A security guard peruses the yard of an art gallery. On the corner, I overhear snippets of two conversations: "He didn't want to be crazy," and "I had itching in my fingers." A chocolate lab sits at the wheel in a yellow Volkswagen bug.
Inside is stifling; outside is not much cooler but at least the air moves. Not enough, though, to give any indication of how close the ocean is. In fact, if you could see through the layers of shops and apartments, you would see how close and large the Pacific looms. I raise my face and tilt my nose west but all I smell is orange blossoms. It's spring again in Santa Cruz.
I'm on the porch at a cafe, frustrated because I've come to do work and two smokers have colonized a non-smoking table upwind of me and because the guy with long blonde hair who walks all over town in skin-tight cut-off jean shorts has whispered his way up to my table to offer me a tiny brown jar. Finding him at my elbow, I jump and yelp, "Please leave me alone!" as if fending off the crazies is one of my regular activities and finally I have no more patience for it.
Sometimes I want to start over. Even more often, I wish my name were Penelope.
Even my therapist goes to Caffe Pergolesi. There aren't really any other options, not when the Delmarette is choked with townies and Caffe Bene closes early. At Perg's, at least, you can get a beer or a glass of wine. I'm happy with orange juice. Outside of his office, I almost don't recognize the psychologist. My instinct is to say hello, but - in case he wants to keep a distance between work and pleasure - I keep my mouth shut and try to keep my eyes on the paper in front of me as he trundles down the steps of the old Victorian. I am here, after all, to work.
I must be happy when I finish writing, because I am humming a made-up ditty to myself, something I never do. I keep on in this way for a while, moving through the sloping dusk without words, until I meet a pair of friends for dinner at the Red and pick up the thread of conversation that unites us all - coffee-drinkers, carrot-eaters, teachers, learners, cab drivers, commuters, mommies, daddies, children, reluctant shoppers and shopkeepers - in the city we work so hard to keep weird.