Ethan pulls his boxers up, and picks up the pair of jeans hanging over the back of his desk chair. One leg than the next, and he abruptly stops. He has put his boxers on inside out. He sighs and shakes his head, then pulls the jeans and boxers off and redresses. Romance doesn’t recognize underwear on inside out. After is a different matter. He pulls the “Space Invader” t-shirt over his head. “Socks?” He picks up a pair of the white athletic socks and stuffs the other in his backpack. I think I’ll wear my blue/black Chuck Taylor Converse. Ethan bought them off of Easy from a designer who customizes them directly from the factory. They are fashioned after a TARDIS (time and relative dimensions in space) from the British television series, Dr. Who. At $120 a pair, they are cool and rare. I’ve yet to see another pair in SF.
“Hum,” socks, underwear, t-shirt, I need my toothbrush. Joel’s got to have shampoo, soap, and toothpaste. He returns to the bathroom retrieves his toothbrush and deodorant, “I can’t forget my Axe.” He puts them in the pouch on the front of his backpack. He packs his clothes in the ragged black North Face Sojourn and dresses.
Ethan goes back to the closet and grabs his fake letterman’s jacket. He bought a black wool coat with orange leather sleeves to match his high school colors, which also match the SF Giants, the local professional baseball team. He has a giant Helvetica E placed over the right breast and the digits, 07 on his left sleeve. Seven is his lucky number. Over his left chest he tacked on three buttons and a hatpin: one is a graphic of an eight ball, 2nd is the slogan, “Can’t Sleep, Clowns Will Eat Me,” and the 3rd is a 70’s band album cover, Pink Floyd’s, Dark Side of the Moon.
The hatpin is centered between the three buttons. It is a 4-inch long, 14k gold, with a beautiful 1/2″ natural Japanese pearl on the end. It was a gift from his favorite aunt. She’s the only one in his family who really understood his desire to become a playwright. When Ethan was 9 years old, he wrote a child’s version of the Phantom of the Opera. Ethan’s favorite teddy bear became a slave to the cruel Mister Black. Teddy was forced to live in the basement, mop floors, clean bathrooms, and keep Black’s coal furnace at the right temperature. Mr. Black stole Teddy’s notebook, with a libretto to a musical play, and sold it to one of his friends. Ethan stayed with Aunt Nicole or Nicky for a month one that summer, and she organized the neighborhood children to perform the play at a backyard picnic.
When Ethan was 14 years old, she gave him a manual typewriter that was hers in her youth. Nicky always wanted to write mystery novels like Agatha Christie or P.D. James. Nicky never finished one, because life and the Vietnam war got in the way. Her boyfriend signed up right out of college, and she followed him to the war as an army nurse. She came back, and he did not. The pearl was his promise to her to follow her dreams when they were both stateside.
Nicky gave him the pin when he left for SF. She said that, “when ever you feel defeated or life seems too difficult to continue, roll the pearl around in your fingers and hold it in your palm. It will warm up. When it does, think of that warm summer night when we produced the Black Teddy, and how the other children loved it. Remember how their parents laughed and laughed the whole night. You made that happen, Ethan. You gave them so much pleasure.”
Ethan puts the letterman’s jacket on, grabs his backpack, and turns off the lights in his apartment. He locks the door on his exit and heads down the hallway to the stairs, to the entrance of his building, and steps out onto Bush Street. He slings the backpack over one shoulder, then the other, and proceeds toward Union Square. Patel’s Market, “Open All Hours,” on the corner of Bush and Taylor will have Coke or Pepsi, and should have some limes, lemons, or oranges; almost any kind of citrus will do for Cuba Libres
He enters the market, smiles, and nods at the older, thin gentlemen behind the counter. Sanjé Patel stands up. They’ve never met, but Ethan is a regular for sundries on the fly. He knows where everything is in the small dingy store. Patel does his best, the floors are always clean and some incense permeates the air. The entire building needs a thorough renovation, but with rents in this city on the way up with the latest internet boom, clean floors and a friendly smile will have to do.
The market is only twice the size of his apartment, and items are stacked to the ceiling, high on shelves about his head. Every inch of the walls, floor to ceiling, are lined with shelves. More rare items are on the top and everyday comestible are arms length or lower. One of the overhead fluorescent lights at the back of the shop is flickering, adding a sense of urgency to anyone searching the back shelves for toilet paper, tissues, or other paper products. One side the isle closest to the checkout counter is lined with freezer cases and on top of them are relevant holiday items. Next to the checkout is a rack of magazines and newspapers with adult content behind the counter, as well as a decent selection of liquor in pint bottles and travel sizes. On the wall opposite the checkout are sodas and snacks.
Ethan looks over the sodas, no Coke or Pepsi.
“Let me know if you need any help.” Sanjé says. He keeps a fold up ladder behind the counter to reach any thing on the upper shelves.
“No Coke or Pepsi,” Ethan asks? His luck tonight is truly hit or miss.
“Sorry, no, tomorrow. A couple of guys, black suits, came bought everything. I have, RC Cola from order, Mr. Richards. He’s 4 hours late.”
“RC?” Ethan thinks for a moment. “Is that in cans or bottles?”
“I have 6, liters.”
“Great, I’ll take one. Do you have any limes?” Ethan is relieved; two steps forward and only one-step back.
“Yes, oranges too.”
“I’ll take one of each.” No need to tempt fate any further.
“Bag?” Sanjé asks. He ordered the RC special from the Coke distributor and they were not too happy about it. He yanks the liter bottle off the plastic six-pack rings.
“No. I have one,” Ethan pulls a nylon bag out of a pocket in his backpack. It stuffs into a smaller sack of itself, smaller than an apple. Bags in SF are 10 cents each. The City by the Bay must be the first in the country charging for shopping bags. Only in SF does the government have the nerve to do the right thing. They should charge a $1.
“Thanks.” Ethan places the items in the bag and heads to the door.
“No. Thank you, sir.” Sanjé smiles and waves to Ethan’s back; he has only 5 more liters of RC to go. He puts the RC on the shelf, in place of the Coke, until tomorrow. He doesn’t want the distributor to get any idea that he’s cutting Coke’s shelf space. He or his family will just have to drink it.
Ethan walks down Bush to Powell, turns right and heads down the hill to the nearest BART station. It’s 8 o’clock, and I should be in Emeryville around 8:30 or 9. Not too late and not too early, it’s the perfect time to start a party.
“ETA 8.5-9.” He takes his phone out of an inner pocket in his jacket and sends a text to Joel.
“G8go4qbrgr. Ne?” Joel responds.
“YBY brgr bc u.”