Looking out the window from the now peaceful hospital the mountains of Washington morphed into the hilly streets of Tijuana, Mexico. Emma and I scrubbed away at dishes in the kitchen, which overlooked the hills of Tijuana. Just beyond them sparkled La Jolla’s lights and riches, seemingly a mirage, a promised land, impossibly far for the city’s poorest. Peter came in, tired and dirty from laying bricks for a new house. He tapped me on the shoulder telling me it was my shift at the site. “Tommy! These dishes are pristine.” He shot a glance at Emma. How does he do it?” I shook my head. “A rare gift I suppose.” My hands still wet I kissed Emma on the cheek and left the kitchen, the sun descending behind the mountains, illuminating the tiny village in the valley.
Leaving the kitchen I stepped out onto a wide veranda where a mustachioed waiter in black showed me to my seat overlooking the palace gardens. “Suivez-moi monsieur.” The second I sat down eight white-gloved hands simultaneously pulled corks — “pop!” — from eight bottles of wine, pouring them into our glasses. The veranda encircled a castle and overlooked a garden and a perfectly manicured grass tennis court upon which a man in all white was training. “Pop!” went his serve. The air smelled like late afternoon and fresh bouquets of flowers hung above each table. Chinese lanterns gleamed and illuminated Natalie’s beaming smile. William unintentionally struck a pose as he sipped his wine, the sun momentarily tucking behind a tree as it set, casting a fascinating shadow over half his face. “Where have you been, Thomas? We’ve been waiting for you.” “It wasn’t my shift yet.” They looked puzzled, but lifted their glasses — “clink!”
The rain rapped against the windows, the glass seeming to make sounds of its own. Without an umbrella, we ventured outside. My hand grew cold on the hood of my car and the dim light from the bedroom where we’d been shone out through the Victorian windows onto the white pillars that lined her porch. In the bedroom, we’d done nothing but lie on our side, asking each other what the other was thinking. “What’d that mean?” she would say after an accidental blink. My arm felt her side, contented with her warmness, a validating presence in a town whose sadness could be destructive without a cooler-headed person to guide your mind to better things. With absolutely no confidence I moved in to give her a hug, but with a well-placed arm she stopped me just in front of her, plunging my gaze into her dark, tragic eyes. Her childish lips began to unpurse themselves and the night — not a car in sight and only the moon and the sole bedroom light illuminating the driveway where we stood — felt like an infinite moment of stars and quietude and romantic excitement. Finally, a car, driving slowly past, made little sound except for the song it played — a song with an unforgettable melody but words, which I could not make out.
The rain beat ever harder and we retreated inside.
Inside I ordered drinks and took them to our quiet table in the back. Twentysomethings canoodled and the effects of nighttime and youth and the palpable sparkle of the Hudson were felt acutely by each of us. A sort of pure contentment washed over me, so rare in a city that pushes you to strive ever further, to buy ever more, to live ever bigger. To be content like this is to have a Moment. But perhaps these Moments are merely dreams. This must be a dream, I thought. A melody of da-na-na-na-da-na-na-na played quietly in the room, reminding me of a song I had just heard but could not recall where. She brushed a piece of hair out of her face, pulling it into a tight little bun before leaning in to whisper, “Where shall we go?”
“The Other Room,” I said.
“I’ve been walking through rooms the whole day,” she said.
“So have I,” I said with downcast eyes. “Reality is a delightful place, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”
Our vitality and youth vibrated through the room, even in the stillness of night.