The sky is clear today, but there is a fog in my head that is unpleasant and leaves me feeling out of balance. The drive from my apartment to San Mateo was difficult, but because of myself and not the traffic on the roads. The coin and the key are in my jeans, one in either front pocket. My left leg is too cold, my right is too hot. I have stopped trying to figure out why their temperatures are wrong. Acceptance is more simple than looking for explanations.
I am walking up and down Quince Street, back and forth. It’s not a long walk, as the street is only one block long, ending at another residential lane at one end, and a middle school at the other. I have seen only one other person outside the houses here, a woman in a black skirt who smiled at me as I walked past, before she got into the car in her driveway and drove away.
I have been repeatedly walking the street because I have a problem, one which was obvious the moment I finished my first pass along the homes here: 601 Quince Street was the address that appeared along the coin’s edge, but the houses on the street all have numbers which begin and end in the thousands. The number I am looking for does not exist here.
There is a prickling in my chest, like a cactus growing between my lungs, and my eyes are stinging from tears which threaten to come free. I don’t want to cry here, not at the opposite end of the street from my car. There is no one here to see me making a scene, but it’s guaranteed that if I break down now, that’s when the locals will come out of their houses and see me falling apart.
I can’t even find the right house.
I don’t know what I’m doing here.
I decide to make this walk down the street my last. I will go to my car, get in, and as I drive up the freeway to go home, I will toss both the key and the coin out my window, and try to forget any of this has ever happened. I will return to my empty apartment, not think about Christopher or Albert or the blurred phantom of the Penelope my mind keeps trying to give a shape to. I will try to become normal again.
I watch the house numbers as I walk by. 1597… 1599… 1601…
I stop and stare at the front of this last house. Of course, I think. Of course that’s it.
The house is white, but I can tell that it had once been painted a rich dark green. It’s obvious now that I’m really looking, because the number 1 on the address by the door is the color the house used to be. The rest of numbers are black metal, screwed into the wood, and the new color was painted over the old without removing the address from the wall. At some point after, the 1 was taken down or fell, and instead of being replaced, the owners just left the green paint to show the number which was meant to be there.
I know I’m only seeing holy faces in tortillas now, and finding justification for my madness in the patterns of the clouds. I should just get in my car and go home. Put an end to this now. That would be the smart thing to do.
No one answers when I knock on the door.
No one looks back at me when I peer through the front window.
No one stops me when I try my key on the door.
No one confronts me when I open the gate in the fence and walk into the back yard.
No one sees me when I slip the key into the lock on the door of the wooden shed.
No one knows when I step inside, and the door closes behind me, and I have walked too far to be able to find my way back to what used to be.