Friday, January 27, 2006

A Loss for Words Pt. 12

(CONTINUED) The next day was Saturday and Ruben and I slept late. I was awakened by my phone ringing. I looked at the clock. It was one in the afternoon. I picked up the phone. It was Anne.

“Tom, I’ve just told Steve everything.” She was talking fast. She sounded scared.

“What happened?”

“He got angry.”

“Did he hurt you? Is he there?” I was already up and groping around for my clothes.

“No, he didn’t touch me. He’s gone now. But he got so mad. I’ve never seen him like that. He told me he loved me. He’d never said that before. He told me I’d hurt him worse than anyone in his life.”

“I doubt that,” I said, grabbing a shirt. “I’m coming over.” I thought she might say it wasn’t necessary, that she’d be alright, but she didn’t. She just said, “Okay.”

I told her I’d get Ruben’s truck and be there as soon as I could. I told her to stay inside and not answer the door. Then I woke Ruben and told him what was up.

“You want me to come with you?” he asked. “In case this guy comes back.” I thought of how frightened Anne had sounded on the phone. I believe I saw her vulnerability as an opportunity. I wanted to play the white knight. I wanted to be with her again. It was ridiculous and wrong and it would’ve been impossible. I don’t know if Ruben could have changed much about the way things went, but he started getting out of bed and I stopped him. It was a mistake.

“Nah, just go back to bed. It’ll be okay.”

Ruben looked at me. He knew something wasn’t right but he just said, “You know best,” and rolled back into bed. “You gonna be able to drive the truck?”

I said I could handle it and he told me to take my time; he’d take the bus in to work as long as I’d pick him up. I told him I’d meet him outside the post office at 2 o’clock. Then I got in the truck and turned the key. The beat-up hulk coughed and spluttered and I worked the gas to get keep the engine going. A cloud of blue smoke rose into the air as I backed out of the drive and headed out to Geary.

Anne still lived in our old house, over in Walnut Creek, right by the BART tracks. It was loud and whenever a train went by all conversation ceased and occasionally something would rattle off a shelf. It was far from ideal, but the noise made it affordable and that was something not to be taken lightly at the time we’d bought the place. To get there from Ruben’s house wasn’t easy. I had to cross the bay bridge and make my way through the East Bay, all the while nursing Ruben’s truck along, sometimes revving the engine at stoplights to keep it from dying. I had the cell phone next to me in case Anne called, but she didn’t. Forty-five minutes later I rolled into the driveway, pulled my foot off the gas, and the truck shuddered as the engine died. I was out the door and up the walk before the thing had stopped making noise. I still had my key to the front door.

Anne was standing in the kitchen holding a glass of wine. She’d been crying. She came from behind the counter and put her arms around me. She didn’t say anything, I just held her. It felt wonderful. In the distance I could hear the BART, the low whoosh off to the east. The windows began to rattle a little as the train approached. I pulled Anne closer and she put her head on my shoulder. I could feel the warm, wet tears on my neck. I stroked her hair. The train was right outside and I recall thinking that maybe one of the BART tracks had come loose or perhaps one of the cars had hit something because I heard a loud “CRACK.” Then all at once Anne gasped in a funny way and sagged against me. I held her upright and felt a strange, wet warmth against my belly. It was then that I saw the blood dripping onto the carpet. I eased her to the floor. Her shirt was bloody and I lifted it over her stomach. There was a hole in her side, between two ribs, and I put my hand over it, as if that would stanch the flow of blood. It did not. The blood seeped through my fingers and ran onto the floor. I began to go for the phone, but Anne was looking at me in a way I’d never seen before. Her eyes were glassy and her face pale. Her lips were drawn; it almost looked like she was smiling but she was not. She took my bloody hand in hers and squeezed it. “Just hold me,” she whispered. I gathered her in my arms, kissed her, and began to cry. It was probably less than a minute before she died. I pulled her close to me and sobbed. I kissed her again but she was gone. It was then that I saw him. I believe that he must have fired the shot from just outside the open patio door, which he’d probably unlocked before leaving the house, but by the time I looked up he’d already stepped inside. He was holding the gun in his right hand, which was trembling slightly, and staring at Anne. I thought he would shoot me, but instead he fell to his knees and put the gun to his own head. I laid Anne’s body down, stood up, and took two steps toward him. “Pull it, you sonofabitch!” He looked at me with wide eyes and pushed the gun harder into his temple. I grabbed a poker from the hearth and held it over my shoulder with both hands, like a baseball bat. “Pull the fucking trigger!” The eastbound BART train was leaving the station. I could feel the vibration. I took another step toward him. I knew he could just as easily shoot me but I didn’t care. “Do it or I’ll do it myself!” The windows began to rattle and his hand started to shake terribly. He closed his eyes and began to squeeze the trigger. The BART train was just beyond the yard. The gun went off and he looked at me wild-eyed. His right ear was gone and bits of plaster were drifting down from the ceiling. My own ears were ringing. A stream of blood flowed down his cheek. He opened his mouth wide and I swung the poker at his head. He fell onto his back and his face turned toward me. His eyes rolled back in his head; I don't know if he saw anything else or not. He did not cry out nor did he try to defend himself as I brought the poker down again.

