Monday, September 29, 2014

San Diego gestalt


The girl was a boat waitress but only for one night. The boat rocked on the sunset waves. They all looked out toward Tijuana. The captain was narrating. She had been told to wear black pants and a white shirt as a “uniform.” The rich people had enough wine in their wine glasses, so she sat on the deck with them and looked out over the water.

“Let’s go get a drink” said the text from Jaliv.
“Sorry, I can’t – I’m at work” she replied.
“Yeah right” he said back, as if her having a job were a joke or a lie.

Some hotshot guy told her boss at the day job that the facts in the press release were wrong. She knew they were not. Her boss took the hotshot’s side.
The girl asked the hotshot to tell her what facts were wrong. He could not. She wasn’t long for that job, one way or another.

The guy she’d met in the shadows was a ghost writer. He wrote stories for Reader’s Digest, stories your grandma reads on the toilet. They ran into a jazz pianist whom the ghost writer admired. The jazz pianist had fallen onto concrete and broken many bones in his body; he was in a wheelchair now. The ghost writer came up for a hearty handshake, squeezing the bones in the jazz pianist’s hand. The jazz pianist winced but was a good sport about it.

“Guess where I’m from” said the guy standing by the napkins and straws in Starbucks, glowering under the brim of a fisherman’s hat.
She had an idea but didn’t want to risk insulting him; she might guess someplace close by, and neighbors are often enemies.
He said “I’ll give you a hint: It’s the biggest country in the world.”
“Oh, Russia” she said like an A-plus geography pupil.
He spent the next three hours belittling the city where she’d come to live.

At the bar Columbo said “I sell something, and it ain’t marijuana. You don’t hate me, do you?” He knew she wasn’t the type to buy any. He really did want to know if she hated him for it. His eyes were old and milky with cataracts. She could never hate a person like that.

Dan was trying to get to second base during “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” so she suggested they go out dancing and they went to a gay club where she was safe.

Men from many places gave her rides for free. The Serbian pedicab driver asked if she would like a ride; she was walking for exercise but said OK because she liked the pedicab’s blinking lights. They went to breakfast the next day. He kept his face down like a closed lid as he put eggs on his fork. He never called again. “Taps” the Zimbabwean cab driver wanted to keep in touch on Facebook. She was the last customer of the night, and he felt like sitting in the cab in front of her building and talking. He was a neuroscience major and a football player, but when she thought of him she mostly thought: “Zim-bab-we-an, Zim-bab-we-an.” She had never met anyone from there.

The barista who had just come here from Poland wore a palm-tree charm on a chain around her neck.

The crazy homeless guy beside her on the bench pointed at a bayside restaurant and said he had spent part of one evening crawling around inside it.
“Why did you do that?” she asked, feeling like the person in a knock-knock joke who says “Who’s there?”
He looked at her sideways, meaningfully. “Because I was tempting death.”
All around them strolled normal people.
She said “Well, that was a brave thing to do.”

At the private lunchtime radio concert she was attending for the day job, her boss introduced the new girl, Jessica, a sociable and well-dressed blonde, around to all of the important people. “Jessica, I’d like you to meet…” over and over, only Jessica. It was like cheerleaders and nerds all over again.

Dan and George eyed the female options at the open-air Pacific Beach nightclub and talked about what kind of girls they liked. It was as if they had forgotten she was there; she didn’t know whether to feel honored or offended. They spilled their souls: Dan was a butt man, and George was a boobs-and-face man.

Jaliv invited her to come “party” at a hotel with a hot tub in it. Jaliv invited her to go house-hunting with him in Tijuana. She never said yes but she was happy to have him in her life.

After five weeks of not getting paid and more than two months of no checks from the deadbeat renters she had sub-let her apartment to back home, the girl told her boss off in an e-mail and quit. The boss stammered and backpedaled, caught off-guard. Nerds weren’t supposed to do that.

Roan, the young homeless guy who looked like Keanu Reeves playing a homeless guy, wanted to take her to a nude beach. He said she would be a “prize” for any guy to be seen with. He spoke in a dialect of alternative-rock song lyrics and conspiracy theory. His dad was disappointed in him. She tried to imagine a baby Roan, so full of promise, and wondered where it had all gone wrong.

She knew what time the shipment of 79-cent donuts came in at the 7-Eleven on her street because that’s what she could afford to eat.

In the condo where she rented a guest room, she watched Obama get elected on her roommate’s TV. They had both voted for him. For only the second time in their lives, they could feel history happening.

Robert made a show of talking in the proper Arabic dialect to the Iraqi water at the kabob place. Robert said this one word, and the Iraqi waiter got spooked. Robert explained to her that the word meant a kind of evil spirit. The word had no meaning for her so it didn’t scare her.

One night she met a drugged-up kid who followed her around. He seemed harmless so she let him. He saw her check her reflection in a storefront. He said “I don’t like to look at myself.” She asked why not. He said “I don’t like to see the sourness.” He looked into her eyes as if to show her, and she saw it. She saw what he didn’t like to see.

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