The Night PalmsA Story by Paris Kim
a random night out is what you need sometimes to determine what kind of person you want to be after something, something like Dylan's recent break-up that's shattered his idea of being the right guy.
Dylan never understood what a road like San Miguel Road was doing in the middle of spread out, worn-down Concord, California. For one thing, it cut through a few miles of quiet, old neighborhoods that appeared like any old city up in the East Bay, but this road, it took a mind of its own. He and Joe were weaving, winding in Joe’s silver Corolla in the dark, but the headlights illuminated all the bizarreness of the road to the two friends. Just turning off the main boulevard you went side by side with a fenced canal and stretched onward, and San Miguel followed. Getting away from the neighborhood homes less than a quarter mile after, swarms of trees"oak, poplar, knobby thin branches and falling leaves"separated the drivers on the dark road from the sky above. Swerving was mandatory, a country road along a shallow creek in the middle of the suburbs.
But Dylan couldn’t think about this now, he was still fuming, too disturbed with the break-up he just instated between him and Miranda. He did skip a beat in his heart when coming up in the dark a small deer just missed the path of Joe’s car. It was that weird. Shadows of fences enclosing houses along the country fast-lane were now fading away as a few turns left and one right got San Miguel back to civilization for a long stretch of road alongside the suspended BART tracks above.
They parked the car on the sidewalk.
Joe was getting something in the backseat; Dylan looked up at the tracks. It
was eleven at night, and a ten-car had just passed through overhead. “God, man,
hurry up,” Dylan said sternly to his companion. “Why the hell out here anyway?
We’re gonna get harassed. The police station’s up the f*****g road!”
“Does it matter what I got?” Joe shrugged, crumpling the plastic bag he took the beverage out of and tossing it in the back seat through the cracked window.
Dylan shook his head. “Cheap-a*s,”
he sighed. “Just ‘cause you’re not drinking doesn’t mean I get the s****y
They got on the hood of the car, crossed legs and looking down at the valley before the sidewalk. Adjusting his boot-cut lengths on his fading jeans, with a cigarette in his mouth, Dylan turned to Joe. “You sure no one will bother us?”
Joe seemed bored, a little impatient, slouching over on his lap with his tan face resting unsteady on his fist. “Trust me, I come out here most nights.” As Joe sat forward, Dylan was now to Joe’s side, reclining in his light corduroy jacket onto the windshield and exhaling outwards up into the cold December air. He blew his own sandy brown bangs away from his face. “You think it was the right thing?”
“Sure, she was a b***h,” Joe replied
casually, grabbing a stick from the Camel carton that rested against his knee
and lit it up. “She fucked up real bad. I couldn’t think why anyone, any girl,
would do that to you.”
Joe was laughing. “Just let it out, bro,” he said. “It’s not wrong to be a nice guy, but in this case she knew what you were. It’s not like she really tried being sweet.”
“Oh, she was in the beginning. I loved it"funny, sarcastic, actually gave a s**t about things I told her. Then I became the f*****g bank, buying her everything. She liked it too much I guess. Ughh, women.”
He turned his head out, looking down into the dark deserted skate park with its dips and hollowed uneven grounds, fenced off by black crosses of wire and beyond that a road dying down in traffic as cars rolled onward and the Seven Eleven on the other side stood still, but brightly, next to the emptied tacqueria. He wanted to keep talking he did, but his mind was occupied just then, staring blankly but closely at the distance beyond the traffic and business establishments, where four palm trees, their silhouettes protruding from the sea of lights below, barely swayed in the breeze just running through Concord. They weren’t the only ones, in the further distance and even foreground, outlines of these tall shaggy freaks of nature rose out from Concord into the night sky, like brushing against the dark of the sky.
“Why are there palm trees in Concord?” he marveled.
“What?” Joe asked, turning to Dylan then looking out where his friend did.
“Huh, it’s funny,” Dylan continued. “Sorry, man, just thinking out loud. I’m just confused. I’m feeling it. Thinking this and that, hella stuff just runs through your mind, and you don’t know what to do. God, I just want to go back to Portland, back to classes, end winter break, not think about this stuff here.” He buried his face in his hands, a few minutes. “You know, Joe,” he started again, “We gotta be like those trees.”
“Uhh,” was all Joe could let out.
“I know, what the f**k, but look at those things! Untouched, nothing’s moving them. Kind of emotional intolerant, stand against anything. You’ve been single for years, so I must follow in your lead. We’ll stay up nights, tall and unmoved, dark figures not being anything really but existing and doing our thing.” Joe laughed, and exhaling smoke, said, “You’re crazy, Dylan. Sure, palm trees. Night palms. Black and nameless empty guys just running about for themselves.” They lingered on the hood, staring into the distance, the sounds of them blowing out smoke piercing the still air.
“Let’s drive around now,” Dylan said, shaking himself out and jumping off the hood.
“You mean let me drive you around,” Joe simply put.
They tried their new identities, resisting the weights of emotions and conscience, cruising up and down the desolate Monument Boulevard overrun with Hispanic Markets and dirty apartment complexes and dated car dealerships. Blasting the Strokes and laughing for no apparent reason, they were flagged down by a most remarkable-looking couple. He was pale and blonde in fitted jeans and a red plaid shirt under a bulging black sweater, she in a green cotton dress with patterned floral tights and suede black heeled booties with a yellow ribbon from her light brown short hair. They were looking for a ride back to Todos Santos Plaza up the road near the theater complex.
