San FranciscoA Story by Paris Kim
for a year Lucy tried to keep in touch with Daniel, always asking when he would ever come visit her in the City. three years later, Daniel finds himself in San Francisco, alone.
He looked up, wondering if anyone still danced at the Starlight Room, as the sign’s ancient luminous streaks of neon pink and gold and teal stars burst at the top of the building that overshadowed Union Square. But he had other worries at the moment. Swarms of people were moving against him on sidewalks, crosswalks, and cars flew through the intersections when cable cars had just moved out of the way. Daniel didn’t really have to be in San Francisco at the moment, he could’ve left hours ago after the company's 40th anniversary party at the Hyatt. But he rarely went into the City, and it was quite a lovely evening. Daniel found the scene romantic; he wasn’t himself considered a romantic sort of man, but not long ago such a sight before him gave complete excitement in which he could envision some sort of dreamy disposition on his behalf.
And he could only wonder how far the gardens were from the square.
It was her favorite spot in San Francisco. He vaguely remembered when she first told him about the gardens. What was it, the third or eighth phone conversation they had? Somewhere in between the gardens came about. They excited her, but more exciting to Daniel was how they fascinated Lucy so much.
She was a year older than him; she worked with his friend Al at the Papyrus in Walnut Creek that summer four years ago. Daniel’s estimated amount of times he’d ever set foot in the stationery shop was minimal, for he always thought greeting cards were a waste of money. This one errand for his sister to buy her a special set of “Thank You” cards with peacock feather letterpress was perhaps the first time he’d ever visit Al at work. Al was in the back, Lucy was arranging the fall window display, and there was Daniel. And there began talks of peacock feathers, Lucy’s knowledge about the bad luck they had when used as décor in homes, if she lived on her own, Daniel living in Walnut Creek his whole life, and soon enough Al, who had came out eventually but stood on the sides silently, proposed that Lucy come out to a party at Al’s girl’s house just outside of Las Lomas High School.
“What apartments do you live at?” Daniel asked Lucy later that evening, watching her closely while she fumbled through a chain of keys to lock the store up. No, he didn’t hang about the store until that evening, but he did come back to pick Lucy up as she did not have her own car.
started laughing. “You assume that I have some apartment to myself somewhere.
In fact, I’m out here from San Jose to live with my girl Stacie from school.”
She shrugged. “Oh, I don’t know, just something new I guess. I don’t like San Jose really, it’s quieter up the Bay. I’m on my way though to just getting out to San Francisco. I’ve found a place out there so that I can transfer to City College there. And figure things out from there.” They were driving right now. “San Francisco, eh?” he asked.
She was glowing at the mention of the City. “Oh yes, nothing else gets to me like city life. Oh my god, it’s just, f**k, lovely there.”
“Lovely?” Now he was laughing.
Yeah, lovely! It’s just the perfect word for like, anything. And that’s San
Francisco for you.”
It was their second conversation in person. From the party afterward, everything became Facebook, and then by phone. Daniel was more into texting, it was his comfort zone, but he knew how much Lucy loved voices and actually expressing herself by phone. He tried for her.
“I called to say I was thinking about you.”
“Well how lovely, Dan. Thank you.”
“Are you at work?”
“Of course. Call you when I’m off?” She did.
She always did, later on. And he loved every ring, vibration, White Stripes tune that went off when she felt the need to reach him. And the times they met up, what times! Lunch it usually was, on her time. They found it easy to discuss anything, but all that could ever send Lucy’s spirits into a frenzy was talk of city life"San Francisco. It was one more week before she was set to move into the City. It was a dinner instead of lunch in the sweet summer sun, somewhere in Danville in a brightly-lit outdoor patio surrounded by the strong scent of the cypress and birch trees that wounded around. He stared closely at her blonde hair in a soft loose bun and her sparkling sequined dress as she was discussing something about her artwork, a recent project on hummingbirds. “I’ve gone to the most extraordinary places to find these creatures!” she was saying, “The Heather Farm Park, the Rose Garden out in Berkeley"you’ve ever been?”
shook his head. “Never to the Rose Garden. God, there’s just so many places
around here that I never knew about and sure take for granted. I need you to
take me everywhere.”
He was walking towards the Gardens, almost reaching Market Street and the shouts and crowded 71’s, F- lines, 21’s, and 30’s intersecting and crossing down the commercial street. He was at a stoplight, just like the others he stood next to, a lot Asian, some tourists, little were business persons in suits staying unusually late in the City. The sun was long gone, but the fog was nowhere near; San Francisco tonight seemed to Daniel somewhat airy and faintly lighter. The atmosphere of so many people in one night across a stretch of main road was far from madness, adding to the glow of downtown. And seeing this glow made Daniel even more curious, more determined to beat the crowds when he hurried faster than before to the desired destination.
“The picture was amazing,” he told her on the phone. He was near the Bear’s Lair pub on campus, supposing to meet his friend Carol for a few drinks after they got out of their 4 p.m. classes.
glad you did, isn’t it a beautiful place?” Lucy excitedly said on the other
line. “I’m still here, alone of course, but I have to head back to the studio
“A few blocks, not on Market, just off it between SF MOMA and Mission. That’s another place I must show you! The design studio used to be an old firehouse, brick and everything!”
I can,” Daniel replied, “but I definitely would love to.”
The next time they talked was the week later, and it was Lucy texting Daniel, between the reading for economics or the research and theory paper for sociology and a select other classes he could not accomplish much outside college. She texted during a dinner with his friend Carol and Al, visiting from Walnut Creek.
“You still talk to Lucy?” Al asked as Daniel quickly put his Blackberry back in his pea coat pocket. “It’s been forever for her and me. The store’s a mess without her there, must tell you.”
an eccentric artistic sort of girl with wavy long hair dressed in a long green
striped cardigan and a tan fedora, had only recently heard of the Lucy affair.
