Burritos, Chaos, and Round Windows

Christina and I sit across from one another in chairs affixed to concrete above the Bay, cradling warmish halves of a burrito between our hands. The night is calm and alight, buzzing with an energy that makes me never want to leave this city. If I didn’t have a flight in four days to Fiji, I probably wouldn’t go. Programmed light bulbs on the spires of the Bay Bridge dance in waves from left to right, whispering in my ear: Stay. Just stay.

baybridge“YEAH, GIANTS!!!!!!!!” someone screams from the moon roof of a passing car, their orange foam finger waving in the air.

We laugh. A drunk San Franciscan stumbles by and sees my sign perched on the edge of the chair: tell me a story about water. He mumbles with a mouth full of spittle: “Is that for the Giants?”

“Yes. Unequivocally yes.”

“World series, here we come!” Christina chimes.

I take a bite and let rice and red beans and avocado meld in my mouth. This burrito has ruined all future burritos for me (thanks, burrito). The flavor is chaotic and free. I feel so alive.

A grease stain from the bag of tortilla chips that came with the burritos marks my “tell me a story about water” sign, oblong and unapologetic just below the letter T.

~

Christina picks me up in her Prius outside of the UCSF library where I had hunkered down for an afternoon of writing. Though I love the act of meeting new people and listening, just listening, I get exhausted from constant conversation. Writing without interruption is a refuge.

I was an endurance athlete in college, and apparently that side of my character permeated the design of this trip. Just. Keep. Going (but remember to rest and recharge).

I have lost track of the number of times I introduce myself in a day.

“What is that sign all about?” it begins. I have a short version, medium version, and long version of my life story to share with anyone who asks.

The medical books in the library lend me their quiet. I open one on brain aneurism surgery and quietly close it, nauseated. Another book shows me the diagram of the inside of a human ear. There exists a membrane called the round window that vibrates with opposite phase to vibrations entering the inner ear. The round window allows fluid in the snail-shaped tube (the cochlea) to move. This movement generates pressure waves in the fluid, ensuring that hair cells of the basilar membrane are stimulated. The hair cells connect to a neuron that translates the bending motion into a signal that enters the brain. Brilliant.

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Silence can be self-care.

~

Christina opens the car door from the inside and welcomes me into her life with the whole of her smile and a big hug. Though we are both part of an online community of women writers that started back in July, we have yet to meet in person. Christina saw on Facebook that I was passing through San Francisco and offered to get dinner and chat. I am so glad that I said yes.

Her voice is a duvet cover. Soft. Present. A balm to my fatigue.

“So where do you want to go eat?” she asks.

“I’ve heard that the burritos here are something else.”

“Then we’ll get burritos. There are two great taquerías in the Mission,” she explains, “and they’re just around the corner from each other. What do you say we do a taste test?”

The Prius is eerily quiet at stoplights. The car could be dead but for our voices. I can see how many miles per gallon we earn on the dash. Thirty-four on the straightaway. Ninety-nine on the downhill. We speed through the city, crisp and efficient.

Minutes in to our conversation, it is a relief not to censor myself: “I don’t know if this is TMI, but…” I begin.

Christina butts in: “There is no such thing as TMI here.”

That’s when I know I have found a friend.

Our conversation spreads from the car’s interior to the sidewalk as we catch up on each other’s lives––the small stories that have brought us to this precise moment. Our families. Our earliest memories. The things we love.

“So you were a dancer, right?” she says.

“How did you know?”

She cites Facebook pictures in which I have my hands up in a particularly dancer-like pose.

 

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Ok—I guess it’s pretty obvious.

We both grew up dancing. We rowed in college. We are fascinated with the idea of flow in movement. We reject settling down and settling for less than the best in relationships. We are 25 years apart in age but none of that matters. We remember the freedom of learning to ride a bike. We love the feeling of San Francisco’s hills in our legs.

Errant, elated cars honk and bleat as they pass behind us.

The bay water laps itself free.

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