Tag Archives: life

Growing Up George: Ch. 5 The Kid’s Menu

After the funeral, my uncle Jorge, whom apparently I had been named after, invited me to dinner at Estafano’s, the same spaghetti joint we’d gone to when I was a kid. I followed his Porsche into the city, texting Aunt Matty to meet us there. But I already knew she didn’t have data on her phone.

The waitress sat us in the patio and handed me a kid’s menu along with the regular one. My uncle asked if I’d gotten into the team. I had. He asked if I had a girlfriend. I hadn’t. What my plans were for college. The waitress brought over my scallop appetizers and I ordered tilapia. But suddenly I didn’t feel like eating.

“I’m just concentrating on the day-to-day stuff I got going on, you know. Not falling behind. Staying off drugs, outta gangs, that sort of thing. Takes up a lot of energy.”

“I’m not pressuring you, but I know kids just like you who’ve graduated from that same school who are making over two hundred ‘k’ per year. You just gotta get into the right schools. The right mentality.”

You mean the mentality where you ignore your nephew for years at a time and then try to make up for it with one meal? No birthdays, no Christmas, no nothing. Just be this figure on paper who shows up when his schedule allows him.

“Nah, I pass.”

“George, I’ve looked at your grades. You don’t have to settle. With the right connection, you can get into Princeton or Yale.”

I shook my head violently. “What do you think I wanna be? Some hot shot lawyer?”

My uncle bowed his head down but I didn’t pause. “Since I was twelve I’ve been fixing Tía Matty’s car. In fact I already have a job. That’s my future you’re asking me about. The stars already lined up for me. And you know what, I’m glad you weren’t around to help all these years, cause if you were, I might’ve never learned to do even that. I might be helpless relying on some letter of recommendation from some rich condescending sponsor I’ve only met once or twice. Not unlike yourself.”

I regretted the words darting out of my mouth but not in time to stop myself.

The waitress made her usual round. “Can I get you anything?”

“I WANT MORE LEMONADE!” I slammed my glass on the table not letting my eyes stray from my uncle’s.

He laughed. “I’m sorry, Miss. My nephew’s very passionate about lemonade.”

I turned to look at the waitress, all the blood rushing to my face.

“Oh man. I’m so- I’m so-” I hadn’t stuttered in ages.

“I’ll be right back.” The waitress turned around and left.

“Sorry!” The words finally made it out of my mouth. I stood there looking up at the sky, for what felt like forever, clenching my fists, wondering why the hell God didn’t just put me out of my misery.

Yes, I had made varsity. But now I wasn’t going to have time to work at the shop. I was never going to afford my own car, much less fucking college. My life would start eventually when I’d get a girl- Cindy- pregnant and her parents would force her to marry me. Then I’d be working 12 or 16 hour days, come home, yell at her “where’s my dinner,” have a couple beers and be too tired to have sex. She’d yell at me for never helping with the kids- we’d have five or six by then- and I’d turn the volume up on the soccer game on T.V. Pure bliss.

I sat back down and put my head into my arms. “At least I’ll be there. They’ll see me and know what I look like. They’ll ask me stupid questions like how come birds fly and what happens to light after you turn the switch off. I’ll make up the best answers any dad’s ever come up with. I’ll be a good dad. And when they go off to college I’ll take my wife to Europe and all that shit. And no stranger’s gonna come patronize them, cause they’ll be my kids, not yours or welfare’s or no one else’s.”

My uncle put his arm on my shoulder and didn’t say anything. I just sat there, head down, overcome by something utterly silent and much more powerful than me, not unlike tears.

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Growing Up George: Ch. 4 The Funeral

“So, you’re seriously not going to the funeral?” I asked my aunt as she tried for the third time to fix the tie around my neck.

“I told you. I haven’t decided yet.”

“Well it’s in half an hour. So now might be a good time to decide.” She pulled the knot really tight around my neck, turned around and walked out the room. Grandma rushed to my rescue. She pulled the whole thing off and then walked me through the steps one by one.

“Así, ira, así…” Like this, look, like this. I looked in the mirror and she complemented my looks. “Ira no más que guapo.” Then she pulled the whole tie off again and made me do it myself.

The funeral I was going to was that of Tío Ben’s, my dad’s brother. I don’t remember ever meeting the guy. Supposedly I did for a few months when I was a baby. What happened after that, I’m sketchy on the details. I guess no one wanted to see me after my parents died.

“Tía Matty, I’m gonna get a ride from Tío Jorge so if you wanna show up later you can take the car.”