I don’t know how many times I hit him nor do I know how long I kept at it. I may have screamed and yelled and wept in rage and wild sorrow. Or I may not have. I remember dropping the poker and hearing it thump against the bloodied beige carpet. I remember seeing blood and brain matter on my clothes. I could not have identified the man lying before me. Nor, do I believe, could I have identified the man standing over him, gasping for breath, murder freshly stamped upon his life. I went to Anne and lay down next to her. I pulled her to me and put a hand over her stomach, beneath which our child lay dead. Then I may have slept because I remember a moment when I believed it all to have been a terrible dream. But before I even opened my eyes I could smell the blood and the sour taste of death was on my own skin.

It’s strange to want to die and yet find yourself taking every measure to prolong your own survival. Yet this is what I did: I looked out the front window and saw no one out on the street. The backyard was also empty. I locked the patio door and dead bolted the front and back doors. Then I pulled the curtains closed. I took off all my clothes and put them in a garbage bag with the poker. I found some of his clothes in Anne’s bedroom and then took a shower. For a few seconds the water ran red as it spun down the drain, but three minutes later I was clean and wearing the clothes of a man whose whole history I wished wiped from the face of the earth. I put the towel in the garbage bag and then, if I could have, I would’ve laughed. My fingerprints were all over the house and all over Anne, indelibly traced in her own blood, my hands on her skin. And even had I not been standing in that room at that moment I would have been a suspect. I looked at the mangled body of the man on the floor. I didn’t know if the police would believe my story. I knelt down and touched Anne’s cheek. I told her I was sorry. I did not want to stand trial for what I’d done regardless of the sentence or the mitigating circumstances I might be offered. I was guilty of many things. I would have to run.

I dumped the garbage bag upside down and left the poker and clothes soaked in gore upon the floor. I would run but I wouldn’t hide. I took the garbage bag with me. I got in the truck and was just to the stop sign at the end of the road when my phone rang. Julie McGregor. I didn’t answer. I was already on my way to Santa Fe. (CONTINUED)

Photos taken in an abandoned rooming house on Greene St., Augusta, Georgia.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

A Loss for Words Pt. 11

(CONTINUED) I was on the 38 bus heading back toward Ruben’s when my phone rang. The name was Julie McGregor. The number had a Santa Fe prefix. I didn’t answer. Over the last hour Anne and I had finally managed to find some middle ground. I told her I wanted to be involved in the raising of our child. She seemed wary, but genuinely pleased. For her part, she said she would tell Steve about the baby and about me. For now, that was all she would do. It was all she could do. I thought she seemed a little nervous when we discussed Steve, but I let it go. I was nervous about all this, too.

I went back to Ruben’s and took a nap on the couch. When I woke up the sun was going down and the blinds cast long shadows across the carpet. For a moment I thought I’d slept through the night. I sat up on the couch and felt different. It had been a long time since I’d felt clean--really clean--but now it was as if while I’d slept a fire had burnt off all the wreckage that had been weighing me down. My thoughts were sharp and it seemed as if, at last, I saw a path before me. I felt good.

