The drive from S.F. over to Oakland was really nice. Traffic was light and the scenery was amazing. Another place for one of those cool helicopter shots in the movie, if you should be so inclined. Not to mention (although that, of course, means I’m mentioning it) the possible literary symbolism of crossing a bridge. A metaphor, perhaps? OK, not really, that’s just kind of the way San Francisco and Oakland are. With water and bridges and so forth.
Speaking of Oakland, I had always imagined it to be a very poor, shitty, also-ran to San Francisco. I mean, all I know of it is the Oakland Raiders, the team of criminals for criminals. That image couldn’t be more wrong from the part of Oakland I was now in. For one thing, it was rich. Money, money everywhere. Many Mercedes and Lexus SUVs for that luxurious off-roading I’m sure these folks so often did. I will say this, though. The houses were cool. Really old and well maintained. No McMansions spreading over the entire lot and into one another. No “Faux” anything. Just really nice, old houses along these streets covered with huge, old, leafy trees. Even in the dead of winter, it was beautiful. Not that “winter” really existed here in the way it did back in New York. You had some rain but that was about it. OK, lots of rain. And fog. Like I said, some cliches are cliches for a reason.
I didn’t get lost at all. In fact, I found myself pulling up to their house twenty-minutes early. I pulled up next to Josh’s white Toyota (told you he was dull) and parked. His Royal Dullness then stepped out to greet me. You know, he really was a good guy. I feel bad saying some of the stuff I do about him. I mean, what had he ever done to me but look out for me and try to help me when he could? And bore me to tears. And sleep with the woman I wanted for my own. Which he kept me from ever having for my own. Ever. Which might mean I just may have to kill him. And with that, we shake hands. Josh even hugged me. Talk about an awkward moment.
Josh and I stand there for a moment talking about my drive across the bridge and talking about the Mini. He’s trying to be nice, but clearly doesn’t like it. It’s too small and too expensive for such a little car, according to him (expensive?). Not to mention, how dangerous it is driving something that tiny. One SUV and it’s all over. Or something. I actually stop listening when I catch a glimpse of Nancy in the door.
She steps out and heads toward us. She is smiling. She is Nancy. Which is a really strange realization. She is not some woman to get naked and fuck. She is not an ex-girlfriend to look up for a quick reunion romp. She is Nancy. All the sexual thoughts about her make me feel embarrassed. Ashamed even. It even seems strange to me that I’ve had them at all. Part of it was the way she looked in reality was slightly different from the imaginary porn version of her I had been living with. As I’ve mentioned, she’s not, on any objective scale, really that attractive. I mean, she’s really kind of awkward looking. And old. My God, even her butt is starting to sag.
But the bigger issue isn’t her looks. It is simply that she is Nancy. Not some little fuck bunny. And I miss her. And I wrap my arms around her and give her a huge hug and hold on probably just a second too long. Just enough to let her know some of what I was thinking. But hopefully not too much. Not yet. Maybe not ever. I don’t know and right now, I really don’t care. I am just so happy to see her.
As I look at their very cool little house, I wonder what Josh is thinking. I mean, he’s got to know something is up. I mean, not in terms of anybody doing anything. Or, for that matter, even saying anything. But still. I try not to think about it too much as they brag about their stone fireplace in the living room and the beautiful hard wood floors. This place wasn’t cheap. I don’t know how they managed to do it with only Josh working right now. Being me, I ask. Rude, I know, but it’s me, so what did you expect? Besides, I consider them, or at least her, no both of them, in a way real friends. And I have no problem asking my real friends (as rare as they are) anything about money or anything else. It turns out that Josh inherited some money. Not a ton but enough for the down-payment. That, and the fact that his job actually was paying him even more than he originally expected, meant that they could do it. I was jealous. And told them so.
So, here I was, in a house I really liked, with a woman I really wanted to be with. And knew I was to get neither. Envy is such an evil thing. That and that coveting thing. I did lots of coveting, obviously. I wonder how many of the Ten Commandments I had actually broken? A lot, I think. How many more was I still working on breaking? Yikes. I guess it’s like Rachel had so eloquently said, I was doomed to eternal damnation. Then again, maybe this was it. Maybe this was my own, specially customized version of hell.
Imagine what it’s like to be so near someone you felt so strongly about and not being able to show it. Just pretending everything was fine. Just pretending you really cared about the baseball game Josh was ever-so-painfully describing to you when all you really wanted to do was to stare at his wife. And kiss her. And hold her. And tell her all the things you felt about her. And all the things you wanted with her. Hell, indeed.
