People grow up and away from you, and all that, and you maybe do the same. One day you don’t know someone anymore and sometimes it hurts and sometimes you just don’t know. I walk around my neighborhood every night and I wonder what became of a lot of things that used to populate my life.
Last night, having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me, I thought I would walk around Berkeley and Oakland, through Temescal and Piedmont, and so on. It was very cold and I was frozen as hell until I’d walked enough to warm my whole body, which took about a mile or so. I walked all the way to my roommate and spirit-brother Matt’s coffee shop, where he gave me a free cup of coffee. I drank it down and kept going in a completely different direction. I ended up on Telegraph Avenue and headed north. And hell, I don’t know why I did this since I almost never do, but when I got to 45th I veered left where Shattuck Avenue begins and went that way instead. On 46th I saw about a hundred Virgin Mary candles lit, and some red balloons and little teddy bears nearby, and so I turned left to see what it was all about. I figured someone had died there. On the sidewalk was a lone woman in a sort of black poncho sitting cross-legged by the otherwise deserted memorial. Her head was low and I figured she was sleeping. She was holding a crack pipe. I thought, aw man.
I kept going until I got to the part of the street where it curves by the highway and turns into 47th, feeding back into Shattuck. At the very corner was a house that was, at least a long time ago, owned by a woman I knew named Jesse. I had met her when I first came to Oakland. She was much older than me and she made and sold her own jewelry. Her grandmother had left her the house in her will. And we became friends because we both stayed up really late and felt lonely about that. I remember the last time I saw her, I picked her up in the police car and we drove to the Emeryville Marina where we climbed a fence and wandered around this bizarre playground made of crap and trash and abandoned bullshit. We must have alerted some rent-a-cop because right as we unscrewed the cap on a bottle of $3 Trader Joe’s wine we saw a lone spotlight scan the scrapyard where we were trying to have a good ol time. After he had gone, we laughed like hell and climbed the fence again and sat on the rocks by the San Francisco Bay until four in the morning. I took her home and, for one reason or another, we never saw each other again.
And there half a decade later on a cold December night, and less than twenty-four hours ago from where I am in time now, I stood in front of the house my old friend Jesse had inherited from her dead grandmother. The door was wide open and there was a moving truck in the driveway. I thought maybe I had somehow showed up on the exact night and at the exact moment she had chosen to move away, which she had mentioned wanting to do years ago. She had said she wanted to move to Santa Fe and make jewelry there, and could get some money from the house now that everyone wants to live in Oakland. I stood there for five minutes waiting for someone to come out the front door and hoping it was Jesse. I figured there was a pretty good chance it would be her. And then I remembered knowing what had become of some of my old friends, and how I had talked to them or bumped into them in Oakland, and how the outcome of our friendship or at least the time we spent apart from each other dribbled out as something mundane and insincere when it had been the opposite of that before. Just a block away was an apartment where years before I helped my friend Lauren move into. She had asked me because, she told me, she knew I was the only person who would do it. And now I knew what that thing became, which was nothing beyond her total indifference to the years we knew each other. And so I decided I didn’t want to run into Jesse, even if I missed her a whole lot. I thought, you know, sometimes you lose touch with someone and maybe it should just stay that way. We’ve explored every square inch of this planet, and as far as we know there is nothing but lifeless rocks in space. The only mysteries I have left are the ones I have protected from reality only because they had resulted in a dead end. It was OK if I never knew. And I figured that if I saw Jesse it would take away my memory of her and ruin the myth of her I had remembered in my brain. It was harmless to feel that way, and so I felt it. I kept walking.
An hour later I was back home with Dante. The heat was on and he was sprawled out on the couch. I flipped on the electric kettle and took my denim jacket off and sat down next to him. I put on the soundtrack to THE LONG GOODBYE and started writing an email.