Blake came to pick me up at the Golden Gate Bridge lookout. He was wearing his Dickies, the only pants he had, apparently, and they had white paint all over then. He was very thin and pale, and his brown hair was long and straggly. I don’t remember what year his car was from, but it was barely moving. Probably some 1990 small family car, but this was 2015. The windscreen was cracked in multiple places. The fabric seats were moth-eaten, threadbare in parts. The floor of the passenger seat was littered with empty Chick-fil-A packets and soda cups. Couldn’t he have thrown out any of this trash before I got into it? The air-conditioning in the car didn’t work, he said, so we’d have to ride with the heat blasting and the windows down to make sure the windscreen didn’t fog up.
I’d come all the way to California to see him. Well, not quite. I had some interviews for a summer internship lined up, and I was staying in a family friend’s apartment in The Richmond. A couple weeks prior, I’d told my friend Marie, a girl in my fraternity back in Pennsylvania, that I was planning to reconnect with Blake, my long-lost summer love from a couple years back. When I told her I was going to spend the whole of Spring Break with him, she warned me:
“Don’t just go all the way there for your boo. Go there for yourself. You need to get something out of this.”
We’d talked on Facebook over the years. Me, at an Ivy League school, him, barely graduating from high school before he started dealing marijuana to pay the bills.
“The bud’s as good as the wine around here,” he’d say, talking about his town near Santa Rosa, in the heart of the vineyards of Napa beyond San Rafael. And now I had finally arrived, after taking multiple buses and an Uber to this windy, cloud-filled view, where the orange metallic ironwork of the bridge stood out against the billowing green waters and hills of the Bay.
The door of the car creaked open. Blake came out to put my backpack in the back.
“Get in, lovebug,” he said. I smiled. I sat down in the car, pulled the door closed, and we set off.
I wrote this piece on Day 7 of Ann Randolph's "UnMute" writing course.