She was waving at the camera and not at me, but I dropped the camera and waved back.
I walk down to the post office at around 4:00. The sun is straight out in front of me, sinking toward its sunset. The clouds are parting or they’re just starting to gather and they’re burning yellow, red, orange, or white. I finish at the post office, go back out, and wander off to find someplace to read. I return home after it’s dark. I sit at my desk and start working again. When I notice that it’s late and that I’m still staring at the little laptop screen, I stop and change the desktop to the color that the clouds were at 4:00.
I took a quick peek inside the first studio and — because there was a couple making out in the corner — I passed it by. I wandered into the next studio and immediately came face-to-face with a man wearing a patch over one eye and a monocle in the other. I didn’t stare long enough to judge whether he was kidding, but I suppose there’s a certain logic there. The monocle had dropped from the man’s eye by the time I finished a circuit of the room.
I exited, passing the first studio again. There was a group of three or four socializing just inside and a girl sitting alone in the spot where the couple had been before.
I stopped in the park yesterday afternoon to relax for a moment — to try to relax, and if not that then to ease off some tension before getting back to my desk. A crush walked by. I noticed her too late to wave or to flirt in any way. If she saw me, she saw me staring at the fountain and shivering in the cold, and chose not to interrupt me. I watched the back of her head for a minute and then focused my eyes back on the water.
Today I took another afternoon break in the park. I sat on the hill and read a couple of chapters. I was a little calmer than I’d been yesterday. My neighbor Jessie came up the path with a girl behind him pushing his wheelchair. They stopped near the edge of the park, by the low wall that marks where the reservoir used to be, and the girl turned Jessie around to face away from the sun. Jessie handed his camera to the girl and she took a picture of him. Then they continued up the path, turning around a few more times to pose for and take more pictures. They walked within twenty yards of me. I looked in their direction to nod hello a few times, but didn’t catch their eye.
If I’d written anywhere other than in my head these last weeks, there’d be something here about the park opening across the street. I’d have said something about the hot chocolate at Vivace (not to sweet, nearly perfect). I might have recalled the time that Jon asked me how George Washington managed to win the Revolution and seemed so unconvinced by my answer that I believed for a moment that that war hadn’t been won. I would have mentioned the woman standing in line in front of me who had frowned so often over so many years that her laugh lines had frozen her face into a permanent expression of dissatisfaction.
The engine came on and the boat turned to head back toward the dock in Fremont. The people on deck gathered into smaller groups and started chatting. I stood alone until S. came over and asked me to help her with her camera. The memory card was full and she wanted to free up some room by deleting pictures. She didn’t want to go through each picture one at a time though, she wanted to delete them in small batches.
She gave the camera to me and I started exploring the menus.
“Do you think it would be appropriate to take pictures at the barbecue?” S. asked.
“I’m sure it would be alright,” I answered.
The camera screen said “Delete all? Y/N” and I froze up, afraid to do anything. “It may only be possible to delete them all at once or one at a time,” I told her. “What kind of media card does it use? I can loan you mine.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. I think I have an extra one. I’ll just stop at home to pick it up.”
She asked if I’d met her mother. Her mother had recently moved to Seattle. She has heart problems and had just been in the hospital, but it wasn’t serious. She’d only fallen and had a bruise under one of her eyes.
S.’s mother came over just then and S. introduced us. She explained who I was, and I felt oddly pleased by each of the two or three things she said, though they were all benign.
[When I’d arrived at the dock earlier, there were just a few people waiting outside. I knew one of them, an old coworker. I walked over and said hello. I sat down next to her, and she said, “Remind me what your name is?”]
S.’s mother told us an anecdote about something that had happened earlier in the day.
This story left both S. and I a little perplexed. It wasn’t that it was an especially confusing story, it was just unexpected.
S. hesitated, then something clicked into place in her head and she said, “Oh, mom. Are you talking about The Family Feud? I love you.”
“They say the craziest things on that show.”
“I guess that without Richard Dawson, they have to spice up the show somehow,” I said.
“Richard Dawson. He was kind of creepy, wasn’t he?” S. said. “Always groping contestants,” and she mimed groping as she was saying the word.
[Later, at the barbecue, I was talking to people in the kitchen. Someone asked, “How about that hail earlier?”
“I didn’t see any hail. I guess it missed me.”
Then from behind me, someone said, “Jeffrey? Can you reach the trash from there?”
I turned around. S.’s mother was sitting there at a table holding a paper plate out toward me.
I hesitated, “…Of course.”]
S. and her mom went back into the cabin and I headed to a corner to join two friends.
We were just passing a rusty old tugboat. I pointed it out to them and said, “That’s my boat.”
They stopped talking, looked at the boat and then at me.
“I’m sorry. I interrupted.”
“No. That’s alright. We were wondering where you were. We were only talking about Babies or Marriage or Childbirth.” She said one of those things, I don’t remember which.
Just a few minutes before, we’d watched a friend scatter her husband’s ashes into the water. Five handfuls and then she tipped the tin and shook the last bit out.
The film stopped and the theater lights came on about halfway through the movie. The lights went out again less than a second later and the film resumed its course. I almost didn’t notice it happen.
Afterward, I went out and sat in the car for a minute with the heater going. I drove through Shoreline with a half-fogged up windshield and went straight through a dark traffic light. Then I noticed that the street lights were out and none of the houses were lit.