Photo by Ellie Bozmarova
(Continued from Part 1)
The small library is covered in a waxy tarp on which they’ve placed things like onions and oven mitts and canola oil. Nothing happens in God’s world by mistake, I try to think. I take off my Blundstone boots in front of the meditation room. There are three paintings in the room hung over a low table perched atop a low platform. There is Jesus to the left, Sri Ramakrishna, and Buddha. Someone placed a vase full of cut pink-gold orchids in front of them and on top of their paintings.
At the priory where I like to meditate in Berkeley, they would never, ever, have cut flowers on an altar. Only fake flowers or flowers in soil, so nothing is killed. I think about this then try not to think about this as I meditate.
At first I can hear this heavy, fantastic, electric silence underneath the noise. Then my attention span falters. I stop after seven minutes. I take my shoes and go outside on the wraparound porch. I meditate for three minutes under a chestnut tree, but it’s too cold and windy in the shade. I meditate for another ten minutes in the sun. After seven minutes, it is extremely hot in the sun. I take off my jacket. I meditate with my eyes open, so I see one of the volunteers or workers, a man, walking toward me for no reason, slowly. I pick up my phone and watch twenty five seconds count down. I turn the volume down before the bell rings, get up, turn my back to him, and walk to the car. It’s too much.
I decide to look for a small public library where I can write and reflect. I go to Point Reyes National Seashore library, a few minutes away, but all I see is a barn and a medium-sized male fawn resting in the shade. I see the nubs on his forehead that’ll one day turn to antlers. His butt is furry and snow-white. I semi-follow him back to my car and continue toward Inverness library.
On the way, I spot the famous Point Reyes shipwreck. I park, pick up a Diet Pepsi and a sparkling water from the nearby store so I can avoid my car getting towed, and walk to the boat. At first, there are two photographers (Asian men—safe) by the boat, so I walk behind them and listen to my boots sludge in the wet sand. It looks like the tide could change here. There is a fierce wind coming over the flats. I take a selfie video where I simply turn and the wind blows my hair all over and the old shipwreck is in the background and I write “Got a haircut today” on the video. I think it’s funny. I see a couple of crows hopping along the sand near the water. I make a small leap over a stream of water. I walk around the back of the boat and look inside. Looks wrecked. I see graffiti inside and an empty Gatorade bottle on the splintered bottom. I step off the boat and walk around its right side. I snap a photo or two on my phone. I’d considered bringing my film camera but didn’t. Then I see a couple walking away from the boat for a photo. The woman is hesitating before leaping over a wider channel. The mud on the other side is black, loamy. Feeling more outdoorsy than her, and not wanting to shake out the rocks I’ve been collecting on my sandy walk, I hop a little on my right foot. I don’t get much air. I still try stepping over the channel, but my left foot slips when it lands on the black mud. Mud enters my boot. It smells exactly like tar, like asphalt. It stains my left index finger and thumb black. “Gross,” I say, mostly to myself, as I tumble forward. No one else says anything. I walk an ego-safe distance away and take a photo of my now-blackened ankle and caption it, “damn okay.” I take the postcard-photo people take of the boat, then leave. I continue to smell like asphalt.
I drive up to Inverness library, a tiny place that is cuter on the outside than the inside. It happens to have a side room where there is a museum. The museum is sixteen sets of then-and-now photographs, and one of, I assume, a man named Jack. There’s a big wooden table in the middle with six chairs, one of which I take. The librarian grants me permission to use my computer there. I stay far enough away from her that she doesn’t catch my tar smell.
I drive back to Emeryville as the sun begins its descent. I add fifteen minutes to my Getaround rental in case finding parking is too difficult. It is too difficult. In fact, the aforementioned “I” zone does not exist. I call my boyfriend in a panic and he helps me find it.* The spot is over a mile away from my motorbike. I am stubborn and still consider myself on retreat, however, so I tell him I don’t want a ride. I like walking. But the drive from the oyster farm was over an hour long, and my plastic bag is dripping. I carry the dripping bag and my backpack with my laptop toward the freeway overpass, feeling notably unenlightened. A man standing on the same block as me begins ranting and scratching himself, then appears to follow me, so I cross the street. I feel anger throbbing through my veins instead of blood. I look over my shoulder throughout my walk.
As I approach the pedestrian walkway, I walk behind a woman who looks like she is heading home from work. She looks older, with a small frame, and a lunchbox with a long strap slung over her shoulder. The sight of the lunch box hits me like a gut punch. An adult lunch box. How had this never registered before? I’d had a lunch box in elementary school. In middle school, we’d had semi-affordable hot lunches. In high school, I put food in my backpack or ate off-campus. In college I didn’t have a lunchbox because I had these things called “meal points.” I worked for a tech company after graduating (food was provided), then lived in Thailand, where street food is cheaper than making your own lunch. After that, I chain smoked during all my breaks at work (I did that at the tech company, too).
I’ve recently quit smoking. And I’m on retreat, or I was, or I tried. And I’m carrying a heavy wet plastic bag, and I’ve been afraid, and I am afraid, and I have a long way to walk, and I am stubborn, and it depresses me that I may need to have a lunch box because I have yet to earn one billion dollars from my writing and so I work in an office, and it depresses me that it sounds like a great idea to have such a lunch box, and it depresses me that I haven’t considered it until now. But I’m not lost, I tell myself as I walk over the rushing water of freeway traffic. I’m here now.
*Two weeks later, I am fined $50 for parking too far from the correct rental return location.