So there I was. It took a moment to come to the next morning. I’ve woken up in many different places in my life, but I’d never woken up in a tiny residential hotel room that was so white that the walls should have been padded; the blandness was with the exception of the yellow stains in the corners and the fire escape ladder outside my window. I stood up, stretched, smiled, brushed my teeth, threw on some pants, and went around the corner to a little Mexican breakfast place for a cup of coffee (San Francisco has the best Mexican food in the country). After that I went back to my room for a shower and called my buddy. I said: “What’s the craziest thing I’ve ever done?”
He couldn’t tell me, and asked: “Why?”
“I’m in San Francisco,” I said.
“No fucking way.”
“Dude I just got here yesterday.”
“No shit? When did he get here?”
“A few days ago I think.”
Mark was one of my buddy’s from “back in the day.” It’d been a long time since we chilled. I hit him up.
He was down in Santa Cruz. Instead of him coming back up I told him I’d go down there. I would take the BART to the Cal-Train and then a shuttle bus, and meet him by the beach.
He told me what corner to meet him on, and said that he was by the entrance to “all the carnival stuff.” He was referring to the boardwalk.
When you go out west for the first time, one of the first things you’ll notice is how much easier it is to breathe. The air doesn’t have as many pollutants as most other parts of the country. I didn’t really notice that until I was in downtown Santa Cruz. I felt born.
Mark was standing there with his backpack in the midst of clouds of people walking, running, riding, and skateboarding by. I could smell funnel cakes and the ocean, which stretched out before me like nothing else I’d ever seen, and kept going. We took each other’s hand and started toward the beach, where he’d been sleeping.
“It’s like Navy Pier in California,” I said.
“It’s really cool at night,” he replied.
Another thing that’s quite different out west is how much more relaxed life is. We were just sitting there by the water and it actually felt like we were just sitting there by the water. The breeze and the white swishing of the waves went all the way between my sandy toes to my bare stomach and up the back of my neck like I wanted from the girls we saw to do with their hands to me. The sun was out. It reflected off the surface of the ocean and made everything light.
We walked through town a bit, got some seafood, and then I headed back. Mark was going to be there for a few more days before he’d hitch somewhere else. He asked me what I was going to do.
“Maybe find a job. I don’t know.”
It was getting dark when I got back. I put my hoody on (throughout the entire two months I was there, I put a hoody on in the morning, took it off during the day, and put it back on at night; the weather is remarkably mild and consistent).
I’d already been down Haight Street and through Golden Gate Park, so I figured I’d either visit the Castro or go down to the Embarcadero and the Wharf. There’s trolleys and cable cars that run up and down Market Street all night, so I could have done both, but I decided to just go up to the Embarcadero and walk along the water, which wound up being one of my favorite places to go.
I was told to just get off by the Ferry Plaza and just start walking. There’s so many bars, restaurants, shops, street performers, cozy corners, statues, views, that in the middle of it all I figured a view would be more than enough for a relaxing night after a healthy day by the water and under the sun. I had a spot right by where a group of spray paint artists were spraying pictures of Golden Gate Bridge. They had a few dozen different pictures on the ground that were in a variety of color contrasts.
The piers are quite wide and private in their openness. Some of the benches are about thirty feet long. I sat near the middle of one and looked out to the water as the sun was going down. I didn’t know where I was going to be in a year (much less five years) a month, a week, or even the next day.
I almost just wanted to stay there like when I was on the beach back in Santa Cruz and see how it looked when the sun was just coming up. And then when I told myself, “just take it day by day,” I realized that I wasn’t saying that to cope, I was saying it to decide which view of the sun I would enjoy.
I called Mandy.
“Hey,” she said.
“Where are you?”
“I’m by the bay.”
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah. This is the best decision I ever made.
Kyle Stark is a cultural fiction and travel writer from the Chicagoland area, and he has also spent time living in the Bay Area and the Pacific Northwest.
He published his first book “Five Stories and Nine Poems” on Amazon.com in November, 2016, also available to Kindle Unlimited Subscribers. He is currently studying the world of Islam. This includes Islamic history, faith, figures, culture, customs, government, law, society, as well as current political and social issues. See more from Kyle at www.kylestark.net.