She yelled back from the kitchen. “Oh really? I can use my own car? That’s so nice of you George. Thank you for letting me use my own car.”

“Dude, that’s not what I meant.” A rubber chancla flew by my head.

“Pendejo, no voy a ir.” Dumbass, I’m not going. “And I’ve told you a thousand times not to call me dude.”

“Well I don’t like being called ‘pendejo.'”

“Did I ask you what you like?”

I rolled my eyes and ducked. I knew she swatted at me every time I rolled my eyes at her. “I’m just gonna wait for Tío Jorge outside.”

“Go do that.”

I waited by the curb so the Navigator wouldn’t push a cloud of dust all over me coming down the dirt driveway. I must have been standing there like fifteen minutes. Should I text him? Should I call because he’s probably driving? But then I’d have to talk to him and I didn’t know what to say. I looked at my phone. Ten minutes til. Zero messages. What’s the point of even going or trying to get to know my other side of the family if I was obviously not that important to them? I texted, “Hey, you coming for me?” but was deliberating on whether or not to hit send when my aunt’s station wagon covered me in a cloud of dust speeding down the driveway.

“Hey, I just came out here to tell you your uncle’s running late.”

“You couldn’t walk or call me?”

“I brought you the car menso.”

“I don’t even know if I wanna go anymore.”

“Listen, George,” she said getting out of the car, “I know there’s a lot of things I haven’t been able to explain to you over the years, a lot of gaps in your life I haven’t been able to fill. You didn’t have the childhood you were supposed to have and there’s been a lot of important people missing. But I did not pay for that suit rental just to have you skip out on that funeral.” She shoved me into the driver’s seat and slammed the door.

The church was on the classier side of the barrio. There was a police car there. A black Porsche. A green El Camino and a pick-up truck with a landscaping logo on it. I guess turn out wasn’t amazing. I wondered if my uncle Jorge was showing up or not. Maybe he hadn’t found the right suit to rent. Yeah, right.

But he was already in there, waiting for me. He fixed my tie and walked down to the front with me, saying “Sorry I didn’t pick you up. I had to stop by my client’s- it was an emergency-”

“Ah don’t sweat it, I’m here ain’t I?”

“These are your other uncles, Freddy and Manolo. Their wives and daughters.”

“Mucho gusto.” Pleased to meet you.

“How are we related?” I whispered in uncle Jorge’s ear.

“My grandmother had a son from her first marriage, your Tío Juan Miguel, who married a woman who was already the mother of Freddy at the time, and Manolo is his first cousin.”

“Sorry I asked.”

“Yeah, me too.”

There was another man I was not introduced to who wouldn’t stop staring at me. There was a cop sitting next to him. “Who’s that?” I whispered.

“The cop?”

“No, the other guy.”

“That’s your uncle Pablo.”

“Distant or blood related?”

“He’s my brother.”

There was an open casket and I went to pay my respects before the mass started. The guy was about fifty, though the pamphlet on the podium next to the casket placed him at thirty-seven. He had large eyes, I could tell, though they were closed. A skinny face and broad shoulders, kinda short, but a medium build. Black hair with silver streaks and a scar down the left side of his forehead. They had dressed him in a black shirt, ivory suit and gold tie. The dress shoes looked brand new. He emanated anger. At least that’s what it felt like to me. So much for rest in peace.

The pamphlet talked about how he’d graduated from Potato Falls High (that was my school), been engaged and had a son. Outlived by a son and two brothers. He was “friendly and charismatic, left a lasting impression on all who met him.” Well he hadn’t left one on me, that’s for sure. Lifetime: 1975-2012.

I looked around the people in the church. Some neighbors had trickled in and were kneeling, toward the back rows. Probably just religious folk who came there every day to pray for those of us who don’t. No kids though. Apparently, my uncle Ben didn’t leave a lasting impression on his son, either.

Growing Up George: Ch. 3 The Navigator

When I was seven, I remember a strange man came to pick me up from school once. He was wearing a gray suit with a red striped tie. We had parent-teacher conferences that week and I was supposed to get out early. He had a stubble beard and the librarian looked for me to tell me my uncle was there to get me.

I didn’t know I had an uncle. But if I did, I didn’t want to ruin my one chance to meet him by saying I didn’t have none. So I just asked what his name was. And I forgot what the first name was but I remember our last names were the same.

He had a really nice black ride, shiny like a mirror, with automatic windows and leather seats. It still smelled new. Back then I was barely getting into all that so I want to say it was a BMW but not a hundred percent sure. It was like an M3 Coupe and it was playing real loud Santana. I think he said his name was Jesús or José or Juan. It started with a “J.”

