Our Story Begins...
I DIDN’T PARK my little dark green Toyota truck in front of his house. It seemed too obvious. I had called ahead, sure. He knew I was coming, sure.
But my truck and his house, they were two things that just didn’t go together.
So I parked a few blocks away on a side street in front of a quaintly dilapidated home in a quiet row of other quaintly dilapidated homes. The weeds in the yard were blooming, soft purple little flowers, spilling onto the sleepy sidewalk.
I couldn’t really see any people.
Then a few cars drove past on the main street ahead of me. I eyed the indistinct figures of the drivers and no one turned their head to look my way.
I sat holding the steering wheel, feeling like a mutated bacteria strain under a microscope. I hadn’t been here in over ten years and I felt squirmy. I kept reminding myself that I didn’t really see anyone nearby. This was a sleepy Northern California coastal town. It had one main road. It had one school. One volunteer fire department. It had a few million dollar homes with million dollar views.
But I had one thing narrowed into focus. His sunflower yellow house on the corner lot.
And if anybody recognized me, they weren’t going to do anything about it, not right now.
Those purple weedy flowers were peeking up through the cracks in the sidewalk and I mashed one to a pulp under my sneaker as I got out and shut my truck door. I didn’t shut it enough. I had to reopen it and shut it again.
Across the intersection ahead of me, about a hundred and fifty feet forward, his front yard was cared for. I didn’t know what bothered me. That it was cared for, or that I was so close to it.
He’d put in a little stone patio and some redwood planter boxes with spring flowers. The patio wrapped around the front porch in a little half-crescent extending along the public side of the house. There was that same green bushy tree I remembered that broke out in those red pimple berries. A waxy telephone pole that your eyes ignored. A concrete walkway up to the front door that was trying to look welcoming to strangers. A weathered wooden sign on two sturdy legs was plunged into the ground and announced Abergren Art.
I mean, what’s the definition of art? Just because you can hold up a brush?
The breeze coming up off the Pacific ocean smelled both fresh and invigorating and a bit like a big salty armpit. I’m not a fish eater. Or those other kinds of seafoods that come in shells. No amount of fancy sauce fixes the bad taste in my mouth.
I didn’t feel like a bacterium in a petri dish anymore. I felt like a thirty-two-year-old woman with hips too curvy and legs too long. I reached up and wound my curly hair into a controlled ponytail. As I walked the first fifty feet down the sidewalk, the happy-go-lucky sun warming my face and winter-paled arms, I wished I’d dressed in bulky layers, like long sleeves and a baggy sweatshirt and a tight jog bra underneath to flatten my assets down—not this stupid shapely cotton V-neck and stylish modern jeans.
I shouldn’t have shown this much skin.
Those bad feelings were crawling all over me like a skin infection.
Like I could have just started scratching myself all over until my own fingers drew blood and the layers of exposed skin scraped and bunched up under my chewed nails. Because there’s always room for something painful to get under your nails, no matter how close to the nub you keep them.
I could just go ahead and skin myself. Bloody orbs as eyeballs. Show up at his doorstep without a human face and knock.
Hi Dad. It’s been a long time. How you doing?
I jogged across the main street. No more traffic. The ocean leapt into view on my left, breathlessly calm and flat as a pancake. Puffy white clouds sailed overhead.
It was beautiful here. That bothered me. This quiet fishing town with the pier and the little picturesque fishing fleet and surround by the magnificent Redwood forests and for fucks sake they’d even filmed some Hollywood blockbusters up here. And everyone had to drive by Abergreen Art and that stupid welcoming sign.
And some people even voluntarily went in. How crazy was that?
Now I’d just walked up the three concrete steps to his door and I had to lift my whole arm to get my fisted hand to rap on the yellow door. My knuckles made a boneless sound.
I waited. A soft breeze ran over the hair on my arms.