Every week I’ll install parts of this California short story I wrote three years ago for a fiction class. It’s since been rediscovered and reread and revised and unrevised for what I ultimately wanted to accomplish in this small story of a summer in between college and the growth of a youth in love. Here is part 5 for this story, and I hope you enjoy!
*If you would like to read the next part of the short story, stay tuned, or simply click above the BY YOUR SIDE page for the full story. P.K.
THE MISSION DISTRICT
It was old, it was life. The Mission was where hard dreams refused to die, when they had gone only so far, and just out of reach.
He could see this in the taquerias with their dark windows and dented pick-ups parked along the sidewalks of smutty Victorian houses. Noah lost a silver button out there. He heard the clatter of the round piece as it hit the pavement, still strolling through his endless thoughts as he too strolled along. At the moment he’d been thinking of what would happen to her and him.
She’d taken immediately to the stuffy studio after they both had first rammed through the jammed front door. The sounds they made, stomping through! They were loud, quick, from two youngsters whose high laughter reeked of scotch and marshmallow vodka. It was cold and foggy outside, and they’d just been walking around the streets all the way from the bar on Valencia up to the apartment. Before reaching the place he and June had been huddled together against the fog walking, June having no clue about where they would end up next. Had he known that it would all lead up to the small talk in the blue sheets, Noah would never had second guessed from the start the question he asked Anthony when he agreed to house-sitting his place that weekend. That afternoon he’d met up with his roommate from freshman year, to get the keys and ask if it was alright to have a girl over in the evening.
“It’s not much for a girl to hang in,” Anthony warned, but he was smiling. “She’ll be fine if you’re there. Assures me you won’t be leaving the place unguarded in the nights.”
Noah sighed, jingling the apartment keys in his hand as he walked to the BART station a block down. It was a relieving answer that he’d honestly not been expecting, when he had to ask Anthony about letting a girl he’d only met two months ago into his place.
He’d left June back at the bed, enfolded and limp in the sky blue bed sheets. Moments before they’d been holding each other close, making a home out of a strange place and entangled in a stranger’s soft cotton things. They had the radio from a 90’s Bose system set to a whisper, audible for them to pick up the tune but nothing harsh to yell over. Most of the talk was yogurt, parties, holes in socks, the softness of each other’s lips. Most importantly to them was discussing two weeks from now, as it was in this time that they would be graduates of UC Berkeley, and off to a new life with uncertain promises to good or bad.
“It’s like this,” she was saying, touching his cheek and sliding it down to his stubbled jaw line, “What’s there for me back at home besides the hotel? I’m studying marketing just for the sake of helping out with the place. Get it back on the map and a part of Pismo Beach again. Hell, just get back Pismo Beach we all once knew.”
“What would you say Pismo Beach is, essentially?” He sincerely wanted to know.
“Unnoticed, adrift from most stops along Highway 1, from the rest of this sunny fast-lane idea of California. I guess I’ll just be going back to that. But I sure want to change things when I’m back, if that makes sense.”
He kissed her. “I’d like to come back with you,” he said in nearly one breath, truth in every word.
“There’s nothing for graphics out there.”
“San Luis Obispo’s just up the road. There’s bound to be work.” She groaned and turned over, a blast of cool air rushing in as the blue sheets folded over and off their shirtless bodies. “Find work, make a living—make life work. Who wants to make it work, when we don’t have anything to really work for except passing time comfortably? Make it count, make everything count, and that’s all I want.” She sat up, and looked down at Noah on his back, with his hands grabbing her waist. “Like this,” she continued, stroking his extended arm, “I want this to count.”
“You know I do too,” Noah replied. “Every minute. Precious.”
“You’re precious,” she mocked.
“It makes a perfect fit then, precious and frugality. You’re nothing to be wasted, even time. I’ll sure make it count then when I say that I’m in love.” Noah felt her palm press into his wrist, hinting at how startled she’d just been. “I wouldn’t have asked you out here with me,” he went on.
“There wasn’t a better night to tell me,” she finally replied. Smiling, she looked around and continued, “I gotta say, really am impressed with this place.”
The place was 214 off of 24th and Mission, on the third floor, number 5. It wasn’t home to June or Noah. But they were there and here he was, just leaving now, only wishing he didn’t have to get going, sent out by her to find themselves some decent cheap coffee at two in the morning—slowly getting out from underneath the covers where she lay beautifully bare and relaxed—but she was watching him.
“Ooh, sexy,” she said playfully as he pulled his jeans up over his moss briefs. He looked back at her, saying nothing. The Mission was flooded with possibilities, twenty-four seven.