by Michael Davidson
Locust pulls off the road. He opens his door and steps outside without inviting any of us to join him. Apparently I am the only one who feels left out. Rob, without missing a beat, zips his sweatshirt and follows suit.
That is Diego standing in the doorway of the Toyota Dolphin. The bubbler and lighter are sitting on the kitchen counter. I tear the curtain away from the window and see a world so opaque not even outlines are distinguishable. Only I know of the elephant.
Where are we?
San Diego. C’mon, Morse, let’s go.
Diego tucks his chin into the pouch of his turtleneck and tries to gauge the chances of me moving. He is a chef and a trombone player. I did not know this then, but in less than a year from today I will be in the opposite corner of the US with Locust, and Diego will be there, too. He will get off his shift at the restaurant to sauté us beer-battered haddock tacos with freshly made tartar sauce. Although they will ask me to help gather tinder to start the fire, which is critical to our dinner, I will not be of much help. An outdoorsmen I am not.
I’ll be there.
The words implicit in my answer are: Go without me for now. Diego is no idiot; he is able to understand unspoken conversation. Once the door is shut and no significant life stirs in the Dolphin other than my own, I take out the notebook in my pocket and write a few notes for posterity. These are the first words I’ve ever written stoned. It is probably the romantic in me who thinks that this kind of entry will mean something to me in the future, serve some purpose other than to stain paper.
If I am to be a writer, I must learn to treat words as if they were tattoos. Each word should be painful, struggled, and permanently in my skin. When I have to roll up my sleeve and suffer the million-and-one pricks of the hydraulic needle to write a single word on the page I will be a writer.
Morse, you gotta see this. C’mon.
Locust grabs his camera inside one of the kitchen cabinets and again leaves before I have a chance to join him. My curiosity piqued, I pack the notebook and pen in my pocket and follow the man responsible for bringing the Dolphin into our lives. A salty breeze immediately stirs the thick head of hair my mother’s brother indirectly gave me. At least several times a year I am vocal in my thanks to Ernest Pipe. If he were bald, this would not be the case. I stare into the distance and am surprised to find the horizon so visible.
Is that the Pacific?
I am enthused. It is a surprise indeed, to see the ocean now, at this late hour in this strange corner of the world. Locust negotiates a few boulders on his way down to the beach. I see Rob dancing on the wet sand, and Diego seems to be urinating. Locust stops to fashion a shelf out of sand, which he uses to balance his camera. He likes to increase the time of exposure on the film to catch light even when it’s nighttime, but for the image to be accurate the camera must be absolutely stable. This is how Locust compensates for his dislike of flash, with makeshift tripods.
Whoa! What’s that light when the waves crash? Do you see that, Locust? The ocean is glowing.
I cannot believe my eyes. It is as if we were National Geographic, and the excitement doesn’t end in the sea. As I near the wet stand, where Rob dances ever more spastic and Diego has substituted urinating with spitting, I learn that the glow isn’t confined to the ocean.
Look at my footprints! What’s going on here?
Diego does the honors:
He bends over and lets spit stretch off his lips. Concentric circles of neon blue dilate as if a pebble were just tossed into serenity. I begin to draw figures with my feet. It is like any other phenomenon: first there is mystery, then understanding, and last is playfulness. I learn that the faster I move, the more I can illuminate in the wet sand. I try to spell my name. The agility required reminds me of my ineptness for soccer.