He asked what my favorite food was and took me to the best spaghetti joint in town. I ordered like three desserts that day- everything Aunt Matty couldn’t afford for me. He asked me if I was happy living with my tía, if I had my own bedroom, when was the last time we went shopping for clothes… pretty personal stuff, now that I think about it.

I didn’t have my own bedroom at the time because my grandma had come to visit for six months from Mexico, but I didn’t want to get my aunt in trouble, so I just told my “uncle” everything was as good as it gets. I told him I had my own bike (that was true) and we were setting up a game room with a 120″ television and a Play Station.

“You know how to swim?” he asked over a tall glass of beer.

“Yeah I took classes last year and this year we’re gonna build our own pool. With a water slide. We have a big yard, you know? It’s bigger than the kinder playground at school. I think we’ll get a trampoline too.”

He told me to order something else. Whatever I wanted. I wanted to order something for Aunt Matty but couldn’t decide whether I should lie and tell him it was for me and then give it to her. I didn’t want to order for my grandma though cause she was mean and would’ve just said she didn’t like it. Probably would have fed it to our dog Sancho, and he was fat enough.

(Sancho was an old dog we used to have. He had short brown fur on the bottom with black on top. We had him since before I was born but he died when I was twelve. Now Aunt Matty says she can’t afford to get a new dog).

So this man in the suit, he drove me home without asking me any other questions, not even my address. When we arrived, he parked on the street and asked if I had any questions for him.

I asked him for help on my math project but he admitted he sucked at math. He asked if my aunt was home and said he’d get out to see her.

I ran up the long dirt path to the front door to try to warn Aunt Matty that this really nice impostor was invading her territory. But she was already standing at the doorway when I got there.

Tía there’s a man here. He says he’s my uncle. He gave me spaghetti but he sucks at math. Do you know him?”

She hit me on the head with the weekly coupons newsletter and told me to get inside and stop asking so many questions. I hid under the desk behind a chair so I could listen in.

“Matilde. I brought you Strawberry Crepes. Are they still your favorite?” the man asked as he came up the porch. My aunt took the bag he handed her.

“NO. What are you doing here?”

“You told me to cover the conference for you.”

“It was just the conference, Menso. Why you gotta go taking the boy from me?”

“We just had lunch. That’s all. He’s home now.”

There was a long silence after that and I really wished I could see from under the desk.

“Well won’t you come in?”

The man sat on the sofa and my aunt pulled out the chair from under the desk. I covered my head with both my arms, expecting the worst.

Ah que chinga-” My aunt stopped mid cursing and turned to look at the man, rolling her eyes. “Very funny George. Get outta there. We’re trying to have an adult conversation here. Go to your room.”

She meant Grandma’s room. I obeyed. Grandma was sitting in my old bed reading a book. I told her in broken Spanish there was a strange man visiting and she went out to check up on it. I crawled out the window, went around the house, and crept under the living room window. The three of them were arguing in Spanish. Something about the boy- whom I assumed was me- and not having a father. Something about money. Grandma was cursing and someone shut the window.

A little while later, I watched from behind the corn patch as the man drove off in his shiny black car.

I don’t remember ever seeing him again until nine years later, after soccer tryouts. He was leaning against the fence, drinking a Gatorade like one of the coaches. Same stubble face. Same red tie/ gray suit. I wondered how long he’d been standing there, if he was going to say anything or if I should just walk past him and pretend I didn’t know him.

Well, a good lunch was a good lunch and I’m pretty sure I never thanked him back in the day so I directly approached him. “Hey man, what’s going on? My aunt call you?”

“George Ballesteros. You remember me.”

I did a 180°. Pointed at the back of my jersey.

“George Lara. My bad. Hey listen I’ve got meetings all day and have to run but there’s an issue I need to tell you about and I was writing you a letter but figured you’d think I was a coward if I didn’t deliver the news in person.”

The field was clearing out. Everyone was heading back to the locker room. The head coach yelled out he’d post the list on the gym door the next day.

My “uncle” handed me a Gatorade.

“Hey man, no offense, I don’t even know who you are. You took me to lunch way back when. Thanks for that. But as far as I know, you’re a distant relative. My aunt wasn’t happy to see you last time either. She won’t be happy if she knows you came out here today.”

“I understand.” The man pulled out his phone and checked the calendar. “A ‘distant relative’ has passed away and I think you ought to go to the funeral.”

“Who was he?”

“My brother.”

“Who are you?”

“I gotta run. I’ll call your aunt with the details. I’ll leave her a message. She never picks up.”

