I turn off Highway 101 in Santa Barbara, onto State Street.
"Maybe we can get something to eat here
and you can drive for awhile," I say to Mark.
State Street. I must've been thinking of State Street in New Haven,
where John and I would walk to the laundromat,
skinny John with the heavy army-green canvas bag
slung over his shoulder, in high spirits, making camel noises,
snorts, hisses, and spits in the near-freezing fog.
The laundromat on State was next to the Blue Moon,
a dark bar
where we'd gossip with the bartender,
drink well bourbon, and smoke Merit Ultra Lights
while the clothes sloshed and spun, unattended.
That State Street.
State Street in Santa Barbara is dark on Christmas eve.
Nothing is open; a few businesses —
a painter, a darkened cafe,
a carpet store — have Christmas lights turned on,
outlining their eaves. Mark cannot hide his irritation.
"This was a stupid place to get off the freeway," he tells me.
I make a sloppy left into a butcher shop's parking lot.
The cases of red meat are still lit up;
the last few customers
are straggling out
with their hams and turkeys, prime ribs and Cornish game hens
for Christmas dinner. The butcher is behind the counter,
wiping his hands on a white apron.
After we stop, I am transfixed, numb, spaced out,
watching the activity in the shop's florescent glare.
"I'm driving." Mark is impatient, waiting for me
to get out of the truck
and trade places with him.
The wheels squeal
as we make a right onto State Street,
back to 101 south.
My toes grip the seams of my socks.
It's gotten dark early and there's plenty of rush hour traffic
on the freeway.
We're going to see family in LA
and we both could use a cigarette
and a cup of coffee here in Santa Barbara.
Mark still sneaks cigarettes at work,
but I haven't had a smoke since Tom left our house.
"You look tense," Mark tells me.
It's an accusation he has made before.
forward anywhere lines