by Jenn Alandy
Bailey did not have a lot to move. She thinks about this while she presses the button for the elevator. He did not even have a mattress in his room. One goose down comforter, without a duvet. Two pillows. Three thick candles in the corner of the room. A wall lined with dog-eared books: The Alchemist, Life of Pi, Shogun, and other books that she knew he had read over and over again. A map of the world. Postcards on his closet from all the different places that he had visited. Another wall lined with photos of his water polo team; some photos were with his NCAA Division I team in college, and the others were of the high school team that he now coached. And that was it. No computer with a flat screen monitor. No Sony DVD player. No silver panoramic plasma television set. Just blank white space, except for candles and books and photos. Her favorite things.
She had written down Bailey's new address even though she knew that he could not stay in the same place for more than six months. She wrote it down on a yellow post-it note; it was portable, just like him, and it could stick to a page within her journal, or the side of her computer screen. She had moved it around to different places on her desk until the adhesive began to feel like the paper itself. That happened yesterday. She could not bring herself to permanently commit his address to a page, so she wrote his address down on another post-it note. The black lines next to his name in her address book are still bordered by empty white space. Maybe it would always be this way.
When she had first met Bailey a year ago, he had just come back from an eight month stay in Brazil. His green eyes lit up when he told her about the surf, about the late-night drives to nowhere in particular, about the way that Brazilian women unconsciously puckered up their full lips when saying certain words in Portuguese.
It's like Spanish and French mixed together, he had told her. Beautiful, she had thought.
She only understood what he meant by this when he had played an audio tape of him on a Brazilian radio station, being interviewed, in Portuguese, about surfing. He had translated what he was saying for her, in English, as they sat in his car and listened to the old tape. She was fascinated by the language and by his ability to speak it so fluently, transforming the foreign into the familiar.
She stares at the marble floor while she waits for the elevator to come down. She shifts from her right foot, to her left foot, thinking about Bailey and all of his trips. When he had told her about his year on the island of Saipan, she could not help but wish that she had the courage to whisk herself away to a place like that. He had worked at a small resort for $3.04 an hour, taught water aerobics to Korean businessmen, and pretended to play the ukulele like his roommates—even though he did not know any notes to any real songs. When he returned to California, he had biked all the way from San Clemente to Seattle. She could never do something like that; she did not even know there were people who did that.
“Name anything, and you'll find a cult following, or a culture behind it,” he had told her, while they were sitting at a dive bar, the Acapulco Inn, in Belmont Shores. He picked up his beer, “You just have to look for it.”
“What was it like?” she had asked him.
“I had to stop in all these random cities, sometimes I'd run into people who were doing the same thing, sometimes I wouldn't. On my way back, I stopped in Santa Barbara to get something to eat. By that time I had grown a beard and my hair had gotten so long,” he laughed while he talked about it. He continued, “And there was this young mom who saw me walking on the sidewalk. She pulled her younger daughter closer to her when I walked by, afraid that I was some homeless bum.” He shook his head with a smile on his face.
She had laughed with him. That mother had no idea what Bailey had just been through, and his rugged appearance was only his proud testament to his life at that moment. That mother probably only had a French-tipped manicure, a matching pedicure, and ten of the same style velour track suits, as a testament to her life; the only bike that the mother had probably been on was one of the stationary bikes safely tucked away inside a local gym, away from the world. She had shook her head as she thought this.
“It's life close up,” he had told her, “The wind in your face, the muscles in your legs tightening as you go farther and farther, the loud sound of rubber tires going over the pavement, just you and the road . . . and nothing else.” It was like she could feel it.
The elevator in front of her finally opens, and she breathes a sigh of disappointment. A year had passed since she had met Bailey, and she is still seeing James, who is living in the same high-rise condominium tower downtown that he has lived in for the past few years. She has a feeling that James will never move.
James is not home when she enters the room. She walks on the rich Berber carpet and sinks down into his black Italian leather couch, only to close her eyes. She thinks about calling Bailey, to see if he has moved in yet, but the thought does not stay in her mind for long. She waits for a sound but does not hear anything, except for the faint motors of car engines from the bustling downtown streets far below her. She keeps her eyes closed, but it is not long before she begins to feel uncomfortable.
The backs of her knees had started sweating from the moment she sat down, and her skin had started to stick to the couch. She stands up abruptly, ripping her soft skin from the leather. Smoothing her hair back, she walks to the wall of the condo, a panoramic, floor-to-ceiling spotless window. Most people that visited James gasped when they saw the view, but her face has always remained expressionless.
The window wall reveals the expanse of the city to her, like the rest of the world is just an exhibit, and nothing to be experienced. She still hears nothing.
She presses her hands up against the glass.
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This was published in the Spring 2005 Issue of New Forum, U.C. Irvine's Undergraduate Creative Writing Journal.