I grabbed a notebook out of my bag and a pen. A story had come to me, out of the air, and I had to put it down as fast as I could. In the story a man was put in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. He’d been engaged to be married soon and now it would be years before his release. At first he was despondent, inconsolable. But in a short time another man was put in the cell with him. This man has been badly wounded and apparently left to die. The innocent man tends to him as best he can, feeding him cold porridge from a bowl the guards bring each morning. He dresses the man’s injuries with strips of his own shirt, using the water that is brought to them for drinking to clean the wounds. Days pass and it seems sometimes that the man will die, sometimes that he will live. Finally, after a week, the wounded man says his first word, “please,” and motions toward a battered tin cup. The innocent man gives him some water and the wounded man sleeps. Eventually, the wounded man can converse. He will not speak of his crime or incarceration, only of his childhood, his mother, father, and brother, and how he loved them.

After some time the wounded man has begun to heal and the innocent man, freed from his ministrations, again sinks into despondency. He has told the wounded man of his ordeal, but the man only nodded and said that life could indeed be most unfortunate. One day two guards come down with another man who appears to be of great rank. In fact, he is the commander of the armed forces. The door to the cell is opened and the commander steps inside. He does not look at the man who has been wounded, but addresses the innocent man only. After a series of questions regarding name and age and birthplace the man is asked if he has helped the other man with his wounds. The innocent man replies that he has provided such assistance as he was able and the commander nods then turns and begins to pace across the cell. He tells the man that he has no doubt saved the life of the other man and that this must surely be a great thing in the eyes of God as mercy and forgiveness are often ascribed to that deity. He paces some more and then says that in the eyes of men, however, his assistance may not be taken as such a good thing. Then he asks the innocent man if he would like to know the crimes which the other man has committed. The man says that he would not, that if it is ultimately for God to forgive then it serves no purpose for him to know what the other man has done. The commander stops pacing and puts a finger to his mouth. Finally, he tells the man that his answer was wise and because of what he has done for this other man he will be released immediately.

The man is taken from the cell and led up a flight of steps to a room where he is given a set of clothes and a small amount of money. Another guard comes to show the man out of the prison but the commander enters the room. The commander says that the wounded man was his brother and that, therefore, his injuries had been inflicted by his own flesh. The commander holds out his hands and turns them over for the man to inspect. The innocent man says nothing. The commander then reaches into his shirt pocket and removes a bloodstained ring, which he gives to the man. The commander says that it was his wife’s ring and he wishes the man to have it as a remembrance. The innocent man is confused but expresses his gratitude. The commander goes on to tell him that he must always remember that his life was ransomed with that of another much better than he, that lives in his family were tragically lost and saved, and that, as lives stained by blood are forever intertwined, the innocent man has become part of his family. He kisses the man on the cheek and opens the door for him. As the man exits the commander tells him not to despair, that the price for freedom has always been blood, and whether it has been shed or saved is simply a matter of circumstance. The men part and the innocent man begins the long walk to his home and his betrothed.

I wrote eighteen pages in one sitting, from start to finish. The story flowed right out of me. It had been a long time since that had happened. I didn’t realize how much time had passed until Ruben came home as I was doing a few final rewrites. I had forgotten to eat dinner—I hadn’t even realized I was hungry—so we went out to an all-night dinner and got some burgers. I even picked up the tab. (CONTINUED)

All photos of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Monday, January 16, 2006

A Loss for Words Pt. 10

(CONTINUED) I waited up for Ruben and told him about the phone call when he came home at 2 AM. He handed me a bottle of beer and sat down on the other end of the couch.

“Well, what do you want me to say?” he asked.

“I don’t know. What do you think about this guy?”

Ruben slugged down half his beer then started picking at the label. “What do I think? I don’t think it matters what I think. Or what you think. Anne can do what she wants and if you can’t live with it now, well, you should’ve thought of that sooner.” Then he smiled: “Hey, life’s a bitch.”

I took a pull off my bottle and nearly spit it out. Corona. I hated it. “But what about the code and using her maiden name and all that?”

He shook his head. “Your guess is as good as mine. But if you want my opinion...” He paused a moment, finished his beer, dropped the empty bottle on the floor, then pointed his finger at me. “If you want my opinion, I’d say that none of this is good. I’d suggest you just drop the whole thing and get back to writing. Hell, maybe you could use some of this stuff.”

“Yeah, but I’ve got to meet her for lunch tomorrow. She’s carrying my child.”

Ruben didn’t respond. He asked me if I wanted another beer, but I held up my bottle, still nearly full, and he walked back to the kitchen.

Ruben had two more beers. I barely finished my one. Then we hit the hay. I was up and out a little after ten. Ruben was still asleep.

