Him, her and San Francisco

“Well we’ve made it.”

“What do you mean? We haven’t made it to Oregon.”

“No, I mean we’ve made it to California.”

“Oh. Right. Listen, can we skip L.A. and stuff? I don’t care to see it at this point in my life.” He’d seen it before actually, and had too many bad experiences that eventually caused him to never go back again. He didn’t enjoy talking about it either.

She was hesitant. She really wanted to see it. She’d never been and was attracted to the idea of celebrities and Pretty Woman – not the actual act, but the movie and the sites from the movie. But if he didn’t want to go and they did, then he’d complain the entire time and that would just spoil it for her. “Alright. We won’t go. Napa maybe?”

“Napa’s fine. It’s be a long drive but we can definitely do Napa. How did those photos turn out from New Mexico?”

“Really great actually. I just sent five out and have, I think, three more to edit before sending. Remember that older man who was missing a tooth and raved on about it raining cows?”

“Yeah, what about him?”

“His turned out really great. I was kind of surprised because I kept shaking from trying not to laugh. But there’s something in that photo that says more about the guy than madness.”

“Interesting,” he replied half-heartedly. He was getting tired of this trip. Of talking about crazy men who claimed cows were going to fall from the sky. Or women who acted like they were from the city when they were from nowhere, Arizona. Middle aged men who made bad jokes, talked about the glory days (aka All-State Basketball Champs 1979) and poked fun at their chubby children, who really weren’t that chubby, just normal. All of this was taking a toll on him. Not to mention he just had a phone call that he was going to be evicted from his apartment. The landlord didn’t even give a good reason, but turned around and said he had three weeks to get out. He come home from this trip, pack up his stuff and move into a cardboard box. Gee, what great news.

The entire time he had been thinking this, she continued to talk about her subjects.

“Listen, I’m really tired. Can you give it a rest?”

She was instantly wounded and he could tell. “I’m sorry, it’s just, I’m just -”

“You’re tired. I get it. Yeah, sure. Do you mind music then? Quiet music?”

“Yeah that’d be fine.”

She chose something while making slight swerves in the road, glancing back and forth from iPod to outside the front windshield. She chose something and put the iPod back in it’s makeshift holder. He felt awful for making her feel this way. He wanted to explain himself but he didn’t want pity. He didn’t want her to come up with a solution for him, which he knew she would. But on the other hand, she was his best friend. And her solutions usually worked. Why shouldn’t he tell her?

“When we get back from this trip, I’ll be homeless.”

“What?!” She almost stopped the car right then and there. It wouldn’t have mattered though. The were the only ones on the road. “What do you mean?”

“My landlord is kicking me out for some reason.”

“He didn’t say why?”

“Nope. Just said I’d have three weeks to get my stuff out. I think I knew it all along. The guy was always shady.”

“You sound too nonchalant about this. How can you be nonchalant?!”

“I’m freaking out inside, trust me. I’m just so exhausted by all of this -”

“All of this? What do you mean?”

He paused. Should he tell her he’s tired of the trip? “Well, I mean, I’m just tired of all the driving, the people I guess.”

“But the people have been great! We’ve been having fun!”

“I know. Everything’s just taking it’s toll on me. Especially with this apartment thing. I don’t know what I’m going to do. We’re on this trip and I don’t have time to look for a new apartment before I have to move out.”

“Well you can stay with me then until you find something.”

“Is that really a good idea? Where would you put me? You changed the second bedroom into an office.”

“We’ll put your big items in a storage unit and I’ll turn the office back into a bedroom. Come on, it won’t be that bad. You won’t have to pay rent and I can help you look for an apartment.”

“I don’t know. I don’t know if I even want to stay there.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean I don’t think I want to live in the Midwest any longer.”

She got quiet. What he was suggesting was something she couldn’t think about at all. Him moving away? Her losing her best friend? She couldn’t do it. She wondered where he’d move. She wondered if she’d move with him. She loved her job, but maybe her job was something that could be replaced if it meant being around him. Or was it time to move on?

“Where would you go?”

“San Francisco.” The answer was immediate and unexpected for both of them. He looked at her. He looked back at the road. San Francisco? Really? Where did that come from? But he thought about it. He enjoyed the city the few times he’d visited. It was  a good location. He had a network of contacts he could call for a job and even for an apartment. It made sense.

“We need to go to San Francisco,” he said decidedly.

She looked at him. She looked at the road. “Ok,” she said finally. “Pull out the map. We’re going to San Francisco.”

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Him, her and a 1967 VW van.