The thing about trying to act so differently from the way you actually feel is that it’s incredibly depressing. It’s depressing not only because you are stifling something so powerful and magical inside of you, but also for another reason. It makes you feel like a scumbag. The better you are at deception, the more you realize what an incredibly evil human being you really are. Josh didn’t deserve it. Not that anything had happened. But even emotionally, letting things go as far as I had let them was just wrong to him. And her. And me, for that matter. So, what the fuck was I doing?
As we sat there at the table on their back patio, eating the salmon which Josh had prepared for us, I kept trying to play it cool. Give away nothing. At the same time, I was constantly looking for signs from either Josh or Nancy that I had failed and was not the great deceiver I had imagined. And then there was the even bigger issue. Alright, maybe not bigger, this was pretty big. But the other issue. Had Nancy figured out anything more about what was going on with me and The Grand Plan than I had wanted her to? Oddly enough, right now it hardly seemed to matter. I couldn’t think of anything but Nancy and me and this. This awful thing I was living through, right now, in Oakland. The Land of the Great Fog.
I couldn’t wait for it to end. The hours dragged on until it, finally, felt safe to leave without arousing any suspicions. I thanked Josh for the great dinner. It was really, really good. Not that I remember tasting much of it, as my mind was elsewhere. We shook hands. And then I hugged Nancy. Gently. Nothing but a polite “goodnight.” And I walked back to the Mini.
As I pulled out, I watched them together. The way they stood in the doorway of their great little house, arms around each other, both waving goodbye. The two of them. In their house. They really were inseparable. There was no way in hell anything I had been contemplating had the slightest chance of ever happening. Nancy and Josh were forever and always going to be Nancy & Josh.
As I drove back to the hotel, I almost felt relieved that the issue had been resolved. Not so much resolved as acknowledged that the issue didn’t really exist, except in my own mind. I could feel however I felt about Nancy. I could tell her all of it. Do everything in my power to make it come true. Do everything and anything it took to make real that perfect vision of Nancy & ME. And, in the end, it would all mean nothing. Thank God, I had realized it before I did anything too stupid. It all seemed right, somehow. Like it was all meant to be this way. And I almost fucked it up. Fucked it up really, really badly. But now I knew that this was the way it had to be. The way things had to stay. All the tension disappeared. All the anxiety washed away. All of which I got to enjoy for about twenty minutes.
When I got back to the hotel there was a message. It was from Nancy asking me to call her as soon as I got in. My stomach sank. Breathing started to be a chore. What could she want? Maybe, I wasn’t as good at hiding things as I thought. Maybe, she knew something was up but just didn’t want to talk about it in front of Josh. Oh, fuck. I hated this. I hated all of this. Part of me wanted to just pretend I never got the message. I just didn’t have the energy to deal. Not after tonight. Not after all that pretending.
I went to the mini-bar and grabbed a Scotch. I poured it in a glass and took a sip. It was disgusting. Once, I liked the taste of Scotch but that was a long, long time ago. Foul shit. I drank some water and grabbed a beer. Not a real smart thing to be drinking the way my stomach was feeling, but I didn’t care. I chugged it down. I paced back and forth staring at the phone trying to figure out what she might want. Trying to figure out what I might say. I stared out the window and tried to mellow out. I fixed my eyes on Coit Tower. Kinky old woman. And then I sat. And sat. And sat some more. Just thinking. Just worrying. I knew I had to call her back. Unless I said I went out somewhere without ever going back to my room. Oh, fuck it. I dialed her number.
Three agonizingly long rings later someone picks up. It’s her. She asks if I just got in. We make small talk for a second. It kills me. I want to get to the matter, whatever the matter is. And then she starts. I feel my world shattering. This is going to be ugly. And then she asks me if I want to meet her tomorrow to go to Golden Gate Park. For a second I think it’s “because we need to talk” but then I realize she just thinks it would be nice if we hung out in the park together. Josh has to work, of course, so he wasn’t going to be around for her to play with. And she really wanted to go because the weather is supposed to be nice.
So, there it is. Right. A day in the park. As much as I’m relieved that that’s all she wants, part of me wonders if there’s more. Maybe, it’s her way of getting some time away from Josh for us to talk. Or maybe, I really do live in a fantasy land completely removed from my real relationship with her. In any case, I accept her invitation. She’ll meet me here in the hotel tomorrow and we’ll drive over to the park. And that was that.
THE JOY OF SUICIDE on http://www.first100books.com