I grabbed a bagel at a cafe on Geary then hopped a bus downtown. I got off and still had an hour to get to the deli, so I wound through Chinatown and into North Beach. By the time I got to Molinari’s, Anne was already standing in line holding a baguette. The place was packed. I wasn’t going to force my way into line next to her, so I told her to grab a table outside if she could. By the time I’d paid for my sandwich and made my way back out she was already halfway through her lunch.

“Sorry,” I said, trying to make room on the small wire table for my bag.

“You should have just got in line with me. No one would’ve cared.”

I waved my hand dismissively and sat down. I unwrapped my sandwich and took a bite. I had no idea what to say. Anne looked at me and narrowed her eyes.

“The guy that answered the phone was Steve. We’ve been seeing each other for more than a month now.”

“A month?” I picked up a chunk of mozzarella and popped it into my mouth. “Not wasting any time, eh?”

She put her sandwich down. “Do you want to talk or not?”

I stopped chewing. “I’m sorry. Does he know about the baby?”

“No, not yet.”

“Are you going to tell him?”

“Well, I won’t have much choice, will I?” She was angry. I backed off.

“I’m just trying to make some decisions. Only now they might involve you. Surprise, surprise.” I smiled, but she did not.

We ate in silence for a few minutes.

“Are you happy with him?”

“Yes.” She stuffed all the sandwich wrappings and crumbs and napkins back into the paper bag they’d come in. Then she picked up a cup of coffee from beside her and said, “I like him. We have fun. But am I happy? I don’t know. I don’t think like that anymore.”

“Does he know about me?”

She sighed. “No.”

“Why not?”

She watched the traffic on Colombus Avenue. “I told him I’d been married. But I told him you were dead.”

I hadn’t expected that. “Dead?! Why?”

“Well, for all I knew it was true. You’d been acting totally insane and then you just disappeared. No one knew where you were.”

“But you knew I wasn’t dead. You must’ve known that.”

She bit down on her lip. “Yes, I knew that. But Steve…he asked a lot of questions at first. It was just easier. I said you died in a car crash.”

I crumpled the paper and napkins from my sandwich into a tight ball. I dropped the ball into the bag then crushed that up as well. “Easier, eh? Don’t you think that was kinda stupid? What are you going to tell him now? You’re going to have a baby. It’s not his.”

She began to cry a little. “I didn’t know if I’d ever see you again. I was going to tell him it was his.”

I was speechless. My head started to ache. Anne wiped her fingers across her cheeks. A little mascara smudge was under her left eye.

“Tom, I needed someone. He was there and he was kind and he was…”

“Breathing?” I offered.

She stood up and ran her hand across her face again, crying harder. She took her sunglasses from out of her purse and put them on then started walking quickly down Colombus. I got up and followed her.

I grabbed her elbow before she could cross the first intersection. I squeezed harder than I wanted to and she tried to pull away. “I’m sorry,” I hissed. “I’m sorry and I know it doesn’t matter.”

She turned to me. “I wish you would’ve stayed away. Why didn’t you leave me alone?”

The light changed and everybody else walked across the street. Anne and I stood still as the pedestrians from the other side moved around us.

“I don’t know,” I finally said. “I don’t really know why I came back. It just suddenly seemed like the most important thing in the world, seeing you.”

The light turned red and people started to line up along the curb again. “Do you think you knew? Do you think that somehow you felt it?”

“Maybe,” I replied. “Maybe I did.” (CONTINUED)
All photos of San Francisco.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A Loss for Words Pt. 9

(CONTINUED) Ruben and I had some lunch and stopped in the park before he had to go to work. We talked my situation over but could come to no conclusions. I thought I wanted to be involved in my child’s life—it seemed impossible not to be—but after what Anne and I’d been through it was hard to imagine how it would work. I really needed to talk to her again.

Ruben dropped me off, the truck characteristically bucking and belching as he backed it out of the drive. I went inside and called Anne. A man picked up.


I didn’t respond. I’d heard his voice before.


I tried to sound as professional as I could: “Hello. I’m looking for Anne Gould. Is she available?”

“You mean, Anne Michaels?” the man asked. Michaels was Anne’s maiden name and while, in theory, there was nothing wrong with her reverting back to it, I didn’t like it. It was difficult to know how to respond.

“Yes. That’s right. The former Mrs. Gould.” I tried to laugh good-naturedly, as if I’d just made an embarrassing but innocent mistake. The man on the other end did not laugh.

