I stood beneath a white four-legged canopy, content that a bit of canvas was blocking the full force of the summer sun. In front of me was Kevin, the customer who always wore politically slanted marijuana related T-shirts.
“Do you work for an advocacy group? I always see you wearing those political marijuana shirts.”
He looked down a bit startled, unsure of what he wore.
“Oh yeah, I used to when I lived in DC.”
“Cool.” I said nodding, “do you know Craig Reinarman, from Santa Cruz?”
He looked into my eyes deeply for several seconds then I saw something flash.
“Yeah, I do. He does some good work, has written some good books.”
“Yeah,” I said, nodding again, “His sociology class really altered the course of my life.”
There was silence between us and we looked at each other. Then another customer walked up to the table laden with breads. I turned my attention on the new person, smiling help. I smiled at Kevin while I packed up pretzels for the other woman at the table and he walked away towards the chocolate seller.
Next week was the same. Another sunny Saturday shielded by the white canopy. Kevin came up to the small booth and bought a loaf of bread. I asked him a question, something so simple it slipped through the grasp of memory. When I was waited for his response, he started to nod, his head bobbed up and down, almost like a tick. It looked like the words where getting caught somewhere between his brain and mouth. I looked at him with a soft smile, his eyes were looking down, then to the left, then the right. I was not sure what was happening to him, but I felt amused and wanted to watch, like a puppet was trying to come to life.
He looked up.
“You know,” he said by way of explanation, standing a little on his toes when he finally got the words out. “I’m self conscious almost to the point of it being crippling. I’m working on it though.”
“Oh really, I never would have known if you didn’t say anything.” My face was covered with the expression of shock, my eyebrows raised slightly by the information. “But I know what you mean. I’m self conscious too.” He looked up, a bit surprised. “I wouldn’t say its almost crippling, but I do know what you mean.”
He nodded. “You are easy to talk to.”
Then another customer walked up and asked questions about the pastries. Kevin waved a silent goodbye, tucked his loaf into his yellow bicycle bag and walked towards the small hill behind the line of booths. I turned and watched him take a seat on the grass next to a slender black woman who I assumed was his girlfriend. I had seen them sitting in the same spot every Saturday, sometimes they would lay in the sun, letting the sun bathe their skin in warm light.
Kevin and I were in a motel room together. There were two full beds in the room separated by a small end table and wall-mounted lamp. The room was filled with the same yellow light that always exists in all motel room chambers. He had offered to help me with my German lessons and there were several hardcover course books on one of the beds. I sat on the floor and flipped through the numerous workbooks I had. I knew there was a particular assignment I was supposed to do, but after I flipped through three different workbooks, I couldn’t find it. I wondered if the pages had gotten torn out somehow.
It was very late and I gave up one finishing the assignment. I started packing my bag. I looked over at Kevin, he was topless and in one of the beds under the covers, his left arm holding onto a pillow.
“Are you sleeping here tonight?” I asked.
While I waited for his answer, I looked around the room. It was full of my things. Clothes, my artwork and photo albums, the pieces of fabric I had been collecting for a decade, some scrapes from Kauai I hadn’t seen in years. My red guitar was on the other bed, sitting right on top of the nicely made bedspread.
“…is it because we haven’t made love?” Kevin asked.
I was sitting on the floor by the door putting my jewelry into a box.
“I have a boyfriend, so that never would have happened.” I said it looking down, keeping most of my attention on the jewelry, yet feeling the air between us change.
I felt his body stiffen with my words. He grew more quiet, though he had not been talking anyway. I stood up, putting another box of my things by the door. I felt fine now to say anything since the delicate balance between us had already been broken. I didn’t look at him as I surveyed the room.
“People are only nice when they think they can fuck you.”
The words came out harsh and I was startled by the accentuated way I said “fuck.” It sounded so cold, like steel that could never grow a heart. “You know, you never asked me out.” Even as I said it I wondered if it was true.
I knew he was mad and I knew I needed to leave, but my things were everywhere. In every drawer I opened where more albums and CDs and artwork. I knew I needed to take everything I cared about because he was angry and I thought he might start to destroy my things. I put the stuff I wanted by the door, opening it slightly and positioning one of my jewelry boxes to hold it open.
When I opened the door, I saw a blue plastic shopping cart in the hallway and thought I would be able to put a lot of my things in there. I stepped further into the hallway and onto the maroon carpet. My sleeping bag was all spread out on the ground, I wondered how it had gotten that way since I didn’t remember doing it. I looked up and saw a man in the doorway of his room.
I turned and went back inside to gather my things. Everything was a mess, completely disorganized. I didn’t want to leave anything, but I needed to prioritize what I would take since I couldn’t bring everything. I thought that even if he didn’t destroy my things, I had no idea how I would be able to get the rest of it in the morning after checkout since I didn’t have a key.
I stepped into the hallway once again and turned to the camera.
“See, this is the reason we fought over the joint earlier. Whoever got it would be in power.”
Ultimately it had all been about power, it was laying right under our feet all along, precisely where we weren’t looking.
Without looking back, I started to walk away.