Fog City Summer pt. 6 – Fiction
Fog City Summer
Part 6 of 6
Excerpt from a Novel by
Last time: 2 years pass after the incident at the music festival. Julian is just getting out of a different relationship, and has established his food truck. Djuna has landed a new job at a small news site doing interviews of local businesses. Julian sees Scott at a bar, and wonders whether he and Djuna are married now. Henry has found a new boyfriend names Sebastian. Naya still sucks as a person; nothing has changed on that front.
The next day, Julian’s inbox was more full than usual. Upon closer inspection he noticed that multiple friends had sent him the same link to an online article with the subject line “You’re Famous!” or something similar.
When he opened the article, which appeared to be on a popular local blog whose creator was constantly bemoaning his lack of assets, a large photo took over his screen. A woman in profile was on the right with a wooden picket resting on her shoulder. The sign was outside of the frame, but others with signs were clearly visible behind her. On the left was Julian, smiling in flattering lighting, handing her a cup of coffee. The caption read A struggling coffee truck owner gives free coffee to tired protesters picketing 16th and Mission with an anti-eviction message. The article was about how innovative small businesses should be working with anti-eviction protestors and local artists to promote community in San Francisco instead of “disrupting” the economy and making a profit off tech gentrifiers.
Julian wondered how the website was able to publish this without his permission– he hadn’t even noticed the photographer at the time. How did they know he was struggling? Someone must have overheard their conversation. In the day and age of the internet, it was hard to know when people were breaking rules. He decided however, that this could only have a positive impact on his business. If only they had gotten his name, or the logo on his cart in the shot, it could have led to a surge in business.
He continued combing through email, mostly junk, until he found one that looked different. It was from someone named Eddie at the Fog City Beat, a small but popular local news site.
My name is Eddie Clarke, and I’m the editor of the local business profile section of Fog City Beat. I would like to set up an interview with you and one of our writers to promote your business. Please let me know when you are available and I will assign a reporter to come to your place of business.
Probably a form letter, Julian thought, but it can’t hurt. He scanned the Fog City’s Beat’s website to see what kind of articles they wrote. They had various sections with articles pertaining to different aspects of the city: arts, business, housing. One of their seemingly popular sections was all articles profiling local small businesses. They seemed mostly complimentary, although he detected a touch of sarcasm in some of them. He scrolled down and looked at the name under an article about some techie coffee shop where customers ordered from iPads. Underneath, a comment in italics read The owners have since closed the shop to pursue other opportunities. Underneath that was the name of the writer: Djuna Everly.
Surely there were only so many writers named Djuna? He clicked on her name and a bio came up, with a photo. It was unmistakably her. Had her last name changed? He didn’t remember ever learning her last name. In any case, she didn’t strike him as a person who would take her husband’s last name anyway. Now he wondered if Eddie had seen the blog picture, recognized Julian from the cart and looked up his website, where his email address was posted, as he originally assumed. As far as he knew, he was the only coffee and pie truck with seating and a trailer full of books, so he probably wouldn’t be that hard to track down. But none of that had been written in the article or shown in the photo. A small amount of google research proved that “coffee cart sf” brought up his site near the bottom of the first page.
But there was the possibility that Djuna had seen the photo and brought it to Eddie’s attention. It would have been easy for her to google him, already knowing his name. He tried googling “Julian coffee truck.” His website was the first to come up. That did seem like the more likely scenario, but why didn’t she email him herself? Should he be offended that in this day and age, when it is so easy to find someone else’s contact information, she had made no attempt to speak to him? But he hadn’t made any attempt either, in fact he had literally hidden behind a tree to avoid speaking to her, so maybe he should feel embarrassed instead for his own lack of initiative. This was hardly An Affair to Remember— a movie his mother had watched countless times in their modest living room and that he seemed to have internalized from so many reluctant viewings. He later realized that it not only gave him an edge over other, unromantic men that hadn’t seen An Affair to Remember a thousand times and therefore didn’t even understand the meaning of romance, but that just having seen the movie allowed him into conversations with women he would never previously have had. He had always thought it was irresponsible of Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr not to at least exchange a phone number in case something should go awry in their famously botched Empire State Building meeting. In their world, it would have been difficult to find each other without phone numbers. If that movie took place today there would have been no reason for Cary Grant not to go home and google Deborah Kerr, find her facebook page where her friends had written “sorry you got in a car accident” messages, pieced together what happened, found out what hospital room she was in, explain to the jaded gum-chewing nurse the whole we-were-supposed-to-meet-on-the-empire-state-building story, visited Deborah Kerr with flowers and boom! Happy ending!
