Room-hunting is an arcane business around here. I had hoped not to have to do it again this year, but I find myself trudging about Palo Alto, a glass of chocolate milk clutched tight in my hands as I walk from apartment to apartment, in a quest to find shelter for the intern who will arrive here in September. The rents make my eyebrows dance, even if I should be used to the amounts by now. The amenities are deplorable.
One landlady takes pity and tells me, “It is all about the location, you see.”
The room she offers is low-ceilinged, unfurnished, and has a small window. It overlooks a small street and the view from the window is of a liquor store. There is no air-conditioning and no provisions for cooking. The rent is only two thousand and she assures me it is a bargain. Very close to downtown, I am told.
“Let us be fabulous!” I tell my friend, over a video call, as I stroll through the rainbows in Haight. It is like being allowed to vote for the first time, I think, as I look upon the revelries going on around me. The cheer is all-pervading and I can’t help grinning. I hum Brazzavile’s Oh My Love and even attempt a little swing in my steps.
“No taste at all,” my friend mutters, closing her eyes as if the sight had caused her great pain, and goes back to talking about the land prices in Ernakulam.
Then again, not all of us are cut out to look good in rainbows, I reflect, tugging on the garishly multicolored, fabulous scarf I had kept around from 2012’s parade.
I am recovering from the viral infection of last week. My voice is still raspy, husky and would belong right at home on a sex phone-line, as a female version of Sean Connery. It sometimes vanishes completely and I find myself dreading that when I boss the interns around. It is much better than it was last week, when I had resorted to leaving pink sticky notes on intern monitors to give my orders. My throat is sore but copious amounts of hot chocolate has helped greatly.
I can’t sing along with any of the Bowie songs, but I am at least now able to sing with Cohen. We contemplate the famous, blue raincoat many times together as I drive around doing errands. This is an improvement from last week, when I had been resigned to letting Black Sabbath fill my eardrums and drown my pain.
I took a trip to Milpitas, to the Great Mall that I have heard spoken of by so many. I am allergic to malls, mall parking lots, mall food-courts and mall business. This I knew. Still, I braved it all for the Ghiradelli outlet located there. Dear God, I hope I have no reason to venture there again. It was as if the whole of the Bay Area had come there. Flash sales, clearance sales, fourth of July sales, summer sales, and all other kinds of sales. So many people, and the air smelled of fried things and sweat. I was jostled around by so many shoppers, and there were babies bawling in strollers as parents tugged large shopping bags around. The parking lot was a vision from hell. I consider myself lucky to have survived it all.
And all I wanted was to buy some chocolate.
Dear Amazon, I love you.
The bank teller looks resigned when I walk to her counter. I feel irritated. I have only been to see her a few times in the last many months. One would think she doesn’t want one’s business. One is proven right, when she mutters that the counter is closed and asks me to approach the next counter. One would love to take one’s business elsewhere, however one quite loves their interest rates. One maturely smiles and wishes the teller a good day.
Sometimes, I really miss the nice tellers who worked at the Bank of America down on Peachtree.
I had a hair-cut. Now I feel a bit weird because my hair is short and I’d forgotten how unmanageable the damn thing is when it is short, curling up into my ears.
“I love your curls,” the person cutting my hair says. “A bang would look gorgeous on you, here.”
My mind is in the gutter for a while. It must be all the Japanese influence, I think. They can be really interesting at times, I have found. Then she asks me if I like the idea. Stirring back to reality, I ask what this bang business is. She shows me a picture helpfully. I pale and tell her that I can live without the extra gorgeousness, even as my mind is filled with dreadful images of bangs and poodles. She looks disappointed, but complies.
I can’t pack. I know this. I still strive, trying to channel my father’s precision-packing methods, trying to channel Yoda’s knapsack algorithms. Two hours later, I give up, curl up under my blankets, armed with hot chocolate and a book. Escapism suits me well, I find, as I grow older. My mother had accused me of that, long ago, drawing similarities between my grandfather and I. I’d like to think I am not quite as appalling as the comparison, but perhaps there was something to her words. Still, thinking about it, I find that it is not a fair conclusion. There is loyalty and determination where there is love. I have little love for packing.
As far I can remember, my grandfather was terrible at packing, but that is neither here nor there. It has been five years, and I am still deeply overwhelmed whenever I think of him. That again, is neither here nor there.
I meet a friend at Red Rock. He is muttering about the steps.
“What about the steps?” I ask, sipping my hot chocolate.
“You have frequently seen the steps which lead up to this room.”
“Well, I don’t know. So many times.”
“Then how many are there?”
I am taken back to Holmes. Scandal in Bohemia, if I remember correctly. I smile and play along.
“How many? I don’t know.”
“Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both seen and observed.”
“Seventeen, really?” I ask, curious, bitten by the sudden urge to go count the steps.
He shrugs as if that wasn’t important. I concede.
Perhaps it is time to ask about what Irene Adler he is chasing, at the moment. I do so. I lean back in my chair, bask in the bright sunlight, and listen to him regaling me with tales of the chase.