“Wait up, wait up, just call me.” I had managed to afford one of those prepaid smart phones from helping neighbors clean out their yards all summer.

The man stalled. “I legally have to run this by your aunt. But yeah give me your number and I’ll text you the details.”

As he saved my contact to his phone, walking backwards toward the parking lot, his SUV beeped open. Shiny black Navigator. But what was that prep’s name?

 

 

 

 

 

Growing Up George: Ch. 2 Cilantro Seeds

You ever get the feeling you’re capable of more than people give you credit for? It’s like I always surprised people that I could read and write.

And then there’s the opposite. People giving me too much credit because they expected a lot outta me. They expected me- little George from the Barrio- to grow up and become Cesar Chavez and then president and come back, repave the alleys and build a bridge to paradise. And I couldn’t even figure out who my dad was. Much less, college scholarships.

Not that I was even trying. Not for the scholarships, anyways.

My auto shop teacher knew a guy and I was going to start working there twelve, maybe sixteen hours per week. Help my aunt with the bills. Get a decent phone. Maybe buy my own ride. Eventually get a girlfriend. Girls didn’t want to ride bikes by that age. It’s like they grew up too fast and that killed part of the magic. But you couldn’t date a freshman cause then you knew eventually you’d break up cause you’d be 18 and she’d be like 15 or 16.

But if you had a nice ride, then you couldn’t lose. You’d get a girl your own age and if you really liked her you could get really down with her in the car. But then if it didn’t work out, eventually she’d go to college or move closer to the city and you wouldn’t even have to break her heart. That’s what the guys on the varsity team said.

I was going to try out for varsity soccer that year but I wanted the job more than the extracurricular credits.

I guess what I wanted was the girls. Or maybe just one girl.

Cindy Nuñez had moved to the other side of the neighborhood along with her seven brothers and sisters back when we had started middle school. She didn’t speak English back then but she didn’t have to say much to get to know her. It didn’t take her long to fit in or become popular because she was so sweet. Her straight long brown hair just barely covered her bare waistline when she’d wave at you and then turn around hurrying off somewhere. I had been studying her summer schedule and figured out she always went grocery shopping with her oldest sister on Wednesday mornings.

So the following Wednesday, I asked my aunt Matty if she needed anything from the store.

“I just went Monday.”

I was afraid she’d say something like that so I had drank half the milk and orange juice the night before, and poured the other half down the drain.

“Yeah but we’re outta milk.” I opened the fridge. “Looks like we’re outta o.j. too.”

“Already? Jeez Louise, are you training to become a wrestler? You’re already tall enough. Stop drinking so much milk.”

I was really only like four inches taller than Aunt Matty, which wasn’t saying much.

“I was thirsty.”

“Alright alright, that’s not how I meant it. Here, get me cilantro seeds.” Aunt Matty handed me a ten dollar bill.

“That’s alright, Tía. This one’s on me.” I had been weeding out my neighbor’s yard and had about twenty dollars on me. I reached for the car keys by the door.

“What are you gonna take the car for? It’ll fit fine on your bike.”

I clenched my mouth and looked up at the ceiling with my eyes closed. Took a deep sigh.

“I did some work on your car last night and want to see if it’s running good,” and I shot out the door.

“Mentiroso!” she yelled behind me, liar, and I heard one of her rubber chanclas that she wore hit the door, but I was already backing out of the driveway in a cloud of dirt.

I scanned the grocery store parking lot and saw Cindy’s sister’s Corolla there under a magnolia tree. Checked myself in the mirror. My hair was too long and bushy, beyond the help of gel. I slapped on my Pirate’s cap and glided inside. I had to extend my two minute trip inside to be long enough to bump into her.

Luckily, she was in line at the register reading tabloid headlines when I walked in. Everything else seemed to fade in her presence. Sounds became faint and echoed, like when you’re under water. She was wearing her hair in a bun and had a strappy red camisole on. If I said her name, she’d turn around and smile, and I’d have enough to live on for another week. But then she might expect me to say something back to her, and I wasn’t prepared for that.

She must have felt someone staring at her because she looked up and our eyes met. I felt the soles of my shoes melting into the floor. She waved.

“Hey George. Are you trying our for varsity this year? I just got an email saying the girls’ tryouts are tomorrow and Friday.”

“Uh. Yeah. Of course.”

Because, duh, the girls’ soccer players always went to the guys’ games and vice versa and Cindy had played defense the year before. How could I have forgotten that minor detail?

“Good luck!” she went on, “Hopefully I’ll see you around then.”