In the backseat, the couple was laughing. The two in the front, curious as they were, didn’t mind, having a few bursts of laughter themselves. “Good night on Monument it seems,” Joe said, looking back at them from the rear-view mirror.
The girl kept laughing. “Yeah, not really,” the blonde boy started, “we just had the scare of our f*****g lives, we did!”
“Just saying,” Dylan followed, “you two don’t look like you belong in this area.”
“No, but Rosie’s aunt does,” the blonde continued. “God, it was awful! Dinner in Pleasant Hill, Sweet Tomato, then we drove out to Monument where Rosie’s aunt lives to bring her a book we bought at Borders. Just as the woman went to bed and we were leaving"”
“Stupid Jared has to remember that he left the car keys inside my aunt’s house!” Rosie beamed suddenly. “We tried knocking, didn’t work, so were thinking about breaking into the house and get the keys while leaving my poor aunt a note.”
harmless,” Joe commented.
“It was, until one of her neighbors saw and started yelling who knows what at us,” Rosie finished. Then it was more laughs shared between the couple. “Us, breaking in!” Jared exclaimed.
Blonde Jared lived just outside of Todos Santos Plaza, a green square surrounded by tall dark trees that catered to Concord residents in their need of outdoor concerts and weekly farmer’s markets. But tonight, it was all still, save the lamp lights and the twinkle lights strung about the tree tops that gave a glow to the whole perimeter. The outer buildings, European-styled structures in which restaurants and a bookstore and one mini boutique, slept at this hour. Only now was there the pollution of sounds, the Corolla pulling up to the curb and letting the couple out, the Strokes’ “Someday” still blaring out.
“Thanks man,” Jared said casually, shaking Joe’s hand as the driver nodded and smiled.
“Wanna hang out a bit?” Rosie suddenly burst. She looked at Jared with a smile, then to Dylan, who arched his brows in surprise. “I saw your Camels. Stay around a bit.”
At this command Joe and Dylan shrugged, parking the car and getting out with their new acquaintances, finding a place on the wet grass and passing out the cigarettes. They got to know each other, talking of their night and what they did and if they went to school, what the best tasting beer was and why Lady Gaga scared the s**t out of Joe. Random, flowing, on to the next it was with each other and every bit of talk made an amusing impression.
“You seem too quiet,” Rosie said, turning to Dylan as Joe and Jared got closer in conversation. Looking into his green eyes where restless lines were forming around, she examined his face and concluded, “Tired almost. A bit buzzed for sure, but you look worn out.”
He scoffed. “What you talk? I’m feeling the best I’ve ever been. Invincible. I won’t even flinch if the cops come around and force us out of the park.”
“Something happened, right?”
“I’ve been talking about hella things with you all.”
“To forget about something else.” She moved slowly over to him, closer. “You can tell me,” she assured him bluntly. He was shaking his head. A pause became a deep sigh.
“Her,” Dylan simply said, looking down, putting out his stub in the grass. “It all went wrong.”
Rosie replied. “That’s a shame.”
turned around to Jared. “Jared? Oh yes, but things don’t always seem perfect.”
“I can’t deny it. We’re mad for each other.” She was laughing now. “He’s amazing, and I love it. He’s stupid at times for sure, but it makes me laugh like no other. He’s sweet, and that’s all I need. Genuine.”
“A guy with feeling, what bullshit,” Dylan mused to himself. “I’ve gone down that road. Being the nice one and caring for the girl and making sure she got home safely and all that other waste of my time.”
Rosie was silent, but smiled at Dylan. “Well I’m definitely sure she was a waste of time. You my friend, nothing could ever change you or get you down. Not a waste for sure. Like a palm tree.”
He stared blankly at her. She started laughing again, more quietly. “Yeah, a palm tree. You see them around Concord, out of place, they seem hopeless even though they try so hard to fit in and please what’s around them. But you know what? That’s their beauty. They stand their ground, take in all the life and emotions thrown at them, and they make the most of their situation. These palm trees scattered in Concord, they should be down south or something. But here they are. They’re not complaining. They’re hopeful things will work out, and they are still here.”
He didn’t say anything right away, but only after a few moments pause, “I see.” There was a palm tree across the road, on the intersection right in the corner of the furthest parking complex. He could see it clearer now, brown, lean, a bit jagged with scraggly rough palms flinging out from the trunk. And he could picture what Rosie said. He was surprised at how his perception was so shallow, only seeing the black of the tree when there was so much more to it all along. “I guess I really do.”
Joe and him were driving on the way back now to Dylan’s, having parted with the odd couple in laugher. They were quiet, only Death Cab for Cutie now calming the mood of the evening. It was almost one o’clock.
“You’ll be alright?” Joe was asking. Dylan, not entirely out of it, sat up and shrugged. “I guess. Not as tense as before. The night was something I needed I guess. Thanks man.”
“Don’t trip. Just gotta keep doing your thing you’ve got going on now, this whole hard-a*s business, I guess.”Dylan laughed. “Oh man, no,” he returned, “not me.”
© 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..