“One moment,” he said.

Anne picked up and I said, “Hi, it’s me.”

A moment passed and then she replied, “The script needs some rewrites.”

This was our old code. Anne worked in the theater and for years we’d been obligated to attend the various functions that surrounded the productions. Neither of us particularly enjoyed these staid and stilted get-togethers and so we invented a code. Whenever one of us—although I admit it was usually me—had all they could take of an evening they could track the other down and casually say, “The script needs some rewrites.” The other was then duty bound to do whatever it took to ensure a speedy exit. Often Anne would be standing amongst a group of well-heeled patrons and well-drunk actors and I’d walk slowly past her, muttering the code under my breath. She’d smile, maybe a tiny bit annoyed, but mostly amused. At least I preferred to think it was amusement. Then she’d excuse herself and join me in any of a seemingly countless number of foyers and entry rooms, where I was already retrieving our coats. The phrase was innocuous and entirely in context. No one ever suspected anything. And it wasn’t always me. Sometimes, unexpectedly, I’d find her at my side, and I knew what she was going to say before the first word left her lips. It always felt good when this happened, like we were truly co-conspirators against the rest of the world. I didn’t feel that way this time.

“What do you want to do?” I asked.

“Let’s discuss this over lunch tomorrow,” she said, brightly. “Do you know Molinari’s in North Beach?”

I didn’t bother to reply.

“Okay, how about 12:30?”


“See you tomorrow.”

“Bye,” I said.

I didn’t like what had just happened. I’d guessed Anne must be seeing someone since I’d called once before and this man had answered, but it seemed that she didn’t want him to know she was talking to me. Maybe she hadn’t wanted him to know about me at all. I wondered what kind of conversation Anne was having with this man at that moment. She could see whoever she wanted to see, I couldn’t deny that, but it complicated things just as I was trying to make some important decisions. And did this guy know about the baby? In any case, he was going to find out soon. Mother nature would make sure of that. (CONTINUED)

Top photo taken in northern Florida, middle shot from Beaver Bay, Minnesota, bottom pic from the backyard.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A Loss for Words Pt. 8

(CONTINUED) I was asleep long before Ruben came home and didn’t wake until the first rays of pale sunlight crept through the blinds and fell across the hide-a-bed. I could tell immediately from the milkiness of the light that there was fog. I quietly got dressed and went outside. The city was just beginning to move. I heard trucks and busses and laughter from somewhere down the street. Then I heard the foghorn boom from off the water and decided to walk the couple blocks down to Point Lobos. Soon the towering Monterey pine and cypress, which survive nowhere else, appeared overhead and then quickly gave way to the ocean, wholly concealed in mist. To the left was the Mechanique Museum and its rows of dusty old arcade games, levers and spindles and pulleys yet waiting to do the bidding of anyone that wanted to bring the archaic machines to life again. I might’ve gone into the museum to examine some of the quaintly bawdy dioramas or have my future told, but it was still early and the museum closed. Farther south, through whisps of fog, I could just make out a few figures walking along Ocean Beach.

I began to follow the dirt trail down to the remains of the Sutro Baths. Water had ponded at the base of the old ruin and the wind was whipping in from the Pacific. The foghorn boomed again and I could see nothing beyond the closest whitecaps as they broke noisily against the shore. I made my way to the water, then up to a small tunnel through the rock. At the edge of the tunnel I stopped to face the ocean. I could feel the spray on my skin, but my clothes were not wet. Soon a sixtyish man came out from the other side of the tunnel. He had a big, white beard and I could see tie-dye beneath the collar of his windbreaker. A sailor’s cap was crammed tightly over his skull and he reached up occasionally as if to ensure that it was still there, although it moved not a millimeter in the gusts. He was, I was sure, an original Haight-Ashbury hippy. The last of a breed that had been dying since the day they’d first appeared.

“Are you from here or just visiting?” the man asked, after leaning against the rock for a few moments, looking out at the impenetrable fog.

I considered the implications of the question. I could smell the salt in the air and already taste it on my lips. “I don’t know,” I replied. The man tilted his head to one side, whether interested or bemused or wary I couldn’t tell. “I’m originally from Boston,” I went on. “But I’ve lived here for many years. Until recently, that is. My now-ex-wife and I moved across the bay a couple years ago though.” I’d already said more than I’d intended, so I just stopped. The man nodded and turned back to the ocean.

