Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” -Continued
“I think it’s white wine with tuna noodle, isn’t it.”
Marlee took the plates and utensils from his hands and headed into the kitchen. They filled their plates and adjourned to the still sunny space by the Bay window.
In the early evening, with the sun dropping off the edge into the Pacific Ocean, a golden light washed over The Haight. It gave everyone out on the street a healthy “only in California” patina. It looked like Shangri-la.
The warmth and the unreal light made Marlee feel – awake and alive. It was her first addictive taste of California.
“These are the best seats in the house. You must know somebody,” her guest teased.
“I know the chef.”
“I hear that he’s wonderful – and cute too.”
They bantered back and forth as they ate and enjoyed the Napa Valley ‘Table White’ wine.
Dennis Thayer sipped at his glass, nursing it for almost an hour. Over the casserole Marlee learned a little more about this genial stranger who lived up the stairs.
“I work for a housecleaning service – ‘Manly Maids.’ It’s a job, hardly a career. What about you?” he asked.
“I’m a classical musician. I play the cello. I’m in between jobs right now, but I do have an audition coming up soon – I hope.”
“Aren’t we all between jobs, really? I fancy myself a Photographer. More wine, Marlee? May I call you Marlee?”
“Of course, Dennis. We are neighbors. You know, I want to thank you for making me feel welcome. My first full day in my own place in San Francisco and I get a home cooked meal. Is everyone so friendly here?”
“Not by a long shot, sister. Under the icing on this cake is a dirty spoon. So, pick your way carefully. This is a tough and dangerous city and The Haight can be one of its toughest neighborhoods.”
“Really? What about all that, ‘Peace, Love and Patchouli’?”
“Honey, that’s all flummery. Always has been. The tourists come here looking for ‘The Summer of Love’ and end up with some junkie poking a knife in their bellies.”
This was the first dark cloud on Marlee’s sunny view of her new hometown.
“The whole ‘hippie’ thing is really just a kind of nostalgia for things that never were.”
He saw that the smile had disappeared from her face and that her eyes were lazily focused on the last rays of light still hiding on the Pacific horizon.
“Oh, now look what I’ve done. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bum you out. It’s not as bad as I paint it, really. I’m just a cynic. You’ll love it here.
“Tomorrow you get out of this apartment and explore the neighborhood. Waste some money on trinkets and beads. Get a tattoo. Just remember, not all the people in The Haight are as nice as me. If they were you’d be up to your hips in tuna noodle casserole.”
As the sun set Marlee flipped on the overhead lights. With no curtains or blinds on the windows yet she felt like they were on display, exposed.
“Dennis, I want to thank you for making me feel welcome here. It’s been fun, but I have had a long day and I think that I need to just collapse and get some sleep.”
“Of course. I’ve talked your ears off and fed you like a fatted calf.” He started gathering up the dishes. She moved to help him, but he protested.
“I’m the ‘Manly Maid’ here. Let me do this. I’m a professional. You want to help? Here – go put the wine away in your fridge for another day. Go, play wine stewardess while I bus this station.”
“Dennis, you are a real gem. As soon as I get set up I’ll have you down for brunch. I insist.”
“Fabulous, Miss Marlee! You just rap on the ceiling when the eggs are ready.”
“It may be a couple of weeks or so. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me to make this place a home.”
Marlee took the wine into the kitchen. She had had a thoroughly delightful time with her new neighbor. The wine bottle would be the first thing in her new, ancient, fridge.
In the other room, Dennis scooped up everything in his tablecloth, one big bundle to be sorted out later. As he headed toward the door he walked past the cardboard boxes filled with books waiting to be unpacked. He smiled as he picked up her slim paperback copy of “Leaves of Grass” and slipped it silently into his shirt.