Reluctantly I had gone across the Bay for warmth and friendship and found it slumped against a lamppost on Montgomery and Market. She was smoking and looking at the sky. I told her I felt like a dope and a loser and, rising to her feet, she smoothed out her enormous sweatshirt and told me it was OK if I was those things. She walked briskly toward an Irish pub and I put a half-skip in my movement to keep up. There she drank a cider and I had two beers. In her little white car we sped over the new bridge and laughed like psychos until we were in the place where I am most comfortable.
“This is Oakland,” I said. I pointed at everything in view. “This is where I live.”
“It’s a real city after all,” she said.
“Where people walk around. And things happen.”
“It’s true. It’s all true.”
She had a vodka sour and I had an IPA and we sat stupefied under the ruby light near the back. We were alone and we felt all right just then. I knocked over my auxiliary beer and, perhaps in a moment of pity, she gave me a cigarette. As I joylessly took the smoke into my lungs, I used the device in my pocket to say a thing to a girl I like and she said a thing back. It made me feel OK, reading that thing, because I was fairly certain it meant she found me agreeable and maybe even nice to be around.
Madness and swirling colors. Singing by the fire. Another beer from the kitchen island—who had bought these?—and I knocked another one over on the walk home. She asked me to touch her back and when I told her I wasn’t very good at it, she showed me what to do with my hands. She took her sweatshirt off and said something about modesty and I was pale and duct-taped together and feeling skeletal. I breathed heavily, her bones beneath my fingers, moving her flesh, and she laughed and said I was probably fine the way I was. I touched her spine and said it was a nice one. I lied and said I had felt many before. My eyes went dim before the sky was flooded with light and in that place where only I can go I thought of someone else.