Of course that would be a stupid ending for the movie. Not that the entire plot of An Affair to Remember wasn’t– let’s face it– kind of stupid. But he did feel that unlike some real couples or even some movie characters in the slosh of poorly written (as he could tell just from the trailers) romances that had come out recently, Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr had earned their relationship through trial and tribulation, against the odds, in the same way that nowadays gay couples had the best TV and movie romances because they still faced discrimination. Because if you have to fight for something it makes you appreciate getting it even more, and it must mean you really want it. Maybe that was why there could be no more An Affair to Remembers in the modern age, why now most romantic movies were either set in the past, with questionably authentic accents, or else involved entire storylines revolving around people’s phones, a cold substitute for interaction.
Julian realized he had been staring blankly at the flashing cursor on his email window, and quickly typed a reply accepting Eddie’s offer for an interview.
Djuna stared at the name written boldly across her screen.
… the owner of a coffee truck, Julian Ka’uhane, agreed to an interview…
There was no way it could not be him. All of the factors– the Hawai’ian last name, the coffee truck that they had once spoken about– added up to Julian-with-eyes-like-rivers. Before she could give herself a chance to think about it, she wrote Eddie back and accepted the interview. It was tomorrow.
Then thoughts started to fill up her brain like a bowl of ever-reproducing guppies swimming around madly. Julian had accepted the interview. But he couldn’t have known that she was going to be the one doing it. Did Eddie tell the interviewees ahead of time what the name of the interviewer was, or did he send them a standard email saying “expect to meet at so and so time” without any names in case he had to change interviewers at the last minute? Her instinct, knowing how Eddie worked, was that he didn’t tell them who it was going to be, since all of his interview bookings seemed to be at the last minute. So that meant that Julian didn’t know that it was going to be her. That was fine. The problem was that when she showed up, he would know that she knew it was going to be him, because why would an interviewer not know the name of the person they were interviewing when they showed up? And he would know that as soon as she saw his last name and the fact that he owned a coffee truck, that she would know it was him.
Djuna squeezed her eyes closed and put her hands over her face, the breath trapped in her hands warming her, and tried to think in a straight line. What did that mean– that he knew she knew? That meant that he would know that she wanted to see him. Her fingers automatically dialed Henry. It was Saturday morning. Henry would be at home.
“Hello darling,” he answered jovially.
“Henry. I’m doing an interview tomorrow, and it’s with Julian. Eyes like rivers.”
“Oh my god! Does he know it’s you?”
“Maybe. I don’t think so. But he’s going to know that I know it’s him.”
Djuna could hear a voice in the background. “Who is that?” she asked.
“It’s Sebastian.” The background voice said something like “what’s going on?” and Djuna heard Henry say to him “Djuna’s interviewing an old boyfriend for the website but he doesn’t know it’s going to be her interviewing him.”
Djuna heard a shuffling sound and then Sebastian’s voice got much clearer. “Does she want to get back with him?” And then Henry said “I’m putting you on speakerphone, Sebastian is good with this kind of stuff.”
“Okay,” Djuna said.
“Hi Djuna, I know we haven’t met yet, but I hope to meet you in person very soon!”
“Oh, hi Sebastian! Yes, me too!”
“So here’s the thing honey, I’ve been in this exact situation where I had to work with an ex, and it’s tricky. The thing is you have to know exactly what you want going into it, otherwise it can turn into messy sex behind a Costco dumpster.”
“I don’t think… that will be a problem…”
“Or whatever the emotional equivalent of messy sex behind a Costco dumpster is.”
“Okay, I see what you’re saying.”
And then Henry’s voice: “Djunafish– if you had the chance to date him again, would you?”
Djuna was silent. She didn’t want to hear herself say anything out loud.
“What’s happening, did we lose her?” she heard Sebastian say.
“No,” Henry said, “She’s thinking. Right?”
“Right,” Djuna said.
Henry’s voice again: “The universe has put you two in each others’ paths again–”
Sebastian’s voice: “I mean, it’s a small city–”
“It could have put them together in many different awkward situations, but this is really–”
“Okay, I see what you’re saying.”
“Henry,” Djuna said, “I think I do want to be with him. But that’s scary, because this could be my one chance to–”
“No! Don’t think about it that way!” Sebastian interrupted. “You’re just casually meeting an old friend to catch up. Just think of it like that. I mean, don’t be Cary Grant at the ballet– act like you care about how he’s been doing. Acting like you don’t care won’t get you anywhere, it’s a stupid game people play.”
