Day 18: Drive-Bys

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Taking part in the Ann Dee Ellis 8-Minute Memoir Writing Challenge. This is Day Eightteen.

I don’t live in the same space as most of my younger memories, but they are so saturated and deep, I can easily call them up, and sometimes they come unbidden on with a scent on the breeze, or sunlight through dappled leaves.

Both eucalyptus and California jasmine can bring me to tears. I am instantly down by the Sunset in San Francisco, my lips tasting of salt, while the sun sinks into the western sea, and my hair whips around my head, stinging my eyes. Or I am in Capitola, walking through the village, having plucked a trailing sprig of pale, pink edged flowers, and picking my way up the hidden dirt trail through the cypress to sit on the train trestle. Today, I can have been in a store, and perhaps walked by cellophane wrapped boughs of leathery, dyed eucalyptus, and I am suddenly crying.

There is the neighborhood of cheap apartments where my friends could afford to live when we were so very young. Tiny apartments, on streets named “Acalanes” or “Eden” and which have probably been pushed over now in the ever-onward gentrification of the peninsula. There are tapestries from the head shops tacked to apartment walls, and spider plants competing for light on the windowsills. There are empty Paramount Imports bags. There might be a pan of brownies on the stove. Many of us did restaurant work, and there wasn’t much money for groceries. We brought pizzas home. The smell of onions and garlic on my hands takes me to the lively, boisterous pizza kitchens where my friends and I spent so many days and hectic nights.

There is Danny zooming down the street on his blacked-out motorcycles, leaving us wondering what he did now. There is Tim in the driveway, taking apart a red truck. There is the bike, painted Repossessed Toyota Blue. There is David in a lawn-chair, watching Sabado Gigante in the sun while he sips something icy and purple, shuffling his Tarot cards absentmindedly.  There is Danny again, wrapped in muslin strips as a mummy on Halloween, skateboarding down the street as the costume unraveled behind him. There is Bob, kind and thoughtful with a giant bag of doughnuts, gone way too soon. There is Billy, fluffing his flaxen hair and playing the Spin Doctors. There is Russell, quiet and kind, and afraid to come out. There is Ray, blowing through the door on a wave of charisma and demanding Tim find his hammer and help him shingle his new roof. There is Andy, clearing an unencumbered circle on the grass at Shoreline as he dances to Bill, Phil, Mickey, Bobby and Jerry. There is Chris, with his insane laugh and twisted sense of humor. There is Rich, in the Home Biscuit Earth Mobile, dragging his drums out to the frontage road because they were too loud for his mom. There is Michelle and me, casting shade, competing for boys, and missing out on how alike we were and how much better we could have been together.

And there is me, silver bells around my ankles, hippie skirt swirling in the sunlight. Apple the Car is parked near the curb, a sprig of jasmine hanging from the rearview mirror. I am watering the plants, trying to make sure nothing dies.

When David died last summer, the first person I called was Michelle.