I am in the back seat of Juteau’s car. I have the window cracked, and the smell of the ocean blows in and over me, as well as an occasional raindrop. The air very much wants to break out into a storm, but it can’t quite cross over the threshold of becoming a downpour.
Juteau drives without direction, going past the Doggie Diner head on Sloat, turning right onto the Great Highway and heading toward the Cliff House. It’s dark, somewhere past ten at night, and the traffic is light. We have been driving for nearly an hour, from one end of the city and back again.
Bez has fallen asleep in the passenger seat, her head propped against the window, her hoodie bundled up as a pillow between her and the glass. She had been awake nearly twenty-four hours, so the quiet humming of the wheels on pavement was bound to put her out once we’d been driving long enough.
Juteau’s uncle wasn’t doing well today, and she spent most of her day at his home in Daly City. She finds it unsettling that he lives kitty-corner to a cemetery, given his declining health. Bez pointed out that the population of dead citizens of Daly City outnumbers the living and that it was almost inevitable that he’d live close to a cemetery, but I don’t think Juteau took any real consolation from that. I was more interested in the pet cemetery a block away from his house than the one for people, but I kept my opinion to myself.
For my part, I’d rather be cremated once I’m dead than buried in the ground. It seems neater somehow, less of a fuss. Fire the kiln, slide me in, then gather my still-hot ashes and rush them to the sea before they have a chance to cool. Let the waters take me out over the horizon.
A stray raindrop splashes against my chest, cold against my breastbone. It runs its chilled finger down and down, raising goosebumps all over as it goes. I don’t brush it away, enjoying the feeling, ice on skin.
Juteau will need directions once we get to the Presidio, but we’ll be back to my house soon. As she has every night for the past week, she will fall into the guest bed, half-asleep before she even puts her head to the pillow, and with any luck she will have made herself so tired throughout the day that she won’t do any sleepwalking tonight.
I am putting Bez with me in my bed tonight. Something about the storm that aches to break and the hollow whisper of death from Juteau’s uncle has put me on edge, and I want a warm body sleeping next to me. I want to know that if I wake in the middle of the night, dreams of ill tidings and dark events hanging like a cloud of insects over my head, I can reach out, put my arm around her waist, and know that everything is going to be all right.
Sometimes a familiar body in a dark room makes for the best anchor in an unsettled sea.