Henry: “See? I told you Sebastian was good at this stuff.”
“Yes, thank you Sebastian.”
“You’re welcome sweetie. Oh! Henry, did you tell her about the thing?”
“Oh yeah! I was going to today actually. Djuna, there’s this bonfire thing happening at Baker Beach on Sunday–tomorrow– night. You should come.”
“Is that legal?”
“Probably not, but there might not actually be a fire, so it should be okay. Anyway, there’s going to a be a lunar eclipse and it’s supposed to be really clear that night, so a bunch of people are gathering to watch it on the beach.”
“Ooh! Sounds awesome!”
“It’s only advertised through word of mouth, there’s nothing about it online, so just remember: tomorrow, Baker Beach, 9 o’clock. It’s supposed to be super warm that night too.”
“Okay, got it. That sounds great. Now I have to go, because I need to pick out my outfit for tomorrow.”
“Good luck, Djuna!” Sebastian said. “I look forward to meeting you in person!”
“Me too! Ok, bye!”
She hung up, rolling her eyes at how adorable they were. If only she could be that sickeningly adorable with someone.
It was hot and sticky inside the truck. Julian was sweating. He was nervous, and that made him sweat more. Coffee cups nearly slipped through his fingers. His blood was buzzing. It was almost 4 o’clock, the arranged time for the interviewer to show up– whoever it was. He was parked a block from Dolores park, towards the Castro, one of two spots where he had obtained a nearly impossible permit to put out a few tables and have his book trailer set up.
He was getting the second wave of customers now, and a line was forming again. The first wave was people who needed their morning coffee, the second wave was people who had been intoxicating themselves at Dolores park all day and needed to wake up again, and probably wouldn’t object to a slice of pie. Luckily he had a pretty good system and was able to multi-task, otherwise the lines would have felt grating with only him working. He hoped to be able to hire another employee soon.
One of the things that was hard for him about customer service was looking so many people in the eyes every day. He had always been a sensitive person, and had a tendency to absorb emotions from other people, especially when he looked into their eyes. Looking at so many faces, and seeing so much stress, loneliness, and sadness all day long was hard for him. And another reason he hoped to be able to hire someone else to take the orders soon. But today was a sunny day, and face after face smiled at him, happily clasping their coffee cups. And then he came to the end of the line and a familiar face was in front of him, grey eyes and, now, short chestnut hair. She smiled.
“Hello,” she said.
“Hello,” he said back. Djuna took a breath and tried to act professional. “I’m here for your interview. Is it a bad time? I can–”
“No, it’s perfect,” he said. She wasn’t sure, but he seemed like he might be a little nervous too. He was acting like he knew it would be her doing the interview, but it was hard to tell. “Just give a me a few minutes to close up so people don’t try to order from an empty truck.”
“Of course, I’ll just be sitting here.”
She walked over to one of the little cafe tables and sat down.
Julian’s hands shook as he locked the cart. He took a deep breath and walked over to where she was sitting. She stood up, and they awkwardly hugged. She smelled like incense, and he could see when she stood in front of him, that she was wearing a very flattering flower-patterned dress paired with black boots. No ring on the left hand.
“How have you been?” he asked. “It’s been–”
“Yeah. Two years.”
“Well, I do interviews now. Of local business owners.”
“I can see that. I’m now a local business owner.”
“I can see that.”
It wasn’t really funny, but they both laughed.
Djuna took out a recording device that looked very small and high tech. “Do you mind?” she asked.
“Not at all.”
“Great. Shall we get started?”
“I’m ready when you are.”
Djuna smiled sheepishly and hit the record button.
DJUNA: I’m here with Julian– how do you pronounce your last name?
JULIAN: Ka-ooh-haw-nay. It’s–
JULIAN: Yes, exactly.
DJUNA: And you were born in Hawai’i and eventually moved here– to New York first, and then here–
JULIAN: You’ve done your research.
DJUNA (blushes, and you can hear it in her voice, the blood rushing to her cheeks): Yes. And what made you decide to make a coffee and pie truck? I mean not make– obviously you didn’t build a truck with your own hands– I mean start a truck, I guess, right?
JULIAN: (laughs) Yes. Well, I’ve always wanted to open a café that serves pie, actually. I saved up for a long time so that I could. But the rent is so expensive here, and it was really important to me to be in San Francisco. So I had a conversation with… someone… and she suggested that I get a food-truck type thing instead. Because then all I had to get was a permit, and I have more freedom this way.
DJUNA: She sounds smart.
