It’s fall. And I am on the pier again. Watching the fishermen with their hoods pulled up. Their fisher wives and fisher children wrapped in blankets and hidden in tents to protect them from the cold. The wind picks up and a piece of dried seaweed blows in front of me. It seems familiar for a moment.
Some more time passes by and I stop to get a hot chocolate. Exchanging a few words with the lady in the cafe window. Walking over to the side of the pier and leaning up against it. Deftly avoiding the bird shit and staring out at the glow sticks floating on the water.
“Markers,” someone will say on another night.
“Markers,” you will repeat on this night. Because you find yourself looking back. And remembering the coldest summer.
Marker I. This distinct notion.
You’re driving home.
And three men stumble along side of the road.
You slow down
Knowing that something is wrong.
When one of them steps in front of you
You’re not surprised
But when you stop inches from him
You are surprised
He’s not broken.
The man stumbles away in a drunken blur.
And your friends say how his luck saved him.
But you have this distinct notion,
That it wasn’t his luck that saved him.
Because it was yours.
Because his luck would have left him dead.
And so it leaves you wondering
How long your luck can last.
Or if you even have any left
Because it feels like he robbed you of the last of it.
Marker II. Ritual.
Because it was supposed to be this day of rebalance. To continue on at this time when you feel like you are struggling. Because that was your intent at the sweat. This ritual that you had gone to share with friends. At this beloved place that had burned in the fires.
Though in truth you were already sweating before you entered the kiva. Because it was a 108 degrees. And that was before the rocks came in.
Yet, it was only when the rocks did come in that it struck you. How you didn’t understand ritual when you were younger. How in ways you still don’t understand it. How it can break you down. How it can rebuild you. And how you can find so much comfort in it.
Marker III. Dinner.
And a small group of friends.
We are sharing our stories.
“You comforted me,” she says.
And she goes on to tell the story.
This story told by her father now.
And with those words she repays the favor.
Though there was never really any debt.
Marker IV. Moths.
It is a cool summer night when the moth falls from the lamp above us and onto the table in front of me. We are playing cards. A new game, but it feels like old times.
I madly proclaim that “MOTH-a Stewart” has come to give me good luck. And I cradle the moth gently. My sisters and their boyfriends tremble in fear.
But alas, it’s not meant to be. And one of my sisters wins. Because my dear “Moth-a Stewart” is no match for endless summer nights playing cards while growing up. So it’s not unexpected.
Sadly, I leave the moth on the table. And she is gone by morning.
Marker V. Perfection.
The waitress is perturbed as he reaches over to another table to grab an extra cup for coffee. She stops him explaining how the table behind him is perfectly set. And she goes back behind the counter to find another cup.
There are few people there. It’s doubtful there are ever many more. There is understanding for a moment. This desire to maintain perfection.
Shortly after breakfast, your oldest friend will ask, “Will you be my best man?”
Your mind will turn back to breakfast and this desire to maintain perfection.
And of course you will answer “Yes.”
Marker VI. The middle.
“He was right, you know.” And the words go through my head. “I would be lucky.”
But I can’t get the words out. Because they are reminders of beginnings and endings.
And I’m trying to pretend that we’re still in the middle.
Marker VII. The vineyard.
Your friend is disappointed and makes a dash for the grapevines. The soldiers with their guns are looking at him as if he has gone mad. And you think, perhaps he has.
Because the bullfights and the blood and the wine. Because that was what you came for. But not the only thing you left with. And so you watch as another friend chases him into the grapevines after saying to this third friend,
“Hang on to Jeet.”
“But I am not going anywhere,” I grin. A wine stained bloody grin.
Because the wine. Oh, the fucking wine. I don’t ever remember drinking so much wine. And so my mind is stumbling around. And I hear this third girl ask me where I am from for the second time. But there is little comprehension.
Or maybe that came earlier while we were on the dance floor. Before we got up on stage. In this music and wine induced frenzy. And so I hear her ask again,
“De donde eres?”
And she seems disappointed when I answer, “San Diego”. But I can’t remember if I am disappointed too. Because her disappointment is the only thing that I remember about her. The rhinestones and the shine of her dress will only be from the stories of my friends. How I left the two other girls I was dancing with when I saw her on the dance floor.
“Ooooh, shiny,” my friends will laugh at me. And I will laugh too. Because it’s another story. Another moment. Another marker. This day at this vineyard in Valle de Guadalupe.
And so a cold summer ends with a warm day.