The lethargic fog. Gulls on the streetlamps. The low hills, spotted by eucalyptus; the sweet air. Somewhere: my sons.
Ten, fifteen couples, here and there, making love, in damp rooms, sad blankets kicked to the floor.
Raccoons sleep in the drain pipes. From a wet power line a hawk contemplates the crushed fields. Abruptly, a boy, maybe Mexican, crosses the highway, running. The hawk's head flicks.
The slow, bored, cold tourists. The town is uglier than they'd expected. Realer.
The girls all have long hair. As if I've returned to Chile.
Behind me, a little boy presses his face against the Peet's Coffee window. I turn to him and he smiles, showing his gums, his tiny teeth.
All the bars. I remember my contentment at being a local; joyously I over-tipped. My friends always greeted me with what I took to be genuine warmth. At the end of the night I'd drive home drunk, cautiously.
The nights warmer than the days. The low drone of the foghorn echoing around Pillar Point and down the coastline's long crescent.
On Highway 1: a lone siren. Its mournful fading. Another siren soon filling the silence.
We stood under the front yard's only tree, weeping. The bougainvillea raged pinkly.
The orange haze of the nurseries' lights dulling, dimming the stars.
Autumn. The sunlight, fields of pumpkins, hay mazes, crows. The shortening days' glitter.
I am despised.
One afternoon I happened upon a pig browsing my neighborhood. Brown, hairy—it dismissed my presence as I'd dismiss a small dog. After a while it wandered into the hills. A couple of county sheriffs followed its tracks and shot it. Sitting at my desk—this was a couple of years ago, when I still lived there—I heard their rifles crack. Some Mexicans brought its carcass out of the trees and heaved it into the back of their truck.
The ocean rattles the sand. Plovers scuttle along the foam, pecking the water for crabs.
Main Street's long, clean sidewalks, its small shops, all but the restaurants—and perhaps even the restaurants—selling nostalgia. I'm too poor for them, thank god.
Fishing boats sway in the harbor; the fishermen, high on meth, their beards oxidized by salt, drink toward sleep. Their wet eyes shine bluely.
Two very young Mexican girls wait with babies for a break in the traffic. They hold onto strollers hanging with groceries.
Dead salmon silver the pier's oil-stained wood. Chinese couples from San Francisco, the men holding fat wallets, projecting an air of profound dissatisfaction with all but themselves, wait by the scales. In the distance: a fishing boat's generator. On the other side of the jetty, looking like seals, the surfers drift, talking.
The yellow house, its blue bookshelf, its books, its orange kitchen, its woman, its boys. The morning's busyness; the backyard's redwood fence wet with dew. Shoots of new calla lilies show along the edge of the patio. Soon there will be hundreds of them, waist-high, opening their white faces to the winter sun.
The grass is still thin where Maggie, now dead for nearly a year, had circled it, searching for field mice.
Day after day I visit home.