“Summer is well under way now, or at least a week into it. And I’ve got BIG plans,” she said with gusto and a fist pump to the unsuspecting air.

“Oh yeah? Like what?”

“Well…” she smiled coyly at him. Or at least she thought it was coy until he said something.

“What is that face? What are you trying to do? Is that…is that coy?” He couldn’t help but laugh. This was absurd. What could she possibly have planned for this time? Every summer was the same. Stay at home, work, swim, occasionally babysit or house sit. He sat down, crossed one leg over the other and folded his hands in his lap with a look on his face that said This is going to be amusing, but please, do continue. She took no notice and she moved around the tiny kitchen, her thrifted floral print dress swaying with every movement.

“Coy, no. What? Anyway, this summer…” she took a big breath before continuing. “I’m going to travel across the country!”

The amused look on his face dropped. “Seriously?”

“Yeah! It’ll be great! I’ll work on my writing, live out of an old VW van…I’ll be the next Jack Kerouac, just with different body parts.”

He was astounded. She had never done anything like this. “What about money? Food. Comfortable sleeping? Showering? You hate going without showers.”

“Well I have some money. And I’ll be working a few more weeks before leaving. So I’ll use most of that for gas and food. And showering, well I’ll figure that out as I go. I’m sure there’ll be creeks and stuff along the way.”

He reiterated his point. “But you hate going without showers.”

“I know. But I’m trying something different.” She sounded pleased with herself. Then another idea came to her. A wide Cheshire cat grin appeared on her face. “Wanna come?”

“Uh, no,” he said very matter-of-factly, slightly scared of the grin that continued to get wider. How is that possible?

“Oh come on. It’ll be great! The writer and the artist. Oooh, we should invite other people. Like a chef. Who do we know that can cook? Oh and someone who knows a lot of useful things about plants and stuff.”

You can cook well and I majored in plant biology before art. But that’s besides the point. Listen, this is crazy! What drove you to do this?”

“Well I never do anything excited for the summer. While everyone’s off on an island or meeting celebrities – ”

“Ok, who do we know that met a celebrity?”

“Jen met that one guy from that soap opera.”

“No one watches that. He’s barely famous…”

“Whatever. I’m tired of spending my summers doing the same thing! I wanna go see the country, meet fascinating people in grungy diners with really great pie and coffee.”

“But you make great pie and coffee! Why can’t you just stay in your own kitchen?”

“Listen. I’m leaving in a few weeks. I’ve already got the van. I’m eating the bare minimum so I can save the food and the money I would have spent on the food, and it’ll be great! We’ll get a tent and some tiny mattresses and we’ll sleep under the stars. Ooh, see the mountains! Come with me!”

He could only sit there. His leg now uncrossed and both feet firmly on the floor. It’s not that he wasn’t the adventurous type, but to hear this from her was unfathomable. But why shouldn’t he go? If anything, she’d need someone to protect her from eating the wrong plant, going into the wrong diner, parking the van on the wrong side of the road.

“Ok. Ok. Let’s say I do go on this trip – ”

“Ah! I knew it! You couldn’t resist the call of the wild!”

“First of all, it’s not the wild. It’s the open road. Second, I’m speaking hypothetically right now.”

“Ok, ok. Continue.” But she couldn’t keep the grin off her face. She knew she had won him over. There was just one last detail she had to convince him on.

“Where would we go? How long? Do you have any sort of destination in mind?”

“Yes.”

She paused for a second.

“Well?” he asked.

“I wanna end up somewhere on the west coast.”

“Like?”

“Portland?”

“Portland? And that’s where I’m out.”

“Please?! I just don’t know why you hate Portland so much.”

“Well it could be due to the fact that she lives there.”

“Portland’s a big city,” she said innocently. “We’ll probably never run into her. It won’t be so bad. Maybe she’ll have moved too by the time we get there.”

“What’s in Portland, anyway?”

“Only the greatest food and music festival ever! So I thought I’d spend the entire summer getting there.”

He thought about it for what seemed like years. She started fidgeting.

“Stop fidgeting,” he said.

“Ok.”

He thought some more. The second hand ticked past the numbers and notches, getting louder for her with each tock. Finally he stood up. He walked over to the fridge, opened it, and grabbed a drink. He took a long sip before finally speaking.

“Alright. I’ll go.”

“Yes! It’ll be great! I promise. We’ll start planning tomorrow!” She walked over to him and gave him a bear hug and a kiss on the cheek. She smiled, took his drink and walked out to her apartment balcony to finish it. He sighed, grabbed another drink and went outside to join her.