“Why don’t you just call her back or something?” she quickly suggested. Daniel
drew the phone out again, but after a pause placed it back in his coat.
“Another time,” he decided, “I’m out with my friends.”
“Just because I’m at community college I’m not doing s**t?” Al interrupted.
“No! Haha, I just mean that like, what time will I have left to do anything? God, Al, you have to come out here to visit me!”
I don’t mind it one bit,” Al smiled, randomly shaking his shaggy sandy hair in
his eyes. “As for Lucy, maybe she’d love to come out here to, eh?”
“Well, just make it a priority when you definitely do have time,” Carol simply concluded. “The poor girl seems to be starving for your arrival. You want the karma points don’t you?”
course,” Daniel agreed. He paused, then spoke again, “but it’s just the things
I need to do in return for those points. I fear that in the end there will be a
lot to reckon with if I put off and start late; better not start things at all
to stay safe.”
Al followed. “I mean, you do want to watch out for yourself. Then again don’t
Lucy called him for the first time in two weeks. “Do you know when you’ll be able to get away from Berkeley?” she quickly asked.
was hesitant to tell her a straight answer and was running his hand through his
faux hawk and unintentionally messing up the style. “I don’t,” he flatly said,
“I’m really sorry Lucy.”
“Look, I’ll try to call you up next time,” Daniel began, “I will. And soon. I’ll try to make it soon. Sorry, just things out here"”
she interrupted. “We just have to go along with things"see how it all turns
out.” She was quiet again. “I do miss you.”
He did call, as promised, but not soon enough. It was even a bad time to call her, ten minutes before he was to clock into his work at the Gelato Naia on Bancroft Way. A simple check off his unwritten to-do list.
“Maybe I’ll just text you after,” Lucy told him dully.
“Okay,” he said.
for weeks. Daniel figured he should call Lucy, and not just for courtesy. The
thought of her enthusiastic and energetic talks about the Bay Area and Yeah
Yeah Yeahs’ third album coming out and peacock feathers and the right
cappuccinos always did lift him up; he was feeling a bit down lately. She was a
sweet person, no doubt, so why did he have to hold back?
this week might work for you?” she finally asked. “I mean, don’t push it"don’t
if you can’t.”
Three years later proved soon was nothing but talk. That was one of the last calls Daniel and Lucy ever had. The texting was minimal, and come winter holidays there was much more"family, friends in the East Bay coming back from UC Davis or Long Beach State to see, and work"beckoning the young Daniel. They had managed to meet up for coffee once, when Lucy was in Berkeley; the rendezvous was most disappointing with basic small talks and difficulty to look straight in each other eyes. Nothing was colorful or deep as before.
He was nearly there. The Metreon sign stood its ground with flashing neon blue and red running up and down the vertical large letters. He crossed Mission and went around the complex’s corner to a brush of poplars and grass in the dark. Shady characters loomed, but harmless and in the distance across the lawn. He headed up the path, alongside the enormous glass windows of the Metreon that reflected inside a sushi bar and just before it the Chronicle Books shop. Just up an incline, and there it was.
The ground before him spread out and down the space around in chessboard mosaics, it stretched out to the countless skyscrapers towering over the spot, each one lit up and twinkling through the thinning fog. There was a sound of water rushing and running on continuously, and where it came from was the pool that dipped down from the layered concrete that served as benches in front of the water into streaks of massive water cascading down to another level of the park. The layered blocks were in front of this pool, lowering down to a smaller pool from where a wide but small waterfall came through from the main pool. In its reflection was the twinkling, the thinning fog dancing over it lightly. This was to his left.
Across the chessboard road was lined wooden benches in front of boxed flowers and shrubbery that separated this walk from the Samovar Tea Room and its tall trellis that housed a row of lounge chairs with small wooden bamboo tables on which the hot tea was consumed. They were grand, large flower boxes, crowding into the wooden benches, so privacy still was an issue when a person needed to rest along this line of damp seating. Up ahead in the distance was the Museum of Modern Art, beaming out from behind the cylinder tower orange streaks of light, and to the right was the Yerba Buena Center for the arts spurting out its own neon hues of blue. At the very end, in a last attempt to pull this magnificent light show together, were two jets of bright purple lights shooting from the gardens, casting a beautiful glow on the tall building behind them.
Daniel looked forever up into the sky. So this was it. This was the rage and emotions and hope and beauty that signified all that mattered to Lucy. He regretted so much, right now. Who was here? He saw an older Asian man, alone, on the benches, and two girl friends were strolling along just up ahead of him. An odd man in a dark duffle coat walked past him the other way with his hands bundled against his stomach to drive out any cold; the Hispanic teenage couple, in each other’s arms at the base of the layered concrete, eyed the man until he was out of sight and gaily began chatting together as they were before. There were other figures, but too far to make anything of them, too far to care about.
Keeping distance from the teenage couple, he walked further down and stood on the highest platform of the concrete before the pool. The sweet sound of city life, the cool water becoming mist and spraying onto his skin, the lights in the vast structures overhead turning on in some places and now most going out in others; Daniel did not want to move, not leave the surreal scene that beckoned to him through phone calls and text messages years ago. Now they made him stand face to face, feel remorse and guilt for effort not given to meet their demands. One time, one dinner, one movie at the Metreon or a walk together on that chessboard behind him, hand in hand, would’ve set Daniel and Lucy up for life.
He felt someone come closer to him.
“Well hi there, lovely.”
It was her. She was there.
© 2011 Paris Kim
San Francisco, CA
Aboutan optimistic college student who takes her life growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area and turns it into truthful fiction. always finding a way to smile and laugh and make the most of anything thro.. more..