As our departure to British Columbia approaches, as I'm about to leave a home for another home, I'm experiencing nostalgia for yet another home, yet another piece of me left in yet another place I travelled to, loved, inhabited. That place is San Francisco.
It's been a few weeks now: images, smells and sensations come back every day, every night to my mind. There's also a moment, a special day, one I like to remember and, well, story-tell.
My wife and I were driving back to Frisco, after 7 weeks spent up and down the West Coast, from Los Angeles in the South to Mount St. Helens in the North, and back.
The usual is this: I miss the West Coast, we decide to go to the West Coast, I spend loads of time there, I drive back to the airport, I cry.
Someone in my family must have lived there. Maybe my great-great-great-grand-aunt was selling lobsters there. Maybe someday she lost her wedding ring in the ocean and she's crying her heart out on Ocean Beach ever since. Maybe some quantic fragment of me hears her and cries along. I dunno.
Anyway, that day, we were driving back to Frisco and we were pretty close to the usual: I was about to cry. Frisco tends to be a drama queen with me. There's always something west-coasty playing on the radio, there's always that fog lifting up from downtown's buildings and there's always that sudden soft whitish glare on them. They exclaim: “We haz crush on you!”. I echo: “I don't want to leave!” It makes me feel like a fucking Sisyphus. Been there, done that, déjà-vu. Frisco's my stone — with all its damn ups and downs.
So here we are, driving on Bay Bridge and reaching the toll. There is the glare on the cars and the smoke from their exhaust pipes. There are people sitting on stools. Yep, stools. Men and women, sitting in the traffic, taking bucks and handing out receipts. I fetch for bucks in my pocket and I roll down the window. She looks at me. She, that black lady in a uniform. I look at her. She must be a mother. She must be strong-minded. She must be miserable.
I come to. Did I smile to her? How did I look at her? Did I express anything? I don’t remember. I’m not sure I was expressing anything really; I think I was just feeling (I was there and away, now and then, part and unpart).
She is still looking at me. I hand out my bucks. She takes them. I feel her hand. The contact, the skin. The humanity of it. She throws at me the brightest smile. Never losing eye contact, she just says:
“Goodbye sweetheart, and God bless you.”
I rolled up my window, and I cried. I forgot a lot about that day, but I never forgot about that Lady on Bay Bridge.
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