Penny said, Didn’t your brother have the same birthday as me? and I shook my head as though she could see me from two thousand miles away. I told her that my father and she shared a birth anniversary, December 27th.
My little brother came into the world on Christmas morning sixty-one years ago. But he will never age beyond the thirty-seven years at which he died.
After my long call with Penny, I crawled into the hotel room bed and propped myself against the pillows. A dim light shone through the curtain, a city light, the unmistakable buzz of fluorescent over concrete. I fell asleep to the sound of traffic on Lombard.
The morning air surrounded me as I dragged my bag to the car. A woman called from the low wall across the parking lot. She asked if I wanted to turn in my key. I had been their only customer and my early departure would allow them to close for the weekend, huddling into the loss of income that the city’s quarantine order would cause them.
She came over to me, holding a tissue to her face. She had come outside maskless to smoke. I asked her who she was and she identified herself as the mother of Raymond, the manager who had taken my money upon arrival. I gave her the little plastic keys and thanked her.
I had planned to head home but something drew me north. A few minutes online found a hotel room for the night in Guernville, ten miles inland from my favorite spot at the mouth of the Russian River. I ate a carry-out breakfast sitting on a park bench at the Marina, watching the dog-walkers and the joggers. Seagulls landed on the pavement by my feet. Their steady gaze identified me and my kind as the trespassers. I nodded at one of them to show my understanding.
I watched a ship head east. I thought, If I left now, I might see it pass the marina at home. I shook my head at the wonder of it all. I remembered Marcia Walsh, an attorney in Kansas City, marveling that I had taken a train to Jefferson City, testified before a legislative committee, and gotten home by dinner. Ah, the rapidity with which we travel! she exclaimed.
I scrolled through Facebook and realized, not from my own immediate recollection but from the photographs shown by the algorithm, that I had moved to California three years ago this weekend. Perhaps this anniversary accounts for my sullen mood. I shook my head for the hundredth time, and slid behind the wheel of my car. I set the GPS for Jenner and headed north. Somewhere on the other side of the Golden Gate bridge, I felt a weight slide from my soul. The relief might be temporary. But I will wear the gladness as long as possible.
It’s the twentieth day of the eighty-fourth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.
Just a few shots from my phone. Hover for captions. More pics when I get home and upload from my Canon. Please enjoy.