JULIAN (his smile causes an almost imperceptible change in the pitch of his voice): She is.
DJUNA: Could you explain how the business works? I understand you have a slightly different type of system.
JULIAN: Yes, I don’t actually sell coffee and pie. I give it away, and people can donate. And the donations are often very generous, so that way I’m able to have the book trailer.
DJUNA: I see that you have a “suggested donation” sign up.
JULIAN: Yes, I put up guidelines, but people can pay as little or as much as they want, actually. It’s a sliding scale honor system. The point is that people feel that they’re not just buying coffee or pie—they’re paying into the community, into the atmosphere created by the truck.
DJUNA: Is this type of business that you originally set out to do?
JULIAN: I would love to say that it was, but it really just evolved that way. At first I was operating without a permit. I couldn’t technically sell anything, so I did it this way. And then when I finally got the permit, it had been working so well that I just kept doing it. People are more generous when they feel like their money is going somewhere–
JULIAN: Useful to society I guess. I read this article about how homeless people often spend their money on coffee because it makes them feel full– especially if they put a lot of milk and sugar in it– so they can get through the day eating hardly anything. That made me so sad. So I started to think, if people donated just a little extra, I could give a homeless person a cup of free coffee every once in a while, and then they could spend their money on real food. A lot of the homeless community has caught on, so there’s people who come every day. So far no one’s abused it; they know I’ll only give them one cup a day.
DJUNA: And then there’s the book trailer.
JULIAN: Yeah, so when I first envisioned having a cafe, I wanted it to be lined with books. So this is the mobile version of that I guess.
DJUNA: And how does that work?
JULIAN: Well, people can pick out a book and read it while they drink their coffee. It’s also an honor system– if you decide to take a book home you have to leave a book the next time. But most people, again, are very generous, and I get a lot of book donations. I see it as another way to create community, and it works. People want to come back again and again because of it. With all the changes happening in San Francisco lately–
DJUNA: You’re referring to the gentrification?
JULIAN: Yes, gentrification is the big buzz word. With all of that going on, I guess even since I moved here two years ago, the city feels different, and I think needs more community things like this. I can only imagine how different it feels for you– a native.
DJUNA: Yes, it’s been hard to see things change. Are you–
JULIAN: I can imagine– sorry I interrupted your question.
DJUNA: No, no that’s okay, continue.
JULIAN: No, it wasn’t important, what were you going to ask?
DJUNA: Well, if the business takes off are you planning on opening a regular cafe?
JULIAN (suddenly distracted): I, um… I don’t know. I always thought I would, but maybe I like this just the way it is.
DJUNA: It’s a good business model. I hope you’re able to keep going. Can I ask you about the photograph?
JULIAN (laughs): Yes, that photograph– I don’t know who took it.
DJUNA: They didn’t put your name in the caption, I noticed.
JULIAN: But you recognized me.
(A heavy silence)
DJUNA (voice becomes quieter, someone who has suddenly developed a shyness): I think I have everything I need.
JULIAN (he is gazing at her, loudly gazing): Okay.
DJUNA: I’m going to turn off the–
Djuna’s finger touched the red button, and she put the recording device back in her purse. She seemed very nervous to him. He wanted to touch her cheek, see if it was as soft as he remembered.
“I think you’re doing something really good,” she said. “For the city.”
“Thank you,” he said. “Would you like some coffee?”
“No, no thanks, I’ve had too much today already.”
“Okay. Is there anything else I can… give you?”
Djuna wanted to scream. In a movie she would say “yes,” and then kiss him. When it comes to doing things like that in real life, it feels so cheesy and wrong and awkward.
“No,” she said. “I guess I’m… all set.”
“Wait! Take this.” He handed her a piece of pie in a little plastic container. “It’s pear.”
“Well, ok. Thanks.”
“I don’t have to tell you twice, right?”
“Right.” She choked a little on her own nervous laugh, and coughed.
“Are you ok?”
“Yeah,” she said, embarrassed, although she still felt like she needed to cough. “Totally fine.”
“Well, it was really nice to see you,” he said. “I’d been sort of, I guess, hoping I would… see you.”
The sentence came out so choppy, like it was being extracted from the back of his throat, but she seemed happy that he had said it.
“Really?” She was smiling.
Neither of them seemed to know what to say next.
“I’m going to this thing tonight.”
He was relieved she had said something. “Oh?”
“I guess a bunch of people are going to Baker Beach tonight to watch the lunar eclipse. It’s at 9 o’clock. I was thinking, I might go to that.”
“That sounds great,” Julian said.
