Obscured by a Kefir Lime Bush and a Wild Geranium
Wandering the streets with Stephen Steinbrink and Jennifer Williams like a bunch of teenagers.
On the last Wednesday in August I closed the door to my apartment in Oakland and put the key through the mail slot. Buh-bye. It had been a weird, slow departure from the East Bay, a delayed catharsis that felt like awkward time travel.
I talked with my landlord about satin versus matte paint. When we were done I walked down the block to the triangular median strip, a small place where you can sit in a crappy wood chair and smoke weed in peace. For the years I lived in that apartment I only smoked weed in this triangle because our lease said no weed, even once it became legalized. Is that even legal? I guess you can ask your tenants to agree to anything when you’re a landlord in the Bay Area.
I sat in the chair and had a spliff, obscured by a kefir lime bush and a wild geranium.
Then my friend Step picked me up in his Toyota minivan. He honked over and over as he drove down the block. It made me feel infinitely and immediately better. He had also just moved, a far more frustrating and complicated experience than mine. “How are you?” “Way better now.” I took off my shoes.
We drove to meet Jenny at her house, taking the intuitive route from Lake Merritt to the Lower Bottoms. The intuitive route is where you know the general direction but not every turn, but no one turns on their phone map because it’s more fun without it.
At Jenny’s house, she loaned me socks. Her friend was over doing laundry. We all talked about housing. Then we walked to BART to go to a music show in San Francisco. Their buddy from Seattle was playing with a famous band whose fanbase has a lot of teenagers. When we say “teenagers” I think we also mean “people in their early twenties,” because we all know that’s the same thing.
We took BART the opposite direction of rush hour.
We ate burritos at Cancun. Someone wondered, “What were you guys like when you were twenty-one?” We all had to think about it. Jenny explained that the band we were seeing were her buds when she was twenty-one and living in Seattle. “It’s strange to see all these people you knew in a different time, it makes you think about the version of yourself from that time.”
Step told us stories of living in Tempe, of walking through suburban neighborhoods at strange times of the morning, of managing to be in the wrong place at the perfect time.
I told a story about falling off my bike ten years ago and breaking my jaw and some teeth, after eating a veggie burrito at that same Cancun. “I mostly remember being in the bathroom before falling, and thinking the bricks painted on the wall were too red.” After I stood up from the street, I went to see Snakes on a Plane.
The choices of a young person.
Our teenage selves were propelled by a different kind of momentum. It was a perilous blissful youth velocity whose power would push us, if we weren’t careful, outside the boundaries of time or safety or memory. And we often weren’t careful. So we knew this place very well.
We hung our salsa-mouths open in disbelief at the wild, previous versions of each other. How did we require so many stitches?
After we finished our burritos we killed time before the show and walked around the quieter side streets, pointing at the colors and shapes of the best buildings. I kept saying, “I’d live in the Mission if I could live in that one.” True. Two more friends had arrived, one from their job and one from the airport, fresh from Mexico City.
We sat on someone else’s stoop and Jenny and Tristain did a sword game with old dead tree branches. Someone said, “Do you guys feel like you’re 14 years old?” Yes. The aimless walking around with buds, I haven’t done that in years. We almost ordered weed delivery. We saw a perfect storefront window display, a watch repair shop with tiered velvet armatures displaying an impossible collection: bobbleheads of famous jockeys, owl clothespins, a poem about a leprechaun, a computer print-out of a full solar eclipse, and at least four very large dead flies that are real but look fake, flipped comically over on their backs, their little legs in the air.
The Seattle friend band played a very fun set. The venue felt like a mega-church, and with all those young people around we felt like we were at some kind of youth-group concert. We left the show during the famous band’s set because we were tired. We got another taco and a weed delivery and took BART home.–Nicole Lavelle