“Looking forward to it.” Well, that was stupid. What a loser thing to say. ‘Looking forward to it.’ The words resounded in my head for like the next forty-eight hours. Cindy had just giggled and held up a magazine that said someone important had broken up with someone less important. I shrugged and went on my way.

‘Looking forward to it.’ Man was that stupid.

 

Growing Up George: Ch. 1 The Headline

“George. George. My car’s making that sound again.”

Now I love my Aunt Matty but 6AM on a Sunday???

“Can you check it before I go to church?”

I rolled over and covered my head with my pillow.

“Were you going to go with me today, George? George? I know you’re awake.”

“No I’m not.”

“Come have breakfast.”

Aunt Matty, at her forty years of age, was full of energy, but her long silver hair made some ask if she was my grandma. She took me in after my parents died, though I’ve always been somewhat unclear on the details. She never really had boyfriends, and sometimes she openly told me she hated men, so she was gonna try to keep me a boy for as long as possible.

However there are some things that at sixteen a boy just cannot ask his aunt and at breakfast that morning I found myself cautiously trying climb up my family tree.

“Didn’t Dad have no brothers?”

“Whadd’ya wanna go knowin’ that for?”

“It’s just you never talk about it.”

“They’re all dead.”

“How many were there?”

“Three.”

“Including Dad?”

“Look George. I could lie and tell you your dad was an air force pilot and he died for all our freedoms and all that romantic crap. That ain’t what happened. You ever seen any uncles pull up to our house in their Bentleys looking for their long lost nephew?”

“Well, no- I just-”

“Then you don’t have none.”

“Well they ain’t gotta be rich. I could use a regular one just the same.”

“As far as you’re concerned, I’m your dad and your uncles and your ma all rolled into one.”

“That’s fine Aunt Matty. I didn’t mean to-”

“You going to church?”

This woman thinks I’m the Flash expecting me to fix her car and clean up in time for the 9 AM service. “I’ll try to make the afternoon service.”

That afternoon, I ended up at the library. I hadn’t been able to fix her car and I resorted to YouTube. Did I mention we didn’t have internet at home? Well we didn’t. My aunt said it would have disturbed the spirit of peace in our house but looking back I think we just couldn’t afford it. That’s the thing about growing up poor. A lot of times you don’t know you’re poor unless other kids point it out, and I wasn’t the type to openly share that information.

So there I was, looking at “car videos” when I stumble upon the city’s newspaper site. Main headline: “Parole Panel Delays Decision in Ballesteros Murder Case.” I didn’t care much for criminal law. But my last name was Ballesteros. At least it had been, originally, back in grade school. Then my aunt had it legally changed because the other kids were making weird comments like “Don’t mess with George, he’ll have you sniped,” and “You know where my brother can buy stardust?” Things that suddenly made sense upon reading the article, because this Ballesteros, whoever he was, had given my father and uncles a bad name.

Still, I thought if I could talk to him, maybe he’d have the answers my aunt didn’t want to give me.

Too Charming for Myself

Last time the a/c technician came to the office, he kind of asked me for my phone number and i kind of said No.
Today he is here again and i think i made him cry.
I told him no one told me he was coming.
It is unnerving for a guy to just show up and want to come in, and i think he got sad.
I just passed him down the hall and gave him my best fake smile i have to offer.
Charmed, no doubt.

