Sunday, January 18, 2009

Tryptophane and Sand

I had a vegetable-busy salad after work but, as is generally the pattern with salad, found myself snacky at 9, so I had some graham crackers and milk. And then I found myself thinking of Sorensen Drive, and of the midnight ticking of the adding machine in the little alcove between dining room and hall that Mom used for an office during the Paisan's Pizza years, where she also, for some reason, blow dried my fine, flyaway hair after a weekend bath. Maybe the bathroom was too narrow.

Sometimes -- it now seems like often, because I was unaccustomed to sleeping alone -- I'd wake up and not be able to go back to sleep, and I'd hear the ticking through the bedroom wall (I was perhaps 9, maybe 10, when I first had my own bedroom, the one on the west side of the house, into which the afternoon sun from the backyard poured) and I would haul my yellow quilt out to the kitchen table where Mom would give me graham crackers and milk. Or Grandma, if she was still up, but by this time she was sleeping in one of the bedrooms in the basement -- I remember it being a massive house -- and she may have done some sewing before bed. I don't remember her being up that late; she was always an early riser. Tea, and the local radio, and if I tuned that station in tomorrow morning it would still be his voice. If there was coffee, it was instant crystals; I don't rememeber a coffee maker.

Morgan must have been a good and heavy sleeper, and in fact I have many memories of her sleeping the way she does now, when I see her asleep, head thrown back, otherwise curled in a ball. She used to sleep in the car on our long drives between Kemmerer and San Diego, whereas I didn't want to miss anything, not even the intense sameness of the desert between Vegas and Bakersfield. I've been thinking about that drive a lot lately, although I'll probably fly in April; I promised Tonetta I'll be there for her M.S. walk and it's no hardship to me, since I've been dreaming about the beach and the soft pinks and tans of stucco and the scalloped Spanish tile roofs. It's been a year and a half, and I never have an easy time staying away for long. When I do get back it's only foreign for a few hours, mostly in the dark.

I met a woman (at the embroidery shop where I pay my rent, no less) who was born and raised in Imperial Beach, the town where I went to High School, all four years, plus 8th grade. She and her ex-Navy husband retired here because of the cost of living, luckily just before the cost of living here went way up, namely housing. She was telling me about all the City's plans for urban renewal, hack up Palm Avenue and raze the shopping center where the old sticky-floored theater and the stinking Goodwill and the bong shop were, create an imitation Main Street as is the fad these days. We have one here, only it's been here forever. Not an imitation, but just as awkward.

There was a covered alley in that shopping center, a little enclosed rectangle of a space, where I used to imagine I could run up the walls and across the ceiling and down and up again, in a spiral. These thoughts came on the nights we were roaming the town in a small but giddy adolescent pack, but the only mischief we got up to was to write our names in a wedge of wet cement (and draw bubbly eighth notes), which we sorely regretted when we nearly got caught. I learned how fast I could run and Twinkie discovered how small she could be -- and where were Hope and Tonetta? -- and Kym took the brunt for all of us. The worker was a woman, orange vest and blonde braids, leather skin and workboots, and she left bruise marks in a finger pattern on Kym's pale arm.

I didn't intend to meander like this tonight; I wanted to talk about work. But the boxer "puppy" in the apartment behind the kitchen wall is slamming around in its metal kennel, and I'm agitated and far away. And I miss the sound of the waves.

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