I spent some time down in the sunny hills of Bankok, Thailand when I was a young man. My days would begin with the image of straw ceiling, the feeling of brick and stone on my back, under the fluttered, tattered, stained rag that I would sleep on. My pillow, an old potato sack filled with hay. I would often rise up out of the bed, with lofted scents of boiling curry wrapping, curving, up and down my face. The sun was often stark. The temperature unbearably hot.
If I went to the kitchen I could find Werethrep, old and weathered, with an old tattered red blouse splattered on to her figure, slapping away at a kettle with a ladle. Swearing in a tongue I couldn’t possibly understand.
On this particular day, I didn’t go find Werethrep. I opened my first story window, hopped out, and walked down the dirt road to a small clearing of stones, twigs, and patches of water. I stopped at the edge of a cliff, tumbling down into a great ravine. Vast and violent with a stark-brown mid-day glow. I sat down, kicked off my sandals, and let my toes dance in the wind over the edge of the great cliff.
I thought about my time in California. The sunshine girl, the state, what she meant to me. I thought about every time that I got lost in her arms, suffocated in her love, bled from my pores when her whispers touched my ears.
“It’s mustard,” the wind whispers to me.
“What?” I say, closing my eyes.
I open to my eyes to the sunshine girl, sitting on the bed of her dorm in her sundress.
“What do you mean it’s mustard?” I say to her, spinning in my chair from the steep ravine toward the bed in the small, cramped, air-conditioned dorm room.
“Mustard. That was the twist of fate.”
A Sandwich shop, Fisherman’s Warf, San Fransisco. 2009. A forceful afternoon sun blasts hot light off of the ocean, and basks upon us, sunshine girl, sitting at a marble bistro table at a one-story brick restaurant beach side.
She scans the sandwich, defiantly sitting on her porcelain plate, plump and ripe with hot range next to a glistening pickle and a pile of crisp chips. The indentation of her teeth outline the bread. She chews the sandwich in her mouth. Her giant green eyes bursting out of her eyeliner, as she searches the plate for answers.
“It’s mustard,” I say.
She turns to me, seated at the bistro table beside her, her red lips purse, “what?”
“We’re all searching for something, right?” I pick up my plate, and sit down at her table across from her, “right now, you’re looking for mustard.” I point at her sandwich.
She giggles, pauses, and then “you know what? You’re fucking right.”
“It was just a twist of fate.”
I clap my hands on a concrete porch of a two story house, settled beside a patch of Chicago skyscrapers.
“Right place, right time. You knew what I needed then,” the Sunshine Girl says to me, “and for a long time you knew what I needed. Where I needed to be.”
“I did,” I say.
She breathes deep, contempt drowning her heart, “but we lost that somewhere. Or perhaps we wandered away from it.”
“I’m not saying no,” the Sunshine Girl says, “I’m not saying goodbye.”
“That’s good,” I say, “that means we can be in love again.”
“No,” she says, “Let me finish, what I’m saying is ‘not now.’”
She sighs deep. Birds settle onto a nest on the roof. A bus howls in the wind as a swishes by, as light as a feather.
“I’m not saying no,” she repeats, “I’m just saying not now.”
She looks to me, holds my hand in hers, “it was just a twist of fate.”
“But what do I do now?”
“You wait, and someday…”
“I find something again.”
“Yeah, but until then, you wait.”
She left me, cold in soul, hard in mind, with just a pack of cigarettes and a forgotten scarf.
Back in my silver PT Cruiser in California, I look at Dylan in the backseat through my rear view mirror.
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