“I live on a houseboat in Sausalito. Been down there for almost two decades. But last week the damn thing sprung a leak and it’s in dry dock now for repairs. I’m staying with some friends in the city ‘til she’s seaworthy.” He reached up and touched his hat again, then shook his head. “I’ll tell ya, living on a boat gets rid of a lot of problems, but the ones you’re left with are doozies. I woke up to take a piss and stepped into two inches of water. If those couple brewskies I’d had before bed hadn’t been knocking on my bladder I mighta gone down with the ship.” I almost laughed but didn’t when I saw that he’d pursed his lips grimly.

We both looked out over the water. A minute or two later the man turned to leave and said, looking back up the cliff, “It’s still a hell of a town, but not like it was. Not like it was at all.”

I nodded and he started back up the trail, the hand now reaching for the hat more frequently as he went.

Eventually I turned and headed back up the cliff, but instead of going back to Ruben’s I began to walk north. The air was cool and damp and the horn continued to blow and shreds of fog blew in off the water and disappeared into the trees. I tried to think of nothing in particular and it seemed that decisions would be made—were being made—as long as I kept walking.

I kept on along the waterfront, a few people clambering over rocky outcroppings down by the water or sitting beside huge fishing poles. I kept on through Lincoln Park and skirted China Beach, flanked by huge homes with exquisite landscaping, each seemingly undergoing some manner of reconstruction or remodeling. I continuously passed port-a-potties and heard snippets of Spanish as workers arrived to begin their day. I dropped down to Baker Beach and made my way along the strand. On the far side some nude men were out sunbathing, although the sun was nowhere in sight. It wasn’t until I reached the old army bunkers just south of the Golden Gate that the fog began to lift. At the bridge I hopped a bus and headed back into the city. I suddenly wanted to talk to Ruben, but he wouldn’t be up for another couple hours. So, I stopped at a cafĂ© on Geary and had some breakfast while I read the paper.

When I got back to Ruben’s he was just waking up.

“Where were you?” he asked, dropping the top back on the coffee maker.

“I went for a walk along the water. Then I got some breakfast. How was work?”

He yawned. “Same old, same old.” He sat down at the kitchen table and grew more serious. “You talk to her?”

I took a seat across from him. “Yeah, I saw her.”

He shook his head. “Just got right down to business, eh? Did you say what you wanted to say?” He reached over and grabbed two mugs off the rack on the counter. “By the way, just what DID you want to say?”

“It turned out it didn’t really matter. She’s pregnant.”

Ruben put one mug in front of each of us then leaned way back in his chair. “Whoa! I wouldn’t have figured she’d…” He stopped, trying to choose his words carefully. “You know, I just wouldn’t have thought it would’ve happened so soon.”

I picked up the empty mug and put it back down. “It’s mine.”

Ruben’s eyes got bigger and he leaned forward in the chair again. “Holy shit! She must be pretty far along!”

“Almost two months.”

He considered this, making some calculations. “That means this child was conceived after you were divorced. I know, ‘cause I was with you when the papers were filed.”

“Well, old habits die hard,” I muttered, tracing the embroidery on the tablecloth, but immediately felt terrible for saying it. I raised my head: “I didn’t mean that.”

Ruben seemed to be looking at me very intently. “I know you didn’t. You don’t have to be like that with me. I spent a lot of time with both of you.”

He got up and poured us each a full cup, then put the pot back and sat down. He sipped at the coffee, but it looked too hot to me. “So, what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know. I’m not really sure what my options are. But she’ll let me be involved in raising the kid, I know that.”

“Do you want to do that?”

This, then, appeared to be the big question, but it didn’t feel like it. There seemed to be something else just below the surface, some other factor that needed to be considered before I could come to any firm decision. Yet this other element was illusive and remained just beyond my grasp.

“I’d never even thought about having a kid until she told me this.” I sipped at the steaming coffee. “It scares me.”

Somehow Ruben had already finished his first cup and was refilling his mug. “Yeah, but the question is: ‘Do you want to help Anne raise this kid?’ The other stuff doesn’t matter. Not right now.”

I drank some more and then put the cup back down. “I think I need to talk to her again.”

Ruben smiled. “You’re really in trouble.”

I laughed. “And you love it, don’t you?”

“You know I do.” (CONTINUED)

All photos of SF, CA.