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The Drive Down

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Kelly offered to drive me down to Santa Cruz where I was to disembark on my journey. Luckily the captain scheduled for us to leave on a Monday which means I could travel down on a weekend and bum a ride from a friend. I thought that I was going to have to take the Cal Train to Gilroy and figure out a bus from there. I have faith that I could have made my way from San Francisco to Santa Cruz by public transportation, I just think it would have taken me a full day. I never bothered to look into it.

Since Kelly was driving me, we could leave any time on Sunday and I could tarry tying up the last loose ends before I left: I put my gigantic mint-colored cabinet on the street, dropped off a couple boxes at my brother’s, bought guitar strings, and got cash from the bank. I even had time for one last brunch with my friends and a shower before I left.


As a parting gift, Kelly bought me a bottle of Maker’s Mark from the store on the corner, known in our household as Corner McRip-Off. As soon as I saw him exit the store, gripping the narrow neck of a brown paper bag, I had a hunch of what it was. Then I saw the fake red wax on the inside which confirmed my suspicions. We got to-go coffees from the cafe kitty-corner to Corner McRip-Off and drove off.

The drive down was silent and uneventful. We stopped once to take a pee because of the coffees we downed at the beginning of the drive. Kelly’s offer was a courtesy, but I got the feeling he wanted to see me off. We didn’t need to exchange any words because we both understood each of us were in a transitional period in our lives. We are also old enough to know how the world changes and it’s not good or bad but the way it is. We had been living together on Jackson Street with two other roommates for the past two years; two of the most fun years of my life. Kelly had a near nervous breakdown when he first moved in. I don’t know if the diabetic symptoms caused his anxiety or vice versa or if there was something else that caused the two. Whatever the cause, he was suffering from them both. He read the symptoms online. Numb feet, dumb legs, then blindness. He was saying that his feet felt numb and probably thinking what would come next. With some time off his new job, a couple of visits home to Sacramento and a little help from his friends, he got over it all and we started to have a blast.

After a few more months, Kelly started dating his long time friend from college, Sarah. They had been hanging out all the time since he moved to the city. So much so that, one time, when Sarah was with her family and talking to Kelly on the phone, she passed it around for everyone to say “hi”: mom, dad, grandma, and sister. I encouraged him to ask out Sarah, saying that they were pretty much already going out as it is. After some missed opportunities and involvements with people they never liked as much as each other, things worked and they started dating. But, like I said, not much changed; they were already best friends to begin with.

On October 1st Kelly moved out of 1363 Jackson Street and in with Sarah. I was now the oldest tenant in our revolving door apartment. Crystal, the only tenant who was there when I moved in, moved out 4 months earlier to be with her boyfriend in New York. A year earlier, Vivek, who was also there when I moved in, moved in with his girlfriend, Becky, who was also a brief tenant before she moved to Texas and back to be with Vivek. Kelly actually moved in when Becky moved out. I felt stale. I had lived there for two and a half years and probably lived with 10 other roommates and sublettors in the same building. Crystal was a teacher so she’d rent out her room for the summer months. There was Liz, the unemployed smoker from Pittsburgh; Tucker, the HP consultant who liked to play Wii; Lee, the high school science teacher from an Indian reservation in Montana; Shane, the law school-dropout bartender; Emilie the MIT student who interned at Apple. When I left there was Cesar the Italian cook from Jersey, Lisa the unemployed paralegal from Long Island, and Caroline the ex-office worker aspiring dog-walker. Kelly and I lived with Caroline for a year. She was a permanent resident and a fixture at 1363 like I had been. I felt bad moving out on her as I’m sure Kelly felt bad moving out on both of us. But after venting to Crystal over the phone I think she understood. I had been talking about quitting my job and traveling since before she even moved in. We came to terms with the situation and I made sure not to leave behind any unwanted garbage like the gigantic mint-colored cabinet.

Kelly had Pet Sounds playing in his CD player. It’s a sappy adolescent album whose greatness I’ve only recently discovered. Most people will recognize the zippity-doo-dah love songs like Wouldn’t It Be Nice and God Only Knows, but there are songs that deal with some heavy emotional topics on that album. When I listen to Here Today, I think of the six odd fleeting relationships I’ve had over the last year and how none of them made sense. I Know There’s an Answer, offers a possible solution if not inspiration to find one. Don’t do life alone and get out of your safety zone. Then there’s Sloop John B which is a happy song about a homesick sailor, which seems like an allegory for something.

We arrived in Santa Cruz after the sun set. We stopped at the first Mexican joint we found and ate the burritos we’d been craving the whole drive. The dinner, like the drive, was speechless. We griped about the Sunday blues. He would be going to work the next day. We cleared our trays and navigated our way to the Santa Cruz Harbor. Captain Gary emailed me directions on how to get to the harbor, including helpful landmark cues that you don’t get from Google Maps like, “go right at Betty’s Burgers.” Just like he said, I saw Crytal Blue Persuasion at the bottom of the hill at the end of the pier. There were tools, hoses and electrical cords strewn about in preparation for the voyage. Kelly helped carry my bags to my berth and said, “I better get out of here.” He had nothing to do on the boat and needed to get back to San Francisco at a decent hour, besides, we had just spent a serene two hours silently saying goodbye and closing a chapter of our lives.

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