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Distracted by a Distant Man

Another bout of insomnia; the flickering blue light of the television, movies I’d already seen. At two a.m. I remember with a jolt to move the car from the museum lot at the end of the street; signs had proclaimed Saturday would be “Bug Day”, whatever that is. I drive down the hill. Below me the city is half-asleep, the lights of the bridge stretching across the bay. Quiet winding streets, an empty parking lot, the bright glow of the Safeway drawing boys and girls stumbling home from closing time like moths. I squint as I step through the door. The hand basket bouncing against my leg as I circle the store, aisles cluttered with boxes and pallets, the late night stock boys stepping politely aside. I wander the same three aisles in confusion, hopeless before the logic of beverage categories; fruit juice here, soda there, water another aisle over. I stop before the Gatorade, yellow sale signs marking decimated shelves. I had passed here three times. Now I stand, dizzy under the florescence, scanning the color-coded flavors, the quarts and the eight-packs, the confusingly clear fluid of the “Ice” series. Pink label equals Watermelon. Later a half gallon of milk, four pale bananas and a bottle of vitamins. The basket hanging heavy from my hand. At the express lane a skewed microcosm of the city’s youth, everyone here this late is under forty. We crowd around two registers, stunned silence under such brightness. A boy steps away from his group of friends and faces me. But he is not you. To look back at him would be unfair, as nobody in this city could be you, nobody could resemble the handsome monkey contained in my swooning, biased heart. I have forgotten, for an hour or two, that this was the day we were to meet. I have attempted, for once, not to dwell on all things absent from my life. I move to the next register and pay for my meager groceries with a crisp twenty.


Sunday night I tie my shoes. Everyone else is working in the morning so I take myself to a movie. I drive out to a theater near the ocean; the blinking marquee, two screens, a pimpled usher in wrinkled shirt, steaming popcorn spilling from the spinning silver bowl. Twelve of us sit in the dark theater, nuzzling, whispering couples and other solitary souls.

Afterwards I take the long way home along the wide, empty avenues. The night’s unexpected warmth, a passing dog tethered to a shadowed figure, the darkened spires of St. Ignatius pointing to the starred sky. I roll down the windows and play the song, the one that makes you think of me. I sing along off-key, slowly cruising the dark streets, and I don’t know how I can wait any longer. The pinpricks of lights over the hills, a murmuring in bed. The shower’s spray across your back. My hand on your knee in a dark theater. The white walls of a museum and the view I would show you. But I haven’t found the limits of us, and driving home tonight I feel like I could wait forever.

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