Over The Bridge and into the Night
He came in the back way from the alley were he parked the car illegally. He usually had to drive around a while to find parking for the night, but decided to just run in and pick up a few necessities for the weekend and get out of the city. Traffic on the bridge would be murder, but, what the hell, he had plenty of time and good music to listen too. He cleaned out the fridge cramming everything in a little ice chest with the little bit of ice in the freezer. He grabbed a change of clothes, a parka that could double as a pillow and basic bathroom stuff and stuffed it all in the frameless pack he had bought along with his nice sleeping bag for the Mexico trip 16 years ago. This stuff really stood the test of time, he thought. He had been backpacking, hitchhiking, bike touring all over the west using the same equipment. He went down to the storage and got the two person backpacking tent he and Rocky Larsen had bought to use during their one month lightening tour of Europe. That was 2 years after Mexico. Random had worked double shifts at the restaurant and done tutoring on the side to save up enough. That was all before Essie. How had he kept all this stuff with all of the moving? Then there was all of the work at the University. Where had it all gotten him? A couple of decent jobs, not much of a life beyond his few friends from previous incarnations, Essie, and a few work related friendships. Miss Bianca was steady and true and joy to work with, but in the last couple of years he had let his old ties loosen and had made no effort in creating new ones.
After he had gathered up the tent and checked all the equipment and rolled up the ground cloth, he went back upstairs, gathered all the stuff in a jumble, and bumped down the stairs peering around the load, loosing balance as the tent, backpack, and ice chest fought each other’s gravity pulling him this way and that. Finally he staggered to the car threw everything in the back of the ancient Subaru station wagon, and took off for the other side of the bay.
The traffic was a nightmare of the parking lot variety. It took him over an hour to go the less than 10 miles to Steve’s place. By the time he arrived, the sun was beginning to set.
Steve came bounding out looking like a maniac puppet his arms and legs moving in big clumsy arcs as if invisible strings were trying to pull him apart in four directions.
Lin watched from the doorway standing exactly in the center and composed like a painting of a woman far away from her home.
“Hey, Man, I was beginning to think you weren’t comin’,” Steve said in what for his quiet voice stood for yelling. The words carried emphasis and clarity but were never any louder. He never whispered or shouted, but he placed emphasis. Random had only seen him mad once. It was Jered that pushed him a little too hard. Jered was always testing the people around him, not out of malice, but true interest in human beings. Random was not sure if Jered considered himself human. He was not unkind just a little removed from people. Steve was set apart in a way too. He didn’t notice the differences between himself and others. He just was and didn’t really care what anyone else thought. He wanted everyone to have a good time, and if that was too much for people, he would move on to the next party.
“I got some food and stuff just in case we get stuck somewhere, or want to spend the night where we are.” Random said as Steve shambled up.
“Well lets get a move on, buddy. We been ready since we woke up.”
“When was that, noon?”
“More like one or two. Lin got up for a while, but she thought better of it.”
“You guys got stuff to stow, or are we ready to roll.” Random was starting to feel restless and wanted to be gone.
“I’ll jus’ go grab the camera and I think Lin has a bag. You said you got food?”
“Yeh, but we can stop for dinner. I have some cash.”
“Well I guess you better ‘cause I’m between assignments, if you know what I mean.”
Lin came out with a small canvas bag as Steve charged back in and made it back to the car with his camera bag as Lin reached the car.
“Did you lock it?” Random pointed at the door.
“Never do. As long as my camera is with me, there’s nothin’ worth stealing.”
Random swung into the driver’s seat and clicked the shoulder strap, punched the stereo. Nina Simone came on with “Feelin’ good”. It was perfect. Lin got in the back next to the ice chest. She opened it and peered inside. A carton of milk, ketchup, a package of hot dogs, a hunk of cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, a Tupperware container of something were on top with some mysterious items underneath.
Steve was already into the music, humming out of tune to the foreboding blues. The lyrics seemed to say you gotta have a good attitude even when things are bad. Never say die.
“It’s a new dawn, a new day . . . and I’m feelin’ good.” As the horns’ dirge-like progress drags it on. Like life, it will go on. So did Nina, and you could believe the cost of what she was leaving behind.
Random put the car in gear and off they went to the freeway and San Jose down the 880 through Hayward and Fremont at a crawl in the rush hour, sunset fiery to their right over the coast range across the mud flats of the south bay.
They pulled into a little diner just southeast of San Jose. Random paid for dinner of burgers, fries and shakes. Lin was looking a little frightened but also awake and curious as to what these madmen would do next. They piled back in. The traffic had cleared some as they now were a little beyond rush hour and the path of the home bound traffic. They cruised across the south side of San Jose and up into the rugged hills through Los Gatos.
“Hey I got a brilliant idea. We otta go to the Farm School. I should show you that place. Wow, I wonder what it looks like now, and who’s there.”
“But Man, It’s dark. And it’s Friday night.” Steve said. “Let’s head to the ocean and we’ll find somewhere to crash. Maybe tomorrow we could find it on the way back to your place.”
Lin leaned up close and said a little anxiously, “Yes, the ocean sounds nice. Maybe we could wake up at the ocean, OK?”
“Sure,” Random said with a firm nod of his head as if what Lin said was final, and he steered through the tight curves and close quarters of Highway 9 over the rugged, worn-down mountains of the coast range into Santa Cruz.
They went down to the boardwalk and rode the big twisty roller coaster mostly for Lin’s sake. She had a blast and Steve and Random had a blast watching her finally really see something fun in America.
They found a campground, but it was full. So they drove back out of town and pulled off in a turn out. Random pitched the tent 20 feet from the car just on the other side of a break of quaking aspens and laurel. It was not too cold so they did not bother with a fire just made some tuna sandwiches from what Random had put in the ice chest. Then Steve and Lin went off to sleep in the tent, Random in the car in the drivers seat reclined back.