"Buckle my shoe..."
"It's only five days, I'll be back before you know it. And it's my father's birthday, I haven't seen him since I moved out here, it's been almost a year."
"Are you going to tell him about me? About us?"
"Probably. It depends. I'll see how it goes."
"I wouldn't blame you if you didn't. But you do what you think is best..."
"I've had boyfriends before, you know."
It's been two days since I saw her off, staring at her through the goodbye window of the Greyhound bus as it pulled out of the 13th Street station, watching it wiggle into the early morning traffic, Southbound to 94, then head for Interstate 8. I got on the next local for Coronado and sat in the last seat in the back, put my head back and closed my eyes, trying to reckon where I was by the turns the bus was making. There weren't many stops between the depot and the bridge out of San Diego that spanned the entrance to the harbor, tall enough for the Navy ships to pass under it, tall enough to offer a view of the entire island when you crested the midway point and start down the long, curved decline. I felt sick to my stomach and the whining of the bus engine and the heat from the mid-morning light coming through the back window was making it worse. I got up and walked to the front and told the driver to let me off at Avenue D, which was met with a protest that it wasn't one of the regular stops, but I persuaded him it would be better to let me off there then have to clean up six or seven cups of regurgitated coffee from the floor of his bus and his better sense prevailed. He pulled over just past the light and I swung out the door and waved thanks over my shoulder and he pulled away and left me standing in a cloud of exhaust that was the final catalyst... I bent over and relieved my stomach of a morning's worth of coffee and angst and missing her. A well dressed young woman and an old man, her father, perhaps, stared and watched me from across the intersection, shaking their heads and exchanging words between themselves, probably thought I was coming home from an all night drunk. I wiped my mouth with my sleeve and stared back at them and tried to smile, but another wave hit me and what little that was left in my gut came rushing out and I made a sound that was not unlike a wounded seal announcing ruin and they hurried away and didn't look back.
I sat down on the corner of someones lawn. I knew the house, but not the people who lived there. It was a tidy little Spanish style bungalow, cream color with a faded Terra cotta tiled roof. I passed it every once in a while on my trek from the place where I rented a room a few blocks from where I sat, passed it on my way to the West side of the island, passed it on my way to the cafe and to her. I rolled over to my hands and knees and pulled myself up to some semblance of standing and trudged East toward my place. I needed to check for mail and get some clothes and supplies for the days I'd be spending at her place over the cafe. This was not good. No, not good at all. We'd been together, seriously together, for only a few months, but this was the first time I'd watched her go away...
"Well, asshole," I said out loud to myself, "You've done it again, haven't you? This wasn't supposed to be a repeat of that last one back in New Jersey, but it is, and do you think she's as upset as you are right now? Probably not. You asshole."
It's just twilight now and I'm sitting on her back porch, over the back of the cafe, staring into the growing glow of the city across the bay, smoking another cigarette and drinking some awful white wine that tastes like bad cheese and smells like the inside of a work boot. But it's doing the job. I may have to get a bottle of Scotch tomorrow or the next day, I think I'll need it when she gets home. I have no idea how I'm going to react when I see her. Maybe I should just leave a note for her on the kitchen table and just fade away. I can play the coward. I've done it before. Just make a clean break of it without having to face her. Or myself. Or, I can spend the next few days sitting here, booze soaked and wait it out, I guess.
I jumped up out of my chair and almost fell over the railing. It was Jake from the cafe.
"Jesus, man, you scared the crap out of me. I didn't even hear you come up the stairs."
"Sorry. I wasn't sure you were here, but now that you are, I talked to Karen a little while ago. She said to see if you were here and if you were, to tell you she said "hi" and to make sure you were OK. She sounded worried about you."
"I'm fine, thanks. If she calls again, tell her I'm fine."
"OK. Gotta finish closing up. You want some coffee? Or some food? I got some stuff left over, you can come down and get some food."
"I'm good. Thanks, though. Maybe I'll stop in for breakfast tomorrow."
"OK. Have a good one. Later"
He disappeared down the stairs into the dark of the back parking lot, and I take up my vigil once again, watching over the city and listening to the muffled sound of the waves from across the street for another hour or so, then I go inside and fall face first on her bed and drift away.
"Three, four, shut the door..."