“My heart is just like yours,” the bagger says, “black on the inside.”
I was somewhat taken aback by the statement, this being Whole Foods, rather than the more freewheeling Berkeley Bowl, and wondered for a moment what had led her to make such a pronouncement. The checker took a pause as well, gazing first and me and then at the checker.
“Well,” I said. “Uh, could I have paper please?”
I woke up early in the morning to rain drenching Treasure Island, and spitting sideways through my open window. It was also extremely cold, and I found myself a little stiff when I got up to close the window and peer outside for a moment. The night was reflective, street lights bouncing from pools of water, and the house felt strangely still and quiet. Winter, it appears, has arrived, and when I woke up I decided to venture out under the chilly grey November sky.
My mission was two part. One, I deeply enjoy perplexing people who obviously prefer to stay indoors on days like this. Two, I needed the ingredients for egg nog, because I am trying to convert Puff to the gospel of egg nog, and she quite rightly turns up her nose at the storebought stuff. I think she’s only agreeing to try it out because I have promised to use excessive amounts of alcohol in the recipe, and she’s game for that. We’ll find out.
I’ve always loved wandering around in the rain and watching, bemused, while people battle umbrellas and raincoats. Sometimes I bundle up against the rain, like I did today, and other days I wear light clothing and embrace it. I usually do that when I’m close to home, a hot shower, and hot chocolate. In Caspar I remember we used to go down to the beach in the rain and when our clothing was soaked we would go swim in the ocean, too, coming home shivering and dripping.
Somehow, when I bundle up I stay strangely dry. Despite walking several blocks up Mission Street, I remained totally dry while other people were clearly sopping and miserable. I suspect it is because the rain knows it will get its own later. But the rain is also strangely hypnotic, with people scurring before it and the bus splashing up great puddles of water, the rain pounding on the roof of the Transbay Terminal, transporting me for a moment back to Caspar.
“Back at home,” I said to the checker, “I used to work at a bookstore.”
Those words feel very strange in my mouth and I turn them over for a moment. Is this city not home? I have never been a transplant before and the sensation is strangely weightless as I drift through the City with eggs and heavy cream tucked under my arm. I am not from here. Probably most of the people I pass aren’t from here either, briskly moving to and fro on their business about the financial district.
“Yeah, in Philly,” I hear a businessman say as I wait to cross 3rd Street, “in Philly the winters were…” and the rest of his comment is stripped away from my ears by a swiftly moving cyclist, who skids to a stop directly in front of me, splashing my pants with water.
“Oh God,” he says, taking off his helmet to address me, “I’m so sorry, are you wet?”
“No,” I say, “wool.”
With that he sweeps his helmet back on like an old fashioned gentlemen after doffing his hat to a lady, and zips off along Howard Street.
“Do you think this contract is going to make it,” a nervous man in a grey pinstriped suit says while waiting for the light to change.
“I don’t know,” I shout, as I cross in the other direction.
“Did you park upstairs,” the checker asks.
“Er, no,” I say. “I, uh, took the bus. Lovin’ the Fast Pass, you know.”
“Yeah, no doubt,” he says. “I just got one because I knew I wouldn’t be able to ride my bike this month!”
The checker is sort of cute. I think about asking for his number.
While I’m walking down Montgomery, I look up at the menacing sky which lurks above the skyscrapers. A rain drop hits my glasses and splashes into my eye, suddely cold and feeling faintly burning. This is it, I think, I’m going to be blinded by acid rain on Montgomery and Market on a Monday afternoon. I blink it away and while my vision is blurry, I think my eye will survive to tell the tale.
Cars are driving with their lights on and panhandlers are huddling under cardboard boxes, looking like heaps of garbage until a filthy cup emerges as I walk by. They see my sandals and turn away, clearly questioning the sanity of anyone wearing shoes like that on a day like this.
What’s a girl like you doing in a city like this?
I feel like I am transparent and made of glass, a silent observer of the busy scene. In the Lake of the Woods is tucked into my coat pocket and I am thinking about the nature of love, and dire necessity.
“Hey,” the checker says, “you have a nice day, now.”