I left Karen's place late Sunday night after we spent a long time sitting in bed, drinking coffee and talking. I walked across the island to the room I shared with Oliver, who, when I walked in, was banging a girl of questionable linage and vintage on the living room couch. I excused my intrusion and went to bed. I woke up early on Monday, drank a huge mug of coffee standing in the shower, the hoofed it to the bus and went into San Diego to work. The day didn't start well, I was making ready a job on the old two color Heidelburg press and a sheet took off and went into the rollers. Not a great way to start the day. I was peeling it out when Oliver's father came into the pressroom and yelled over the din,
"Hey, Spence, your girlfriend is on the phone."
Fuck. Now what. She never, ever called me during the week. Maybe she had second thoughts and decided to pack it in and go back to New Mexico. That would cap the day, for sure. I peeled off my rubber gloves and walked into the office and picked up the receiver from the desk and said hello...
"Hey, sorry to bother you at work, but I have some news."
"Yeah, everything OK?"
"Yeah. I was talking to Jake and he said we could use his brother's cabin up in the Sur if we wanted to. His brother is in the crazy house again, this time it looks like it's for good and we can stay there as long as we want. Can you get some time off? Jake said I can take off as long as I want."
"I guess. I'll find out and let you know later. It sounds pretty cool."
"OK, can you come over tonight, we can figure it all out?"
"Yeah, I'll see you some time or another."
"You know, it would be easier if you moved in with me, can we talk about that, too?"
Oh, shit, oh, shit, oh, shit...
"Uh, yeah, we can. I have to go, I'll see you tonight, OK?"
I hung up the phone and turned around to find Commander West, as we all called Oliver's dad, was standing in the office doorway.
"Yeah, she just had something important to tell me. I think she wants us to take a week and go up to the Sur and spend some time alone together. Any chance you can get along without me for a while? I'd really like to take a break."
"Yeah, sure. I guess Oliver can keep his dick in his pants and make it to work every day for a week if he has to. Take what ever time you need."
"No problem. When do you need to take off?"
"I guess I'll know tomorrow. I gotta go clean up that press before it's a real mess. I think the grain of that stock is wrong, it's curling like a bitch."
"Yeah, it's a job lot. Do what you can with it"
So I struggled through the day and after work I went back to my room, got cleaned up and borrowed Oliver's bike and headed into the sunset. It was about seven o'clock by then, still light and still hot as hell.
I arrived at the cafe about a quarter of eight, I was getting pretty good at traveling by bike around town. I leaned the bike against the bottom of the back stairs and was starting up when Jake popped out of the cafe's back door.
"Hey, man, what's up? I thought you'd be half way back to the least coast by now after Saturday morning. Damn, that girl of yours has a temper plus one. She was giving her sister an earful and I had to separate them before it turned into a brawl. Everything OK?"
I fished out a smoke and lit it and sat on the bottom step.
"Yeah. Family squabble. Her sister is a fucking psycho. I gotta tell you, man, I thought it was going to be all over after that mess. I'll never figure Karen out."
"Dude, let me tell you, if and when it comes down to anything with Karen and you, you're going to win out. I've known her for three years and she's gone through a few guys, but I think you've hit some nerve or something. She's pretty flighty sometimes, but she's been pretty much grounded since you've been coming around. Where that's going is between you and her, but don't fuck it up, man. Whatever happens, happens, but let her be the one to run with it, OK? Maybe you got a magic dick or maybe you just let her be her, I don't know and I don't care, but she's a changed girl these days. Hey, did she tell you about my crazy ass brother's place up in the Sur? I told her you can use it for as long as you want, I think he's in the wacky-shack for the long haul this time. As long as you don't mind staying in a crazy man's place, I mean."
"Yeah, that's why I'm here, she wants to talk about it. Appreciate the offer, Jake."
"No problem. Don't know what it's like up there, I haven't been there since Winter, but it's a great place. You two can drink wine and smoke dope and run around the woods bare ass naked all day and then spend all night in a bed of pine needles, fucking yourselves silly under the stars. There's no neighbors and it's only a twenty minute hike to the ocean. It'll do your souls good. I gotta run. Let me know what's going on, I'll give you the key to the place, although I don't know if the locks have been changed or even it there are any locks. He's a pretty fucked up guy. Thinks the secret police are after him or some such shit. Later, man."
"Yeah, later. And thanks. We'll let you know."
He went back into the back door of the cafe. I really, really liked Jake. He knew just how much to poke his nose into things and he had a really good grasp on life, especially affairs of the heart. I wondered if he had someone like Karen in his life. If he didn't, he deserved to. I flicked the end of my cigarette into the parking lot, got up and walked up the stairs. I knocked on the back door. Why? I don't know, I never knocked. As much as I thought things were OK, I realized that things were actually changing. I thought I better heed Jake's advice; I better not fuck it up and I better let Karen take the lead. Ok with me.