September 2011

Five Missed Connections

Just a silly tourist – w4m – 27 (haight ashbury)


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You’re a tour bus driver, I was very taken with you. You’re funny, adorable, and so charming. I was the brunette with the sunglasses on who kept taking them off to make eye contact with you. I was with my mother. It was Saturday and we finally got off your bus at Haight. Do you read these?

 

 

“Would have been nice, a double-decker,” my mother said. Her orange lipstick matched her faux alligator purse. She looked out the bus window and sighed.

“I heard you the first ten times.” I checked my phone again.

“Why do they call it the Golden Gate if it’s red?” she asked.

“Huh, good question.”

The driver’s voice leapt up and down like a radio announcer. He spoke jokingly and did a Sam Spade impression that made the busgoers giggle, even my mother, whose chuckles sound like truncated hmms blowing through her nose. I looked for his eyes in the rearview. He was hazel and he reminded me of someone’s husband. I imagined he tasted like root beer. He tasted like caramel.

“What do you have planned for tonight?” my mother asked, fluffing her hair.

“A footbath. Some Law and Orders.”

“I thought we would go out to dinner.”

“We did that last night.”

“What a hostess she is,” she said.

“I cleaned the apartment. Filled the fridge.”

“The air mattress hurts my back.”

“You can have the bed tonight then.”

“You’re unemployed, you’d think we’d have more fun together.”

“I’m sightseeing, aren’t I?”

“I love you,” she said, kissed my cheek.

I wiped the orange O off my face. “I love you too.”

I watched the rearview when I said it. He announced something about the Gold Rush. I pictured a giant golden river flowing over me. Over us. It would be thick like honey and warm like piss. He was dancing in his seat with a hand on the steering wheel and another in the air saying Here we go Gi-ants, here we go! I wondered if he had a ring on his finger, and if he was genuine, or just a sad actor. Maybe, like me, he had lived here too long. The bridge was just a painted overpass. Russian Hill was just a curvy steep road. Alcatraz schmalcatraz. When he got off work, he grumbled and sighed and popped open a beer. He drank all afternoon. He bought tall cans in the mornings. He dreamt of elsewheres. He was late to work too many times.

The bus’s tires made a bumpy rhythm. The brakes puffed. I didn’t notice I’d fallen asleep until my mother shook me. “This is it,” she said. “Haight and Ashbury. I’d like to buy a map.”

I grabbed my purse and smoothed my hair. I pulled my sunglasses up on my head and smiled at the driver as we passed his seat.

“Have a good day,” he said, waved. He had no ring on his finger. His eyes were smile-wrinkled and tired. I locked mine on his. His sideburns were carved with care. I imagined us curled together like two commas on the sofa, eyes fixed on TV mysteries.

“Thank you,” I said. I wanted to turn back as I stepped down the rubber steps, onto the sidewalk, but I stared ahead into the sun and offered my mother my arm.

 

 

Natilie at American Red Cross – m4w (concord / pleasant hill / martinez)


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You are a total sweetheart & I enjoy our brief conversations
whenever I donate blood and you have no trouble remembering our previous bi-monthly encounters.
I would like the chance to get to know you outside of your work place if possible.
If not thanks for being so nice & I hope to run into you again at my next appointment.

 

 

He sat on the medical table and combed his hair with his switchblade comb. There were jars and cottonballs etc on the countertops. Posters with naked veiny people on the white walls. He pulled up his sleeve to get his elbowpit ready for her. Every other week, Tuesdays, he donated blood. The first few times it wasn’t for Natilie at all. It was his New Year’s resolution, to do more good. He chose blood donation over the Big Brother program or the Food Bank. He liked being pricked & watching the dark thick red fill the tubes. It gave him a rush same as when he stepped off the treadmill or when he used to smoke with his brother in high school.

Natilie always had a different-colored bandana on her head. Her hair was short & she wore a white coat. He couldn’t even imagine what was under there. That was why he wanted her so.

“Beto!” she said. “How goes it.”

