conversation with cmor
by tobias crabtree
i guess maybe i didn’t have quite the eye you did. i didn’t see the bikes in the pile of junk someone was calling a garage sale. i do remember we were done with a solid stint in the valley. i was worn out and scuffed up from the way i’d been living. cook fires to climbing spots to swimming holes. weren’t we in groveland when you saw the bikes? the one you got was a bigger schwinn, like an old paper bike. the second was that girl’s bike with the sparkly banana seat and the streamers coming outa the handgrips. all for twenty bucks.
“you need some wheels, man, and so do i.” you said it with that one smile you always had when you were about to be amused.
then into the city. cole and carl. san francisco’s promises and lies displayed on the streets, in the parks, floating in the air. it was ’99. and there you were in your tweed wool trousers and your new york slant and there i was in my best and only pair of jeans and some shirt that was what my ma called a part of my uniform. i guess i don’t vary in what i wear, at least not much.
but we were sipping whiskey on the second level where the vinyl was snapping and popping on the player and the books were holding the works and words of people named melville and stienbeck and sedaris and plath. and you were smiling, still smiling. and then, as if we had spoken about it or as if i already knew, we polished off our drinks and went to the bikes in the failing light. east on carl to clayton and then left on 17th. the street lamps had just popped on and that street is scary steep and the plastic streamers were whipping at my elbows. below us, the castro. i recall wondering about the tires and bolts on my little bike as the tears built up in my eyes from the wind. i was tapping on the brakes to make sure they functioned at higher rates of speed. you were whooping and laughing at the site of me, the site of us. drops of water in the ocean of crazies in that city by the bay.
the little bar we went to, remember man, that long, little bar? and the sparkly eyed people with the easy coolness about them, like they were born to it? and my awkwardness seemed to blend in fine. and you used your silver tongue to share a table like you always seemed to do — the same silver tongue that spoke silver castellano and talked our way onto that fishing boat in puerto natales as it sailed to puerto monte and you told them we were experienced sailors and that we had the strongest backs and could sleep anywhere. and we drank pisco with the cooks and, like fools, chased sheep and cattle between the trucks while the workers laughed at the prank they had pulled on us. and then we laughed with them and hugged them all before we disembarked — and the way i never could. but there, in that little bar, we were fine and dandy.
i never knew whether the things that happened with you were luck or were something you had secretly planned. you never let me in on that secret. that was the night that mirissa rode in on her motorcycle, and her giant smile and black leather and her long legs. that’s what i mean, was that luck or did you call her? i hadn’t seen her since fire island, but there she was in real life. that night went on and we danced and i remember going home with mirissa on the back of her motorcycle. days and days of dancing and singing and bombing hills on a little girl’s bike. late night, single gear pedaling back up way-to-steep hills using a zig-zag technique that added miles to every ride. losing argument after argument because you were so much smarter than me. i wonder now if maybe you just argued with me to pass the time and you were also thinking about other things in your head while you argued, like the geniuses that can write with one hand and draw with the other.
man, the years have passed like the street lamps on 17th, downhilling towards the castro. i know they’re passing but they blend together, don’t they? there was some in-between that i’m sure i’ve forgotten. there was that once when you yelled that we were kings from atop that tall piece of granite somewhere up the valley de frances, and i believed you. there was more time in new york where we rode different bikes in that other city. that wasn’t long before you fell down. remember, man, when you pulled that last stunt? remember how you went in and turned to dust? i gotta admit, i was shaky for a bit after that. i’m not sure but that the sky didn’t lose a little of it’s blue on that one day that stuff changed. i look for it, the most brilliant blue that is, and i’m pretty sure it’s gone. what’s left will do. it has to.
there’s a raven on the line overhead and he’s croaking at the little pack of warblers that are jungle-gyming in the bottle tree. i’m stealing wifi from johnny thomson’s house while i write in his driveway. johnny remembers you too. we still bring you up when we swim above the kelp beds along the cliffs. we talk about what you might be saying, what you might wanna argue about. but yeah, not much has changed, christian, i’m still moving from place to place. still spending time in peoples’ driveways and in their orchards and in their backyards. still showering in the hose when no one’s home. alive, man, but getting a little longer in the tooth. i got your back, for a while longer yet. the stories i tell about you hold you up. hell, they hold me up too.
i know life is now, but it sure is colored by then.