“So I’ll see you there?” Djuna asked.
“Yeah, I would love to go to that.”
“Okay. Good. Good, um, good.”
They both laughed again at their unfunniness.
“Well, I’m off then,” Djuna said.
“Thank you. For doing the interview. It’s really going to help me out.”
“I hope it does.”
And she smiled, turned and left, and he was watching her walk away, the spotted light through the trees licking her skin.
Djuna was tempted to turn around and look at him again, to see if he was watching her walk away, but she couldn’t. Would it make her more nervous if he was or if he wasn’t? She couldn’t turn around, she just kept walking. She didn’t realize that she hadn’t really been breathing until she turned the corner and exhaled.
That had gone better than she had thought it would. He seemed at worst sympathetic to her, and at best– what? He seemed more confident than the last time they had spoken. He had been new to the city, and seemed shy. He even looked a bit different now, better. He had always been good-looking, that smooth tan skin and those eyes. But now he seemed to stand straighter. He looked taller almost.
She sat at the bus stop and dialed Henry.
“I invited him,” she said when he answered the phone.
Julian stood there a few minutes even after she had rounded the corner. He had imagined what it would be like to talk to her again for some time, but nothing in his imagination was ever like real life. Was her invitation a polite gesture? He imagined a sickening scenario in which he showed up only to have her say “Julian, this is my husband…” Or the slightly less humiliating situation of his showing up only to find out she wasn’t there, that she had decided not to go and forgotten she had invited him. That had happened to him once a long time ago, back in Hawai’i when he was young and nobody really noticed him, the Haole boy. But Julian didn’t want to believe that Djuna was the type of person who would do that.
He was startled out of his reverie when someone came up to the truck window.
“Are you open?” an old man with silver piercings all up his ear said.
“Yes,” he replied with certainty.
On the woodsy path down to the beach Djuna headed towards the salty smell of ocean. She was wearing a long dress and a scarf wrapped around her shoulders, which she barely needed, it was so miraculously warm, even at the beach. It made her giddy.
Henry and Sebastian were already there, sitting with a group of people who were playing drums, singing and dancing in the sand. The bridge stood behind them like glowing red ladies guarding a portal.
“Henry! I’m here!”
He turned and hugged her, picking her up and twirling her around as he often did.
“Isn’t this fantastic?” he said. “It’s so warm!”
“Oh, and Djuna… meet Sebastian.”
Sebastian turned and stepped across the crowd and immediately gave her a hug. He was a bit older than Djuna expected– probably in his mid to late thirties, but obviously in good shape and had a warm smile. He was short, like Henry, but you would hardly notice, as he seemed to have a personality bigger than his body.
“It’s so nice to meet you!” he said. “I’ve heard so much about you!”
“So I hear you invited the boy.”
“I did. I really hope he comes.”
“That will be the test won’t it?” Sebastian said with mock seriousness. It gave Djuna a surge of nervousness, though.
“Neither of us have ever seen this fabled boy with eyes like rivers,” Henry said.
She looked out at the dark ocean down the slope of the sand, and the little lighthouse in the distance, usually a feeble blink through the fog, but tonight a strong orb of light.
“When is the eclipse?” she asked.
“It should be happening pretty soon,” Henry said, “but I’m not sure of the exact time.”
Djuna felt strangely compelled by the waves. “Do you think it’s still too cold to go in the ocean?”
“Too cold for me!” Sebastian said.
“I’m going to try it!”
Djuna felt free and exuberant, her bare feet digging into the sand as she ran to the waves and let the edge of white seafoam sink her feet into the sand with every tide. She looked up at the stars, over at the bridge, at the twinkling city and out into the big dark ocean, the path of moonlight through the waves.
The moon was becoming orange, changing. Julian got to the beginning of the sand just as it started. He could see that there was a gathering and could hear drums, saw people pointing at the moon. He went straight to the group, looking for her. His heart started to beat. The eclipse was passing over the moon, almost fully enveloping it. He looked all through the group, scanning people’s faces. No one looked familiar. He turned his gaze to the ocean.
There was a figure by the water, running in and out of waves. A woman’s figure with a long dress. He went towards it, hoping, hoping. And as he got closer, he started running, the sand kicking up behind him like little explosions, the gargantuan darkness getting closer and closer until he could see the woman’s face smiling and silver, and he knew it was her, it was her, it was her.
featured in Literary Foolery, as well as occasional appearances with Hubba Hubba Revue, and Crescent Moon Theater. She co-hosts Poets Upstairs on the second Sunday of every month at Overland Books.
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