In 1980, I lived in that room with the early prototypes of video disks decorating the walls and a neat packet of mocha java coffee beans from Cost Plus. Each night, those old radio shows on KGO in the dark.
I return to the dimwit hopefulness of that sweater I’d bought with my first credit card, for the cold north. Wore it on the train even thought it was 80 degrees when I left Union Station. I slept on the couch in my brother’s one room apartment in that grand Victorian on Oak Street and Clayton. Its outside painted white. Ivory. Tan. Metallic gold. No heat. No air.
Like Gatsby in his pink suit I want to go back. Unlike him, I don’t want to erase all that has happened; why would I?
If there was a way, would I say, I changed my mind, you brute? And would I say it to each and every brute until I was back on that couch listening to the Jack Benny show? Back further to my parents’ home and my history of invisibility? No truth I can speak will erase it.
I photographed today that building on Oak. The place had seen better days. I crossed the narrow street to the Panhandle to photograph it some more. I was let down, a little. Zero frisson. A block away, I had to laugh. The photos I had taken were of the wrong address. That first place I started out with my sewing machine and the $1,200 I had saved was a block away and even shabbier than the first.
35 years ago, I was supposed to meet my brother there. I had no key. He was late. As the minutes passed, I became more and more worried, then plunged into a cold panic. He’d been harmed, I was certain. He was inside the apartment, dead. Swinging from a rope.
Today, I walked in the Panhandle with the same brother. Our bodies have softened in the chummy carelessness of long marriages. Our clothes are soft and pale.
I want a day off. I want a new job and the clothes that go with it. I want my children to be grown, but I want them to need me. I want to be warmer, I want to be colder. I want to go to bed wearing socks but kick them off the instant my feet are warm.
Like Gatsby, I want too much. And everything that went wrong can be pinned on me.
Bidar means awake. Patricia Bidar is a writer and a California native looking forward to life’s third act.