“Yeah,” he laughed. “I mean, good.”

“What’s new?” She snapped on a pair of rubber gloves. He wanted those gloves all over him, leaving powdery handprints. He wanted to pull her seashell bandana off & rub her spiky hair on his skin.

“Nothing,” he laughed.

She assembled the needle, placed it on the metal cart. “How’s the tow truck business.”

“Oh, you know.”

“Cars keep on breaking down, that’s one thing you can count on.”

“Yeah,” he laughed.

“Seen gas prices lately? Geez Louise, I’m glad I ride my bike.”

“Yeah.”

She pulled his sleeve further up his arm & sent him a shiver. The shiver moved around him like a thing then settled in his pants. She tourniqueted him. His arm felt stiff, big. He thought about asking her to dinner. He wondered if she was a lesbian. He tried to catch her gaze but her eyes were on his elbowpit & then she stuck him.

He smiled & sucked air. The needle. The needle. He watched it without blinking, breathed steady. Right then he was strong.

She pulled it out, put a cottonball on the pinprick & taped it. She grabbed the vials of blood. Glass clinked in her plastic hand.

“Thank you,” she said. “See you in a couple weeks?”

He looked for her eyes again but she was on her way out the door. He grinned, dizzy. It was like his skin was tickled with glass shards, his head was a blown tire. He wished she could prick him again & again. He wished she never left the room, never put the needle away, filled vial after vial after vial with him until he lay on the crinkly white sheet on the medical table, deflated, hers, had.

 

 

Driving distracted on Sawnton Rd – m4w (Swanton Rd)


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You were taking pictures from your car, I stopped to see if you needed assistance. Your reply “do I look like a Margaret?” I would have liked to continue speaking with you…. hope you find this and reply.

 

I drive nowhere in particular. I climb in my truck and put on my baseball cap and go. I do it in the rain, I do it in the sunshine. I do it with the radio off and the windows rolled up. The engine whirrs and the gears shift their pitches. I drive from the woods to the beach and curse the bicyclists under my breath and praise the green. Holy moly, look at that, I say. Have you ever seen a taller prettier tree than that? No sir, don’t believe you have.

Out here, there’s far more trees than human beings, which does me just fine. But sometimes people get flats and run out of fuel on the roadsides and I stop my truck and help them. I got shocks, extra tires, gas cans, you name it. I used to be a sheriff, I tell them. Now I’m just a bored old man. That always gets a laugh out of them.

But this one woman. Curly blond-white wind-frazzled hair. Eyes like sad water. I thought of Margaret when I spotted her and got a chill as I put my truck in park on the road’s shoulder. She was stopped off near the railroad tracks, camera in extended hand, trying to take a picture of herself against her red convertible, sunset screaming behind her. I wondered for a moment about ghosts and then said to myself, stop that dreamy mumbo jumbo. I straightened my cap and stepped outside.

“You all right?” I asked her.

“Just trying to take this darn photo,” she said.

My boots stopped in the dirt. She sounded like Margaret. That high hoarse voice, that self-exasperation. Her nose was bigger, her lips thinner, but she looked about Margaret’s age, or I mean the age Margaret might have been this year. She was healthy, though, pink-skinned and plump. She wore a sweater embroidered with an angel.

I cleared my throat. “I’ll take it for you.”

“Would you? That’d be so nice.” She handed me the camera and stepped back against the car. “Now don’t go off running with my new toy,” she joked.

“I wouldn’t,” I chuckled. “Former county sheriff here.”

“Wow, really?” She hopped on the hood of her car and crossed her legs and smiled. “Cheese.”

I clicked the picture and looked at the little screen. Her figure was all white, the sunset bleeding around her edges. Then the picture disappeared. I pressed a button to recover it, but I don’t know how those dagnab things work.

“Did it take?” she asked, walking toward me.

“Yep.” I stared at her hair, the way the wind moved its fingers through it. The memory of the smell of her hit me, musky fruit. I sniffed. “Sorry. You remind me of someone.”

