Gettysburg Review 10.4
Glassworks #3 May 1012
People who live in San Francisco don't notice the views after a while. Like people who own ocean front houses.
Alex and Jane don't live in San Francisco. They get up early the first morning of their visit with Stefan and Cody and walk, naked, into the living room. The apartment is a floor through in a Victorian on Pacific Heights. Alex and Jane hold hands and look out the living room windows, which are filled with San Francisco Bay. Even through the fog, the view is too sharp, too sweet. It makes them feel optimistic and sexy and sad. The sweep of it makes them uncomfortable in a happy bittersweet way.
Stefan enters the living room behind them wearing a short blue silk kimono.
"You look like sweet children," he says. "Like Adam and Eve."
They all laugh.
* * *
These two couples are young and beautiful and the best of friends although a continent usually divides them.
Stefan suggests a new breakfast place downtown. Jane and Cody get in the back of Stefan's Jaguar so they can talk. Alex and Stefan get in the front. Everyone's clothes, even their shoes, are beige and white and cream colored.
Stefan likes to drive and restore classic Jaguars. He sells the one he's got and buys another about once a year. All his Jaguars are white sedans and all are 1965 or earlier. This car is a 1963 sedan, an English model with the steering wheel on the right.
The temperature is an absolutely perfect 72 degrees. On the hill before them, Coit Tower rises like a glistening sugar stick from the surrounding foliage. As they drive, the fog burns off and the sun begins to dance with the city and the bay and with their young hearts.
Stefan opens the sun roof. Alex takes out his new sunglasses. In the upper right corner of the right lens, the word `ROLLINS' is etched in white letters. He takes out a key chain to which a tiny Swiss Army knife is attached. He opens one of the tiny blades and begins to scrape the letters from the glass.
"Why are you doing that?" Stefan asks. "Aren't you going to scratch the lens?"
"Hey," says Alex, "I have no arrangement with these Rollins people. Nobody's approached me about representing their products. I'm willing to talk, you understand..."
"I think I understand," says Stefan.
They all laugh again. It isn't that funny. They just feel good.
* * *
The new breakfast place is across the street from the Drake Hotel. Alex volunteers to get a table while Stefan finds a parking place. Stefan pulls up in front of the Drake to drop Alex off.
The doorman at the Drake is a tall, middle-aged man in a Beefeater uniform with a shattered, purple veined nose. As Alex steps out of the left side of the car, the doorman hurries forward. His red and yellow puffed sleeves bob and rustle as he moves. "You can't park here," he says in a loud quavering voice. "You'll have to move."
"I know," Alex says, and smiles. "We're not parking." He stands like an insouciant prince in his pale silks and cottons.
"You didn't hear me," the doorman says, louder still. "You can't park here, even for one minute!"
Alex notices his eyes. The doorman's eyes are screaming.
"I heard you," Alex says, still smiling. The Jaguar begins to move forward. The doorman's head snaps around. He looks through the windshield and sees no one and no steering wheel on the left. Then he sees Stefan behind the wheel on the right.
The doorman looks at Alex. His mouth works soundlessly. He appears to be in great pain.
"I'm not wrong," he says at last.
* * *
Others have discovered the new breakfast place. It bustles and chatters with youth and confidence, even white smiles and steaming vegetable dishes. Alex waves from the balcony table he has secured.
"Let's do a play, like we used to do," says Cody when they are seated. "Let's do some characters. Let's be, I don't know. Bosnians. Or figure skaters or lesbians."
"Let's play ourselves, only more so," says Stefan, smiling. "Let's play our absolutely best selves, but without getting out of character. Without posing or posturing."
"Isn't that what we do anyway?" asks Alex.
Cody is delighted with the idea of a clever little improv. "How do you mean?" she asks Alex.
"I mean, isn't that what we really do in every situation involving other people?" asks Alex. "Don't we try to sell some cleaned up version of what we know to be the whole private truth about ourselves?"
That one stops the table. A little dip of quiet in the sea of buzz. Jane takes Alex's hand. Stefan looks for the waiter. Cody smiles, looks away.
Alex doesn't know where that thought came from. He had no intention of getting heavy. He looks around the table, trying to catch someone's eye.
"I'm not wrong," he says at last, then realizes that no one else will get it.