(CONTINUED) Ruben showed up almost an hour late. What could I say? I didn’t really mind. I’d stood outside of baggage claim watching the cars go by, sucking exhaust fumes, and wondering what I was doing. Everything began to feel unreal and I wasn’t sure if that was because of the carbon monoxide or something more serious. In any case, I was glad to see Ruben when he pulled up in his rusty old pick-up truck. It was the only vehicle he’d ever owned, as far as I knew. I threw my bag in the bed and climbed in. Ruben grabbed my hand and gave me a thump on the shoulder.
“Tom! Good to see you.”
“Nice to see you, too,” I said, grinning, as the truck sputtered and died.
He dropped the clutch into neutral and revved the engine a few times, then got it back into gear and the truck lurched out of the terminal. It seemed to take all Ruben’s concentration to keep the truck going and it wasn’t until we were safely on the 101 that he spoke again: “This ol’ truck takes a little coaxing, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Silence again. Then he turned to me, serious: “What the fuck are you doing?”
I laughed, though nothing was funny. Finally, I shook my head: “I don’t know. Maybe I need some closure.”
Ruben downshifted hard and the truck bumped and wheezed. “Ah, bullshit! There’s no such thing as closure and you know it. Don’t you read your own damn books? Why don’t you just leave her alone? She’s had a hard time.”
I felt my stomach drop. A few unpleasant scenarios went through my mind. “Have you seen her?”
Ruben looked to his left, out the window. “Nah, but I’ve heard from friends.” The truck groaned, struggling to pass a bus. “I don’t think she wants to see me either.”
“You don’t think she’ll see me?”
Ruben turned off the 101 and into downtown. As the truck slowed for a light it smelled like something was burning. Ruben sniffed then turned on the heat full, although it was at least 70 degrees out. “Yeah, she’ll see you.”
We drove down Geary Boulevard toward the ocean. The afternoon traffic was getting heavy. Four busses were ahead of us, all #38, and we stopped as streams of passengers got off and on. “I gotta get to work soon,” Ruben said. “You can drive me in if you want. Take the truck…”
“Oh, no,” I said. “Thanks, but no thanks. I don’t think she’ll run for anyone but you.”
Ruben’s place was near the Golden Gate Park and within walking distance of the ocean. He’d lived there as long as I’d known him. He always said there was no reason to go anywhere else. As I watched him drive off to work in a cloud of white exhaust, I could hear the gulls wheeling overhead and the air was cool and damp. A few tall trees swayed slightly on the horizon. I figured he was right. (CONTINUED)
All photos of St. Paul, MN.