“Who? Don’t tell me Bette Midler.”

“No. You remind me of Margaret.” My throat burned and I cleared it. I stepped toward the car and concentrated on the dirt.

“Do I look like a Margaret?” she laughed.

I dipped my hat at her and cleared my throat again. “So long.”

“Thanks,” she said, her smile dropping.

I didn’t buckle my seatbelt. I didn’t adjust my mirrors. I got on the road and drove until the moon replaced the sun. I drove the same road twice, and then I went home and fixed myself a sandwich and imagined everything had gone differently.

 

 

guy at cheap cigs in pleasanton – w4t – 45 (dublin / pleasanton / livermore)


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guy who works at the cheaper cigerette store on first street in pleasanton , I always buy Kools . I think your so handsome and only if you were a little older to my age!!

 

Marta’s cigarette-smoking had to be kept secret!! Her children, thirteen and sixteen, worried about her health ever since Marta had that growth removed from her eyelid. Her ex-husband sent lists of foods to prevent cancer, tinctures in glass bottles, wrapped in brown paper. Ever since she had to wear an eyepatch everyone treated her with delicacy and had a hard time looking her in the eye. They always cleared their throats and said “Umm.” Their smiles were concrete and joyless. Marta’s favorite part of the day was work, was the moment she got in her Molly Maid-stickered Toyota and drove to a house that needed her attention, her devotion, the smell of her chemicals. Then afterward she would drive to the CHEAPER CIGARETTES store to buy a single pack of Kools. She put on lipstick and checked her reflection in a car window outside the store because he was inside and he was so handsome it hurt! Usually he was listening to music, thumping hiphop, and sometimes he was on the phone but it was some kind of hands-free device so often she could pretend he was talking to her. Yeah, yeah, aw, hella sick, he said as he grabbed her green brand of cigarettes. He is saying that to me, she thought. I am hella sick. He smiled at her and winked even. Or was that a twitch?? She smiled, breath uneven. His skin was smooth and dark and she wanted to see it sweat. She wanted to smell it. He had a faint mustache, thin wrists. He had the jerky movements and bright long-lashed eyes of a teen. She corrected her posture and wondered if he noticed the outline of her large breasts beneath her California! shirt. He took her money, brushed his long fingers against hers when dropping the silver and copper change in her hand. I ain’t been there in days, he said. He looked her right in the eye, didn’t flinch at the eyepatch, and mouthed thank you. Where hadn’t he been in days? She wanted to ask. Her breasts ached. How bad was she! That boy was a boy! She peeled the cellophane skin from the soft pack and headed for the door and thought of her ex-husband with his herb-store hippie-skirted girlfriend in New Mexico. How he had stunk of patchouli on his last visit, burned sage in the bedroom they once shared. Marta walked to the end of the parking lot, to the sinking chain link fence with the person-sized hole, and climbed through it. Her fingers shook when she struck the match against the matchbook. She smoked a single Kool here each day. There was a special rock, etched with years of graffiti and love-scrawls, flat to sit on. The little creek below sang like an applause. The minty smoke of the cigarette made her head float, made her buzz and grin. She finished and crushed it with her heel until it was flat and disappeared into the dirt. Then she threw the pack in the garbage, went back to her Molly-Maid car, and cleaned her hands with disinfectant. When she got home her children had ordered pizza. They asked how her eye was. “My eye and I are fine,” she said, and no one laughed. “Do your homework.” Marta kissed their heads both at the dinner table and headed upstairs to the bathroom. She let her bleach-stinky clothes drop to the linoleum tiles. She removed her eyepatch and looked in the mirror at the diagonal cut the elastic made on her face, the small red scab on her eyelid. She thought of tomorrow. She touched herself and smiled.

 

 

we witnessed a crime scene – w4m – 29 (oakland east)


Date: 2011-04-22, 11:02PM PDT
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We were both walking the same way and the sidewalk was blocked off due to a homicide. Neither of us were in a hurry, so we stopped to watch. Minor chit chat. I was checking you out the whole time. I had to go when they loaded the body into the ambulance (can’t stand the sight of blood). I wish I would have got your name.

