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Tailgating - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
I used to do it all the time. Starting in North Beach or the Castro or the Richmond or, most commonly, the Tenderloin, I'd follow every lane change to the Bridge, snaking around people making a left onto Van Ness or taxis emptying their passengers on Hyde. The Bridge was less panic-inducing, but separation was inevitable. I learned to track your taillights, my already-refined ability to identify a car by its lights sharpened into the sort of reflex a fighter pilot wouldn't mind having. And, when the number of Accords from the 1970s became overwhelming, a not-infrequent occurrence in the Bay Area, I went on instinct, looking for the right one, reading license plates at five, six, seven car-lengths and across lanes. "477-TTQ," is running through my head as I write this and even though it has been over a decade I wouldn't bet against my memory. Some lines are cut into stone that refuses to break.

Today I did it again. Only this time it was Camilla to Elm to Tucson to Prince to Cambell to River to First and then on up the incline. I so wanted to be in the car with you, but did the next best thing, pulling out in front of a white truck when I normally would have stayed put because I didn't want to lose you. There. It always sounded like a metaphor, even when we were a two Honda couple. These days, though, that impression is a lot stronger. I left the radio off, hoping you'd call. And then you did, as we approached Grant. Talking and tailing, tailing and talking. It almost felt like being inside you, two becoming one without ever quite getting there, the metal between us a conductor of feelings that would die if those last barriers really did fall away.

I approached the stop sign at Prince with dread. A car was bound to come between us. And it did. But as you pulled away towards Campbell, we were still talking, our phones tethered together by an invisible cord longer than the space between us. "I'm going to stop talking and listen to a few songs," you went on to say, as we approached First. I let you go, but kept following, my words redirected toward the computer screen I'd be sitting in front of later on, after dinner, now. I thought of your red Honda, how it was serviced in Elk, the way the custom sunroof folded up like a delicate piece of flesh, something you want to set in motion precisely because it's so fragile, because it opens into a window on the world. I thought of the North Coast, that last curve before Highway 1 curves inward. The Lost Coast lies ahead, mountains looming in the mist. There's a black sand beach far below. We used to scramble down to it, delighting in the remoteness and the risk. It always seemed like the end of the world.

I can see you on the pull-out far above, your body poking through the sun roof, hat glinting in the half-sun. "I don't like the way I look in those pictures," you told me, sitting in line at the airport. You meant the ones from your old workplace. But the one I have in mind fits the bill too. You're far too thin, a woman starting to disappear, so close to being lost but smiling bravely in the hope of staying found. Some days I think you're finally gone, that what mattered then has ceased to be solid. And then you remind me. When you buried your face in my chest today, trembling, I reached out to hold you fast. I pressed my fingers into your arm, smelled your hair, wanted you to stop crying, hoped you'd never stop wanting to cry on me. I'll follow you anywhere. I'll slip in and out of traffic to keep you in sight. I'll stay for the whole ride home.

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14 comments or Leave a comment
chefxh From: chefxh Date: June 16th, 2005 06:56 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
*snif* AwwwwwWWWW!
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: June 16th, 2005 01:55 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I'm glad you're eating toast. It seems right.
elizabeg From: elizabeg Date: June 16th, 2005 07:53 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I love this.

When moved we take to metaphor, to moving. Yes.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: June 16th, 2005 01:55 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Maybe deferral isn't so bad after all, so long as it moves the goods.
kdotdammit From: kdotdammit Date: June 16th, 2005 12:53 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I don't want you to ever lose sight of me. Please don't. You're the only one I'll ever be able to cry on. And when your arm was around me yesterday and you were protecting me from what I was feeling, I knew you weren't going to let me go. And knowing that makes me cry even more because I am so lucky to have you.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: June 16th, 2005 01:54 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I'm here. I will follow you there. I'm holding on.
From: zokah Date: June 16th, 2005 02:46 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
that is beautiful writing Charlie.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: June 16th, 2005 03:20 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Thanks. It's hard for me to let go enough to put something like that out there, so I'll take all the praise I can get!

It was awesome seeing you. I loved your costruction worker entry, which I just got to yesterday.
From: zokah Date: June 16th, 2005 06:50 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
knowing you, I can imagine it wasn't easy writing this post, but as a friend and a member of your audience, please keep it up!
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: June 16th, 2005 09:22 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
No, not easy at all. But not because it was confessional. Not even because of The Situation. Because it was putting a different style of writing out there in public. I experimented a bit with the poetry thing. I think micro-fiction and micro-non-fiction is the way to go, though. I get too easily frustrated with line breaks and the need I feel to do something obliquely metrical when I experiment with verse.
nos4a2no9 From: nos4a2no9 Date: June 16th, 2005 06:23 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I was caught off guard by this: I know you're a good writer when it comes to your life, your work and your theory, but I had no idea you had this in you as a fictional writer (although how closely this hews to the truth, only kdotdammit knows). Have you published any short fiction stories or novels? I really enjoyed this piece, and I'd like to read your other work.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: June 16th, 2005 09:19 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
That's an incredibly nice and unexpected thing to hear. I've published nothing remotely like this. I have often thought it would be nice to let go a bit and write in this mode, but something always held me back. Fear, maybe. Also, there's the problem that I love fiction but hate myself for deviating even slightly from what I take to be the non-fiction truth. I mean, I know that most intersubjective, human truth is subjective. I don't imagine that my truth is THE truth. But I still feel the need for honesty. Like in this entry, which is what I suppose you could call "creative non-fiction," it bothered me immensely that I couldn't find the picture to confirm that I had the license plate number correct. As if that mattered! Yet it matters to me. Anyway, thanks for making my day with this thoughtful and kind comment.
From: zokah Date: June 16th, 2005 09:59 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I've been thinking about the statement that truth is only 180 degrees. Will post soon about a professor I had in Israel who alerted me that my "knowledge" or perception is rooted in MY history which doesn't reflect the other 180 degrees and therefore, someone else's truth.

All of this is to say, that we all loved this expression of You and Truth.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: June 16th, 2005 10:17 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
No caps!
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