The House on Waller Street
It is a long road from Amarillo to San Francisco. We drive north to Taos and south to Tucson. We are not interested in being direct, we are interested in direction, in directionality, to giving a shape to this existence and journey that we’ve now committed miles by the thousand to over these weeks.
“Where do you think we will live?”
“We are living, right now.”
There is a way that Henri has a way with my words. This isn’t our first time down this road, where his train of thought links with mine.
From Tucson to Flagstaff, and we smell the smoke of burning pine for miles outside of town on the way in and on the way out. It’s hours, or a blink, when we finally hit the coastal highway, and we look west to watch the waves break until they disappear under the dark and we pull the car off the road.
“You did a good job today,” Henri tells me. “Driving, I mean. I’m not sure I could have kept my mind in it.”
“Or around it,” I said. He appreciates when I attempt a spoonerism.
At Santa Cruz we stop and swim. We have a man take our photo on the beach. It costs a quarter and we get a polaroid, put it on the dashboard.
“I suppose that is the last photo of us,” Henri says.
“The very first and the last,” I say. Our mood has hit the right pitch.
All we know is a house on Waller Street. Look for the pointy one with gargoyles guarding the porch, is what a friend of Henri’s told us before we headed north. If you don’t find me there, you’ll find someone.
We drive aimlessly first, circle the city, from Golden Gate to North Beach, out to Hunter’s Point The evening comes and we head to the center of town. This we roughly know, but we have no map. What we have remaining is two crisp twenty-dollar bills in Henri’s pocket, my rucksack with our clothes, and the traveler’s checks I managed from a savings account I closed out. Whether we liked it or not we were here to stay.
The streets were thick with music, and everyone seemed to be in a costume. Even Henri, who typically played it cool, adjusted his shirt and checked his hair in the mirror.
“Wow,” he kept saying, as we rolled down Haight to Waller.
There were people everywhere but almost no cars. A group with two guitars and a jug sitting on crates watched us park in front of the pink house. They stopped playing and looked at us over their sunglasses and out from their scarves and bandanas.
“You guys looking for shelter?” one of them asked.
Henri and I looked at each other and back at them. The guy who spoke, tall and, oddly, in a bow tie, smiled and added, “If so, you’ve come to the right place.”
“We’re looking for…” I start.
“I’m friends with Jesse,” Henri says.
The guitars and jug look at each other again. They look at the women who are standing with them.
“No, man, you’re not,” Bow Tie says. “You’re friends with all of us. Go in and find yourself a cup.”