This morning i went to do ministry work which is done this way in my congregation:
Whoever is a member of that congregation or an active member of another congregation can meet at a set time at our hall.
In our hall it is only in the mornings and since i work most mornings and oversleep the other mornings, (without mentioning the mornings on which i do both), i tend to only make my own arrangements and go out in the evenings.
But i try to show up Fridays and Saturdays to the group meetings when i can.
Today only one brother was going out in the ministry.
He is a Vietnam Vet and has a lot of stories.
(We don’t go to war but that was before he studied the Bible).
He is retired and married but his wife died twice and the paramedics brought her back to life.
(“Oh Well,” he says).
Now she is overweight and can’t really walk anymore, so he is always alone or with this single younger brother who is a little socially awkward, but i’ll leave his stories for another day.
So this brother is from Central America and he’s always contrasting his childhood on a coffee farm with the time he spent in trenches in Vietnam.
Later in life he had other jobs, the last of which was a lawyer.
Today we were speaking with a genuine hippie, the kind you only find in Ojai, Seattle or Oregon.
Mr. Hippie owns a big property (big by California standards) and feeds wild animals from scraps he finds in the neighbors’ trash bins.
He bathes in the creek or ocean with his clothes on.
(Thank God).
I’m pretty sure he was stoned the whole time we were talking to him.
You see, people round here are not that nice.
But he invited us to take a seat and the brother i was with was telling him his war stories while a woman who rents a room on the property overheard and was visibly disgusted.
That is the problem with people round here.
No one wants to hear the truth.
They just want to paint butterflies on their walls and build water fountains out of rocks they find in their neighbor’s driveway.
Still, despite his probably being stoned, we had a good conversation about making conscientious use of the earth’s natural resources.
He pretty much thinks everything humans do is damaging and we are bound to destroy ourselves.
I tried to read him a couple verses from the Bible about the future but if you are a woman, perhaps you can relate to the following:
There is a point when a woman is having a conversation with a man when you know he is dismissing your opinions as not having any serious weight to them because he is seeing you as a sex object.
Confirmation of this suspicion came when he proceeded to ask me my age.
What the hell, you go talk to people about God and stuff and guy just wants to know if you’re young enough to bear his offspring.
Of course i only put two and two together because he held his gaze for too long.
I was uncomfortable but the brother i was with didn’t seem to notice and kept sharing war anecdotes.
I don’t mind that the brother strays off topic because i wonder what his mind would be like if he didn’t have anyone to share his traumas with.
He could be one of those homeless guys who heckle my friend and me at the park.
Vets have been through a lot and though i am opposed to war, they do not get the social help they need- that is more than obvious.

I am still adjusting to the local small town artsy culture there is here.
I still haven’t decided if i have any friends yet.
One sister whom i spend a lot of time with and yeah, she’s pretty cool, kind of keeps hinting that she wants to see my twitter account but i don’t think our relationship is there yet.
At least i’m not.
(My account is public but i dunno. It’s a big step).
There is a sister who i was getting along great with but last time i saw her she kind of got on my case about not meeting in the mornings and i am the kind of person that usually doesn’t reply… but the more i think about it, the more i wish i had said, “Uhm some of us have to work.” and possibly even be more insulting because she lives off a trust her husband has and he is a little bit disabled, and she doesn’t work because she has asthma.
I have asthma too but i work.
So it is just irritating when people pressure you to do more and you already feel like you’re doing the best you can and instead of asking how they can support you, they focus on what you can’t do.
Don’t get me wrong, i love everybody, at least in theory.
But when things like that happen i don’t have anyone that i can talk to about it because i am supposed to be this model minister who gives discreet answers to stoned hippies and doesn’t tell off the homeless guys who heckle her at the park, she doesn’t tell people to mind their own business when they ask about her personal schedule and she doesn’t talk about her bouts of depression because she is supposed to be always happy and smiling and encouraging and God i hate everyone, i swear everything i do is all out of love to God and no one else.

The Hungry Commuter

On a very hungry day of the week, my friend CM was driving home from work on the northbound freeway between Goleta and Buellton when she was passed by a California Highway Patrol car at the precise moment she happened to be biting into a burger.
He pulled into the lane behind her and switched on his siren lights.
She safely stored the burger in front of the speedometer until she found a decent spot to pull over.
The officer stepped up to her window and asked, “Ma’am, do you know how fast you were going?”
CM glanced under her dashboard.
“Well, no… I couldn’t tell because the burger was covering the numbers…”
The officer told her he was going to have to write her a ticket and went back to his car.
Just then a strong ocean breeze came upon them and swept one of her food wrappers out the window.
She watched in despair through the rear view mirror as the wrapper stopped every few seconds only to then roll away some more.
Not only was she facing a speeding fine, but now, if the officer saw the wrapper, she would also be facing something like a $400 littering fine.
The implications were overwhelming.
Should she risk endangering her life by stepping out of her car next to the busy freeway traffic just to pick up a silly wrapper?
Would the officer think she was going to attack him?
Should she pretend nothing had happened and pray the officer didn’t notice the wrapper rolling by?
As the officer stepped back up to CM’s window to hand her the ticket, she saw the wrapper lodge itself behind a prickly plant.
The officer asked if there was anything else she wished to tell him.
“Well yes…” she said, “Would you mind handing me that wrapper that just flew out of my car?”
“Where is it?”
“Behind us, lodged in that prickly plant.”
“That one there?”
“Yes.”
“Ok.”
So he handed her the wrapper and sent her on her way, with clear instructions not to put burgers in front of her speedometer in the future.

