Over the Bridge
Random decided to head over the bridge to Oakland and his friend Steve, who lived in a basement apartment up at the summit of the hills next to a sprawling cemetery. He was a free-lance photographer living month to month in a vaguely bohemian lifestyle. He was laid back and easy, but with a big heart, a good person to sort things out with, almost the polar opposite of Jered who was a wild and restless spirit stirring the world to see what would come up. Random was the one with the plan, a logistics guy, not that he worried about the plan once he made it. They fit together well but loosely, when they were together, as if they were splintered from the same block.
Steve was out when he arrived, so Random decided to take a stroll around the cemetery. On the first reunion of the Mexico trip, he met Steve at his then cave-like dwelling in Berkeley, and they had ridden a bus to the cemetery so that Steve, who was then just starting in photography, could complete an assignment for a class. It was a day very much like this one, clouds all around like islands in the deep blue ocean of sky. A cool breeze toyed with the loose strands of Random’s hair that had escaped the ponytail hairband.
As he drifted through the cemetery he found an angel that stood at the door of a crypt looking like it was forlornly waiting for a bus that would never come. There was a twenty foot pyramid with CRANK carved in monumental clarity on one side, another angel in the pose of the Thinker by Rodin, her wings extended askew pointing skyward. All this he remembered from that first walk here, Steve clicking picture after picture and chuckling to himself. He remembered chuckling too. Now it just made him sad.
He walked out on the crunching sandy path and back to Steve’s house just down the busy street. He felt exhausted and ready for a gin and tonic. He went to the door and knocked. This time the door swung wide revealing a tall, thin wild bearded man, dressed in a gray English style raincoat, baggy blue jeans and a black Pearl Jam t-shirt.
“Hey, howzit goin’! Long time, Man!” Steve erupted, face going from distracted to elated surprise in a flash as he grabbed Random in a brisk embrace and held him back out to get a better look at him.
“Yeah, yeah too long.” Random passively received the embrace and smiled guiltily as he tried to remember the last visit. He had seen Steve about a month ago at a mutual friend’s party, and they had both said that they would call and set up something. Neither had called.
“Come on in, Man. Have a brew and pull up something to sit on.” Steve always called him Man, short for Random Man, his alter ego in their private jests. “Faster than a speeding non-sequiter. Able to leap into a tangent with a single bound. It’s Random Man!” Jered would say after one Random’s slightly off-center comments
Steve always lived in basements. This one was at least well lit with narrow windows just above head level around the roughly square room with a bathroom off to one side and a bar that served as a kitchen which had a sink, microwave, toaster oven and a fridge like the ones in hotel rooms. There where various armchairs in various states of disrepair and three chrome tube, plastic cushioned kitchenette chairs pulled up to a small 1950’s chrome and dingy yellow formica table against one wall under a poster of Rasputen, crazy black eyes gazing into the room, with a caption that read in large black letters “Just Because Your Paranoid . . .”
There was a rattling in the bathroom and a muffled thump. Steve raced over and threw the door open and said in a gentle yet insistent tone, “Lin, I told you to use the door. Your gonna kill yourself.”
Random got up and wandered over, gazing around Steve. A tiny Asian woman stood next to the small shower stall which was simply a square plastic tub about 6 inches deep in the corner underneath a shower curtain around a bar stuck in the wall next to the toilet.
She looked like a middle school boy with her black shaggy hair and small round doll-like face. She looked up at Steve and then down at her feet, “I know. I don’t want to get you into trouble.”
“You’ll get me in more trouble by coming in the window like this,” Steve said. There was a tone of sadness in his voice as if he was holding a delicate piece of art in his hands and trying desperately not to break it burdened with the knowledge that he was doomed to fail at this.
“Oaky dokey, I do it that way next time,” she smiled up at him waiting to see his reaction.
Steve looked down and shook his head so slightly, and, then remembering Random, he turned his head and said with quiet excitement, “Come on in and meet The Man. He’s a friend from way back. I picked him up in CCC and I haven’t been able to shake him since.”
Lin shuffled shyly into the main room and offered her hand with a little bow, “I am Lin Chen. Steve is kind enough to let me stay here for a while.”
“She came in a shipping carton just like those stories you read about. Isn’t that incredible. Somehow she slipped through without getting caught, but couldn’t hook up with her people. She went to the wrong port. Can you believe it?” Steve rattled enthused, but still quiet.
“I’m Random, Steve calls me Man,” Random took her hand and nodded his head a little.
“I found her wandering the docks when I was doing a shoot for an article. She was half starved and raggedy, and I just knew she was lost.”
“He save me. Give me food. Let me stay here.” Lin gave him a hug around his waist and smiled, her tiny lips pressed together.