Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Dear Sal, I Hear California

I saw your Thunderbird in Pittsburgh three times in two weeks.

It's not really your car, but rather, just the same make, model, year and twice it was the same color, which is saying something, since your car's particular color is a limited edition.

I smile whenever I see it. It reminds me of August 2009, just a month after you moved to California and I came to visit you for two weeks. We drove north to Sonoma along highway 101 with the top down. I felt very California, learned to wear a scarf over my hair like women in old movies.

We stopped in a little beach town on the way back home. We sat on the beach and I cried because the ocean always makes me afraid of death. Or reminds me that I always fear death. Sometimes I fear a painful death. But mostly I fear a young death; there are so many things I still want to experience.

The beach was cool that day, but people were still swimming. We laid there on the beach and you told me again how my experience of the worlds is much different than yours.  How I could sit on the beach and feel so small next to the ocean's constant white noise and before long that noise becomes a part of my own noise and your noise and I realize it's all the same. The salt-tears rush out like little lost pieces of the ocean returning home.

"All your feelings are just right there. You already are a poet, Laura. Now you just need to practice."

After the beach we walked through the town past garages converted into surfboard repair shops and tiny store fronts selling hemp shoes or organic vegan pizza. The tan people walked the sidewalk, hands in pockets, one flip-flop clad foot dangling for a half-second before meeting the sand covered cement. I was always rushing somewhere. I imagined they didn't own watches.

This particular town also had a small liberal arts college. I began to fantasize.

"I would love to live in a town like this," I said to you, but I only half believed myself. Could I be this relaxed? Maybe you come here to relax. The ocean noise soothes the need to rush.

"You could. Why can't you?" you said to me.

I shrugged. "I don't know." This beach town seemed so far from me, from Appalachia, from February streets piled high with gray sleet and snow. People smiled here. A lot. Could they be trusted? Could I trust myself to relax here?

We got back in the Thunderbird, top down. I tied a scarf over my head. Maybe we could take little vacations to a place like this.

When I see your car, I see California. I smell the ocean. I see the redwoods and the wainscoting on the walls of your apartment. Soon to be our apartment. I taste the wines of Sonoma. I hear the white noise of California. I feel your hand in mine, both of us walking down Germania Street toward home.

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