Someday

The last time Rita saw Theo, he was at a red light about to make a right turn onto a busy speedway that led straight into the city.
If it hadn’t been for that damn zigzagging biker, she wouldn’t have honked her horn.
He wouldn’t have turned towards her.
Their eyes wouldn’t have met one last time.
He shrugged and blushed.
She threw her hair back and laughed, shaking her head at him with a twinkle in her eye.
He waved, made the turn, and that was that.
Of course, there’s always that instinct…
That human survival skill that kicks in around your mid-thirties that makes you want to seize whatever opportunity you have left in life because it may not come around a second time.
She fought the urge to follow him.
Besides, she was in the wrong lane.
She drove forward towards her grandparents’ beach ranch.
One intersection.
No U-turn.
Two intersections.
No U-turn.
Three intersections.
She was going for it.
‘It’s now or never,’ she thought.
Never mind the milk in her trunk that would probably spoil.
Never mind her niece she was supposed to pick up from school. She knew the way home. She was old enough to walk.
She would make a U-turn at the next intersection, just past the railroad tracks.
Then she heard the train coming.
She slipped her heel off her right foot and jammed down on the accelerator.
She passed the tracks nice and clear before the rail started to come down.
She made the U-turn and then- No.
It was too late.
The silver late-model railcars reflected the intense summer sun one by one.
Beyond the glare she imagined happy couples falling in love at first sight and dining together for the first time.
By the time they got to their destinations, they would have exchanged addresses and they’d send each other post cards until they were ready to move in together.
50 years from now they’d be celebrating the anniversary of the date they met on this very train.
Rita clenched her teeth and lay her head on the steering wheel.
What was this, the 300th car? 400th? She’d lost count after seven.
Finally, the rail started going up and she didn’t know whether to try to find Theo’s car, who by now was probably a good five minutes ahead of her, or to turn back around and go to the ranch.
“Ah, what the hell,” she said to herself. “What do I have to lose?”
But the rail came back down again.
She rolled her eyes in despair.
Was the train going to go in reverse?
Yes, the train was going to go in reverse and switch tracks.
Ludicrous engineers.
How dare they.
But it was a momentary false alarm, and the train went forward again on its way.
Rita wouldn’t have known that, having made another U-turn and taken a back alley over to the speedway.
She thought Theo would be at his brother’s house and took that exit.
She wove between faster cars down the boulevard, looking for his car, which he would have to have parked out on the street.
She went around the neighborhood three times, unable to recognize the house.
“Perhaps they painted it? Added a second story?”
She hadn’t been there in five years.
Finally, she gave up and pulled over at a gas station.
She thought she saw Theo’s car, but there was a young woman driving it.
Up until then it had never occurred to her that Theo might have moved on.
The notion had been there- the fear– but not the belief.
After all, why should he move on, if here she was daydreaming about him after all these years?
Her imagination had been enough to fuel her affection, so why shouldn’t he feel the same way?
Suddenly, it all made sense.
Why he’d stopped texting her all of a sudden.
Why he’d been so curt every time they happened to run into each other.
Of course.
He’d moved on long ago.
How could she be so dumb?
It was there before her eyes all along.
She didn’t finish filling her tank and went home.
The truth is, it wasn’t Theo’s car at the gas station that day.
Theo had been headed into the city, but after he got on the speedway, he got off at the first exit and came back around toward where he’d seen Rita.
In fact, he would have seen her were it not for a passenger train blocking his view.
When the rail finally lifted, what with the sun in his eyes and the eagerness to pull out of there, he didn’t see Rita turning her car around and Rita sure as hell didn’t see him.
He went to her grandparents’ ranch, didn’t see her car there and waited half an hour for her to show up.
A little girl passed by the gate.
“Is Rita around?”
“Aunt Rita?” said the girl. “She was supposed to pick me up. Something real important musta come up.”
“Will you tell her…”
“Huh?”
Theo saw he was making the young girl nervous.
“Never mind. Thanks.”
He drove off back into the city, where he made a decent living and lots of friends over the next couple of decades, letting time roll down his back.
Rita found the strength to move on too.
She married a real nice man whom she gets a real nice alimony check from every month, which kind of sort of makes up a little for his real nice new wife that’s taken her place.
But no one’s taken Theo’s place.
If they’re not so knuckleheaded, perhaps they’ll find that out someday.

Equals Mortified 

Idk why i feel like i need to explain this right right now of all times.
I sometimes remember- i should explain this!
And then i forget.

Many many years ago, when the internet was AOL, i used the = sign invariably to represent eyes, the way people today use the : sign.
Some of you may remember that once famous show “equals 3” as in “=3”.
WELL i always thought it was a cat, you know, with the eyes and the chubby cheeks…?
I used to sign my emails that way.
Then one day, not sure why, my husband saw it and said, Why are you typing penis?
Me: What do you mean?
Him: That emoticon. It’s a penis.
Me: No it’s not. It’s a cat. You know, like the YouTube show. Equals Cat.
Him: *tilts head* Yeah i guess in a really innocent person’s mind that could be a cat but on the show, it’s a penis.

