lit up and collapsed against a railing. I was shaking madly and sucked on that cigarette like I couldn’t breathe without it. I couldn’t stop the rush of thoughts, the feelings, and fucking panic that had me wrecked. I was embarrassed about how I ran away from them. I kept seeing that mangled bike. I saw her hand as it awkwardly reached out to catch something. I wondered if Kendra would notice that I left. My eyes were all puffy, and I couldn’t stop myself choking on my sniffles. I felt so god damn embarrassed and alone. I was at a party full of purebred horses, and I was too stupid to realize I was a fucking Mule. I called an Uber to pick me up. As I was about to pass green door number three, I heard Kendra talking about me.
“He fucking does this every time. You can tell he was super religious at one time because he always over does it. It’s like he’s trying to compensate for something. He has no concept of moderation he needs to go back to being a Mennonite or whatever he was before.”
I left through blue door number 1. I felt aesthetically blue.
* * * *
I was picked up and went through the same charade you always go through with an Uber driver. You ask them how they like being a driver for Uber. The conversation went flat, and we stopped talking. I was fine with that. I needed to go somewhere. I wanted to be alone with my thoughts so I told him to drop me off at this pull-off on Route One. When we got there he asked me if I really wanted to be dropped off here, and I told him, “Ya, this is it.”
At one in the morning, the familiar humid air had become cold and harsh and a wind pushed over the beach with a cutting sharpness. I watched the waves crash against the beach and spill out like a foamy afterthought over the dark sand. Gravity pulled it back and the frothy web was lost into the sea’s oblivion. I had to pull my jacket up to huddle my cigarette under its shelter to block the wind from extinguishing the fragile flame of my lighter. As I smoked that American Spirit, I scanned the road and traced the story that my memory burned over. It was at this turn that it happened. I began to think back on the day…
It was one of those perfect days when the sun was warm but not too hot and overbearing. The clouds came in from the sea as those perfect cotton towers that loom in the sky like fantasy palaces. They’re just the right size and, if you drive fast enough, you can chase their shadows and loll under their pleasant veils when you catch up to them. I was driving the famous Route One and I was lost in the thrill of driving fast around winding turns and corners. I knew them by heart because my father raised me on Sunday drives here. I was jamming out to music. Right after I passed the Muir woods, the road opened up from the tree coverage so I could see the sky clearly again. The road started running along the shore cliffs. I could feel pricks of adrenaline knowing that I was so close to the ledge. A bend just beyond has a pull-off just at the corner of a very sharp turn. You have to slow down big time, but until you reach it, it serves as a perfect view to look out over the grandiosity of North Pacific Ocean. It was this corner that things went south.
It happened in an instant after I spent a little too long looking over the ocean. I pulled tight to be as inside to the turn as possible, but I lost traction and fishtailed out into the oncoming lane of the road. I was praying that a car wasn’t around the corner, but I should have been saying a more inclusive prayer. I didn’t slam on the breaks because I didn’t see a car. I saw a flash of green and turquoise Lycra as it bounced off my hood over me, and I heard a grinding sound go underneath. The form was gone. It went behind me somewhere. I looked back and only had time to see a woman’s hand desperately trying to grasp for something in the air before it went over the ledge. As my car came to complete stop, I could feel the bike stuck underneath grind to a halt in some sort of bent up mess. I held the steering wheel while my heart exploded, beating wildly. I knew what happened and called the police.
The police, two ambulances, and a firetruck arrived at the scene only a few minutes later. It was assessed that she had gone over the ledge a good ways down and landed head first on the sea rocks instantly killing her. Though she was wearing a helmet, the plastic and Styrofoam wasn’t enough, and it split in half unable to protect her. Her body wasn’t mangled, but her sports bike was, and the police helped me back up my undamaged car to recover what remained of the bike underneath. One of the police officers tried to console me while I cried, but he sounded inauthentic as though he was reciting something he had said many times before. He told me that it was a dangerous road, and they dealt with accidents on a daily basis. It was unfortunate, but it happened. I later found out she was married and a mother of two young daughters. Her name was Denise Esposito.
Away from the memories and back into the present, I had chain smoked almost half a pack while I stood there looking at the sea. I bum lit each cigarette, so I wouldn’t have to use my lighter. Each cigarette thrown to the wind disappeared without a trace, well, with the exception of the tar lungs that I imagined remained. A few months ago my parent’s lawyer met with me and told me her husband knew it was an accident and wasn’t going to press charges for vehicular manslaughter. I wrote him to apologize and say whatever I could… But he never responded. Nothing remained from the accident. The road wasn’t touched; my car wasn’t damaged. I wasn’t injured, and I wasn’t in a legal nightmare. In a lot of senses, I had so many fortunes for how it could have gone. My parents thanked God that I was safe, and I cursed him.
I wasn’t Catholic anymore because how could I be when God lets something like that happen? I did everything right in life. I always had a good grades, I never fought with my parents, I went to church every Sunday, I got my undergrad faster than any of my peers, I was a conductor of a bible study group, and all I was doing was patiently waiting to turn 25, so I could enter goddamn Seminary and devote the rest of my life to fucking God. I couldn’t help it, and I started crying again. I looked at the bend where I last saw her and imagined the last glimpses of her hand fall out of view. I supported myself on the guard rail, and my cigarette blew out of my lips into the wind. For some reason, I thought back to last night. I thought about the biker’s advice I disregarded.
“I ain't that religious, so it’s not my place to talk about your beliefs. What I will tell you though is that Greek guy nonsense you just went off about is a load of shit. Life isn’t virtuous if you only live to have a good time. What matters is dignity, and enduring tough shit the right way is how you hold onto your dignity. Everyone fights a unique war. We all got to fight something that others don’t at some time in our lives, that’s just how fate works. I’ll be straight with you son, what it sounds like you’re doing with your life sounds a lot like running away… And the thing about running away is that you can run too far. Don’t ask me how to talk to that girl over there because, in my opinion, she ain't worth it. You're drunk right now and all you’ll do is make a damned fool of yourself. You’ll throw away your dignity and then what?”
I called another Uber to pick me up and take me to my parent’s place. I prayed for Mrs. Esposito’s husband and her two daughters who would grow up without her. I wondered how far I had run, and whether I could run back.