(novel in progress)
I lived on 16th and Mission, a block from 17th street, sandwiching the old Mission. Built right next to it a hundred years later, stood the new one like a big pink castle. Some of my new friends, the Berkeley grads, lived on that block benefiting from rent control, in a 6-unit Victorian. I started and ended most of my evenings out there. We’d start by putting on some records, pouring some cheap wine and discussing our options, as one by one the roommates in nearby flats joined ours, which was usually the second floor. Usually someone woudl have to call downstairs or upstairs, or yell out the window to rally everyone.
They were all guys there, and I usually had some friend with me, but I was solo that night we went to the MBA party up on Twin Peaks. I first heard banghra that night. Intricate Persian rugs on the floor, large sprawling stucco rooms with decks spread out side showing off the nightline of the entire city, seemingly three worlds below. Two DJs from India were smoking, wearing white button downs and mixing records with heavy bass lines and fast, 6 or 7 tempo beats.
Not having an MBA and not drunk enough to dance, I walked outside. I held the token plastic cup of beer, getting warm and flat in my hand. I looked around and noticed another girl sitting on a bench farther back on the deck. I leaned on the railing, looking at the moon and trying to pick out various streets and landmarks.
Two drunk guys came out and started shouting at each other.
“Oh let’s fucking smoke now.”
“Fucking, can’ fucking get the lighter, fuck.”
One fumbled for a light and burned his sleeve, they laughed and stumbled to another side of the deck.
Without talking about it, she said “Oh let’s fucking smoke now.” And I responded, “Fucking, can’t fucking get a light, fuck.” Then, laughed. I don’t remember much about her at that time- but that she had dimples, vintage Nike shoes, long skirt, hoodie, short haircut and pudgy cheeks. Overall she was youthful, but kind of reserved.
Mike, one of the guys from 17th street, came out and we talked for a while. He seemed jazzed to meet her, and I tried, faultily to make the introduction. We did the hem and hawing over what we did, and it turned out she was involved with marketing, though the back-end stuff. Mike was a struggling graphic designer constantly missing out on gigs or trying to get new ones. I was quite content in tech writing, and once I mentioned it nobody ever discussed it farther than that.
I was surprised not to feel more possessive of Mike. He was a tall, dark-haired guy who paid me themost attention of the 17th street crew, but something about Betty made me think she didn’t care about him. Not that she was gay, but that she was aloof. She was unbearably polite, and gracious. Offering to get us more drinks, knowing what to say, not making quick jokes at our expense, none of that shivering insecure charm that slackers like us pulled off as uniqueness.
She drove me and Mike home, leaving the other guys with these girls, and they went to another party. She drove a red Miata, top down, and on the ride Mike found out she had two motorcycles, and a loft downtown near South Park. She got my pager number, we’d go to the farmer’s market tomorrow (I guess we’d had some discussion of heirloom tomatoes or pheasant, but I was too sloshed to remember). Mike looked smitten, glassey-eyed and excited. “She must be a dot com millionaire.” “Or just a trustifarian,” I responded.