Thus i came to find out i had been signing my emails “Have a great day! Penis, Ave.”

Why I’ll Start Writing Again

Whoa, I just read what I wrote almost a year ago– That’s some dark stuff there.

I didn’t remember having written that, but looking back I understand what was going on.

That’s the power of blogging.

Well the old me is back, the real me, the one who uses a pseudo-pseudonym and wants to write 24/7, even when I’m dreaming.

The truth is I never really stopped writing; it was just very dark and lonely and unsuitable for this blog’s audience.

So it was on Tumblr.

Naturally.

I don’t want to go into details about the past, but my marriage is as good as it’ll ever be.

I am less interdependent so if that relationship goes down I think I might skip a beat but probably not 2 and definitely not 3.

Now I no longer commute for work. My boss got me an office a few blocks from my home, so I could concentrate on sales, and I no longer have to wait for coworkers to leave the room before I can write.

I’m all alone here, just me and the Internetz.

And the phone. That rings every now and then but I’m not sure how it works. I think it’s trying to tell me something.

Oh! My faithful subscribers. How I’ve missed thee. If only you could know the anguish our separation has wretched me with. I shalt never leave thee again!

Unless I die. In which case, leaving thee is entirely involuntary and should not be held against me.

Unless it’s suicide.

If I kill myself you can be mad at me. But not if it’s accidental, like an overdose. Stuff loses its strength over time. They don’t make it like they used to.

Anyway, let me tell you what my office is like.

It is on the second story behind an art gallery which sells weird ethnic art, like the African pieces my boss had at his office. I imagine that subconsciously it largely influenced his decision to choose this location.

There is a winery next next door and the mother of the owners is a new friend of mine from my church. My friend also owns the vineyard so in a way it makes me feel special somehow even though it has little to do with me.

In my office, there is a tiny window out of which one can view happy little people- “kids” i think they are called- playing in a park-like setting, around a beautiful fountain surrounded by red and yellow sycamore trees.

The window has bars over it in the old Spanish style and is a small reminder that whilst i am at work, i am to think of myself as a prisoner and partake in none of those joys which i may observe below.

My one point of social interaction is when i walk to the post office every day, or when i get lucky, the FedEx drop off.

The clerks at the post office know me now and they are like 100 times nicer than the ones in DOWNTOWN SANTA BARBARA- yes, I HOPE YOU ARE READING THIS you mean clerk who made shipping packages from there a living hell.

(Just that one clerk though- all the other ones were nice, especially Daniel and Michael. I think they are vets). (War vets not animal vets otherwise their career counselors should have told them).

Everyday the bell at the post office tower chimes out a song. Lately it’s been a lot of Christmas music, which some of us find tastefully offensive. But mostly it’s old American classics, the same kind that used to play in my 65 Mustang’s AM radio.

My office kind of has more space than i need and no walls. My boss let me have his old glass desk so i need to rearrange the computer stuff onto that but i’ve been meaning to do it for 6 weeks now and i just can’t seem to bring myself to do it.

I have what they call lazyphoria.

The office is very cold but it has a brand new climate system which no one knows how to program for heating, only for cooling.

Sometimes i bring my guitar but i can’t play very loud because i’m afraid the other tenants will hear me and ask me to perform for them. Then my boss might find out i’m using the office for concertos and then he’d want to get me a bigger office. But i like this one just fine.

There is a skylight on the ceiling.

Well duh, it’s not like there would be a skylight on the floor… *clears throat*

I guess that counts as a window too. I can see some form of rusty pipe and sometimes clouds, but today the sky is blue- like a tepid sky-blue.

Once, down the hall, the hatch to the roof was open and I climbed the ladder because no one was around and the hatch was open, beckoning for someone to climb up through it. There were only more pipes and roof gravel.

Downer down the hall there are a couple of architects who mostly just look stuck up but are actually quite decent, i imagine, and a married couple who are masseuses, (am i saying that right?) and they are just about the nicest people one could ever meet.

Downstairs there is the shared girls’ room, which ought to have but does not have a mirror, because i assume the other tenants are too ugly an no one wants to remind them of that.

Someone is building a tapas bar so i have that to look forward to.

Perhaps then i shall make a friend or two.

But knowing me, i’ll probably just observe them and then write about them.

So now you have something to look forward to too!