The drop

Dragon Rouge

CHEAP EATS On his 40th birthday Jolly Boy talked about beautiful. Beauty this and beautiful that. We were in a bar in the Mission, saying good night. He was impressed and grateful, I think he said, to have seen so much beauty in 40 years in the world.

"Good night, Jolly Boy," I said.

I hugged some other people too, and one of them said I smelled like bacon.

This floated me home to Earl Butter's closet. I walked across the Mission at 12:30 a.m. with my hands in my pockets, alone and cold, knowing that this world, Jolly Boy's world, was pretty lastingly beautiful and that I, in any case, smelled like bacon.

On the darkest part of my walk, near the little park on 19th Street, a guy wanted to talk to me.

"Hello," he said as we passed each other on the sidewalk. He was wearing a dark, hooded sweatshirt, but I thought I could see his nose twitch somewhere in there in it.

I was wearing a white, warm, short coat with a rabbit fur collar and a skirt with flowers on it.

"Hi," I said, smiling. He waited a little too long to ask if I happened to know what time it was.

I don't wear a watch, or own a cell phone, but I turned around on the sidewalk and said, "No. I don't know. But I think it's around 12:30."

This was all that he needed to hear, apparently, to follow me. Tuesday morning, 12:30 a.m. I knew he was following me, and then I turned to see and saw that he was, beautiful world. He'd reversed direction and was walking 30 or 40 feet behind me, in his hood.

I smiled to myself and slowed down. The stars were about as bright as I'd ever seen them in the city. Earlier that afternoon, in the sun, in the country, I had been walking down my street, which is a dead-end street on a thousand-foot-high ridge overlooking, at various points, rolling coastal redwoods, vineyards, cows, sheep, and the Pacific Ocean. It's a brilliantly beautiful world up there, and tears were streaming down my face because I had lost my soul and could not see much of anything in it.

I couldn't eat. I couldn't write. I couldn't play music or listen to music. And I couldn't imagine what I might possibly have left to live for. So I thought I would go for a walk and find out. What I decided while walking, crying, looking at cows and sheep and Pacific Oceans and the thousands of acorns that acorn woodpeckers, in their kooky wisdom, have embedded in a telephone pole next to a barn ... what I decided was that I was going to go out that evening to the closest bar to my house, pick up a faceless, nameless drunk guy, and go home with him. Take it from there.

It was like all the flavor had been squeezed out of life into one dense drop on a bent piece of sheet metal in a driveway, then evaporated, taken up to the clouds, and spit back down with this season's above-average rainfall. One drop. Somewhere. I was as likely to find it on the tip of an anonymous Sonoma County penis as anywhere. Or in the featureless face of a dark hood on a dark street in the Mission District at 12:30 a.m.

I'm not saying I'm smart.

But I do think I might be pretty enough now to pull off something like this. Pick up a guy in a bar. So I turned away from the acorn woodpecker's acorn art and started back for my shack, beautiful world.

I put a big piece of apple wood on the fire. Took a bath on the porch while the sun was going down, put up the chickens, put on some clean, pretty clothes and makeup, and checked my e-mail.

Jolly Boy's birthday. Drinks. Earl Butter had beans. Bring tortillas, he said. Well, so maybe I would find that drop, that one thing to hold on to, in a hot sauce bottle, on a cupcake, or in the hugs of friends. It never occurred to me that they would find it on me. In my hair.

The smell of bacon!

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