Cultural Archaeology

Unsplash RecordsSebastian Script

Rivi and I are waiting for the BART to arrive. The low hum of distant trains hovers in the air of the underground station like the thrum of surf against the shore.

Rivi pokes at the back of my neck with her fingernail. “You got sunburned,” she says.

“Is it bad?” I ask.

“Not really. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, it’s bad, sure. Sunburn is just one step away from skin cancer.” She pokes me again.

“Okay,” I say. “Is it cancer?”

“Nah,” she says. “It’s just a sunburn.”

We had spent the afternoon at Amoeba in Berkeley, poking around the old LPs, looking for nothing other than a day’s distraction. Neither of us owns a turntable, after all. It was an exercise in cultural archaeology.

“I don’t understand how you can have a sunburn on your neck, but every other part of you is pasty as a mushroom.”

“Genetics,” I say. “Fine Scandinavian stock.”

She pokes me once more. “Seriously. Usually you look like you’ve been living in a cave. Gollum!” she croaks. “Gollum!”

“That’s so hot,” I say. “Maybe you could lick your own eyeball while you’re doing it,  really spice it up.”

“Boys dig me,” she says.

“Without question.”

“Girls dig me too.”

“That’s what I read on the internet,” I say.

“It’s hard being so popular.”

“I don’t know how you live with yourself.”

“Self-medication and alcohol,” she says. “It’s all about the chemical balance.”

“It’s probably the only thing balanced about you.”

“I’m like a Picasso,” she says. “Or a Pollack.”

“You don’t really have any idea what you’re talking about, do you, Rivi?”

She shakes her head. “Nope. Not at all.”

“You keep that up. It works on you.”

She touches her hand to her hair. “I don’t need to know anything. I have a side pony. That speaks volumes.”

“Now I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Of course not,” she says. “College boy.”

“You went to college,” I point out.

“Sure,” she says. “The school of hard knocks.”

“No, you went to SFSU.”

“See? Hard. Knocks.”

“You have a degree in communications.”

“Communicating the hardness of knocks, yes.”

I squint at her. “Sometimes you worry me.”

She tugs on her ponytail absently. “I get that a lot.” She lets go of her hair and stands up. “Train’s coming,” she says, and it is. I can hear the low hum increasing in volume, and feel the air rushing toward us from the tunnel as the train pushes it forward. I stand as well, and together we move closer to the edge of the platform as the train pulls in and slows to a stop.

“Not everything is a portent, you know,” Rivi says as we step inside the car.

“I’m sorry, what? Non sequitur much?”

She takes a seat by the window, and I slide in next to her. “I know you,” she says. “I can read your mind.”

“I’m not thinking about portents,” I say.

“You might think you’re not, but you totally are.”

“I’m thinking about dinner. How is that a portent?”

“You might think you’re thinking about dinner, but in reality you’re thinking about portents,” she says. “Which not everything is.”

“If I just agree with you, will that make you stop talking about it?”

“Possibly,” she says. “No promises.”

“You’re even more weird today than you normally are.”

“‘When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.’ Although I’m not being paid for it, so it’s not really a pro thing. More of a talented amateur.”

The BART doors slide shut, and a moment later the train begins to move forward down the tunnel toward San Francisco. We sit quietly for a mile or so, and then I lean over to Rivi. “Get out of my head,” I say.

“Portents,” she says. “Totally portents.”

The train descends and begins its trip below the bay, and I do my best to not think of the millions of gallons of salt water above our heads, waiting for a crack to appear, and come crashing down upon us.

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