 

Jada always met the foxiest guys at the most effed up situations. Example: that dude in the waiting room of Planned Parenthood when she thought she was pregnant, or that bicyclist who got hit by the taxicab right in front of her. She had ridden in the ambulance with him and held his hand. “Don’t die,” she’d screamed. “Please don’t die on me.” With his oxygen mask on, and the EMT guys pumping his chest and all that, he kept his eyes on her the whole time. Neither of them seemed to blink for the entire hospital ride. She felt like they’d lived a lifetime together. She felt his Black Sabbath shirt and long rocker hair explained everything she needed to know about him. He was sexy, and he might die, which made him dire. When she got to the hospital and the doctor asked their relationship, he had passed out and the word “girlfriend” just sort of fell from Jada’s lips. She bought him flowers from the gift shop, she introduced herself to his family. A nice worried brunette bunch. He woke up and had a concussion, which caused the amnesia. He remembered nothing of the past month. Jada was his girlfriend now and he knew no better (Jada would do anything to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, to keep things smooth and drama-free). He recovered and went home to his mother’s basement filled with busted electric guitars and stepped-on guitar magazines. They continued – or forged, however you want to look at it – a relationship that fizzled quickly into Jada’s silent boredom. He took her on “dates,” which consisted of her following him in and out of downtown shops while he browsed metal records and occult books. She stopped calling. She stopped returning calls. She changed her phone number (the easiest, most pain-free way to get a guy to take a hint, in her opinion). This was only one example of Jada’s pattern.

Another was the time she met that guy at that homicide scene. She was wheeling her laundry from the Laundromat, hamper on a skateboard. He was standing on the outside of the POLICE LINE: DO NOT CROSS tape, watching the huddles of blue uniforms and the wailing relatives. Kids on bicycles and people with their arms crossed also stood outside the yellow police tape, murmured to each other about the people who lived in the house that got shot at, rumors of drug dealers and drivebys. But Jada’s eyes were on the shirtless guy with tattoos on his neck and a twelve pack of Modelos under his arm. Jada stood next to him and asked him what was up.

“I don’t know, someone got shot,” he said, looked down at her.

“You live around here?”

“My cousin does. I was just walking back from the cornerstore.” He raised his eyebrows. “What’s your name?”

“Jada.”

Jada.” Dimples. “Pretty name.”

“Why, thank you,” Jada said, ran a hand over her dark hair.

“You doin laundry or something?”

“How’d you guess?”

Jada’s eyes were on his biceps, which she wanted to sink her teeth into. The sun was licking her with its hot tongue and her mind drifted to fantasies of slick lukewarm sex with him, the window-breeze cooling bare damp skin. She took off her sunglasses and asked more questions about the murder, though she didn’t really care about the murder. When the ambulance pulled up, parting the crowd, and the paramedics jumped out and sprinted into the house and wheeled the sheet-covered body out on its gurney, Jada got dizzy. She hung onto his arm.

“I can’t stand the sight of blood,” she told him.

“Maybe don’t watch this, then,” he said.

She stared at him, hard. “Okay,” she said. “I’m pretty dizzy.”

“You should get out of the sun, that shit’s probably not helping,” he said.

Jada backed her hamper-on-a-skateboard out of the crowd. She did it slowly, hoping he’d follow. “See you around.”

“Bye.” His eyes were fixed on the gurney.

Jada wheeled her clean clothes up the street. Someone said hey baby, where you goin out of a car window. She wheeled by a drive thru and a bus stop. I’m glad I’m not dead she thought as she unlocked her apartment door. Then she sat on her floor and folded her clothes, smelling each tank, each thong, each bleached sock. Their conversation replayed in her head. Meeting at a crime scene seemed sexy now, seemed romantic. Images of naked body parts and wet spanking noises and groaning filled her head and she felt aroused and empty. A tree branch rubbed against the bars of her window. She wished she had asked what his name was. She wished.