It is 10:14 Pacific time, on a day tinged with grey and the sharp bite of a sea reminding us that she controls our existence here. Yet the morning required only a jacket and a scarf around my neck. I wore my blue hat but only because the wind would otherwise have made more of a mess of my curls than my careless attitude already has done.
I walked a short way down the road north of the hostel, thinking to sit on one of the benches overlooking the ocean. I carried with me the Georges Simenon book which I purchased in Menlo Park yesterday and read halfway through before sleeping. A trio of photographers stood amidst the ice plants on the ocean side of the road with their long lenses pointed westward. They talked quietly and occasionally gestured outward as though disagreeing about the timing of shots. I could see the suggestion of whales in the distance.
At the breakfast table, a five-year-old German girl named Ada told me in the flawless English of her American father that all of the teachers at her school in California are ladies except one. Her older brother shook his head slightly, as though wanting to set the record straight without upsetting anyone. My math teacher is a man, he disclosed. I told him that one of my brothers is a math teacher. I asked him if he thought perhaps all math teachers were men. I recognized that little head shake. He relegated me to the same group as his sister, wrong but to be protected from our mistakes.
In fact, he told me that to be a big brother, he had to be careful. You can’t use all of your strength, he explained. The other children are smaller. I praised him. His sister carefully rolled her pancake into a cylinder and munched it, watching me, not at all sure why I was allowed to sit at their table.
On my walk, I encountered a slight incline which I admit compelled me to regret leaving my walking stick in the rental car. I started down the hill, which might have been a total drop of two feet over three times that in distance. I inched my way, remembering my Stanford neurologist explaining to his Fellow why they wanted to decrease what he gently called “the dropping of her foot”. He demonstrated a fall, pitching forward. Then he talked about the narrowness of my stance, while I shifted my weight, trying to look alert, endeavoring not to drool or say anything embarrassing. I don’t understand why it’s necessary to speak of patients in the third person. It’s a little rude. But I fly all the way here because the skill of the doctors whom I see is nearly beyond compare. I suppose I can tolerate a little arrogance.
I watched the ocean for a while after I finally got to the bench. I could see a fisherman on a far point, and a few more photographers. The beauty of the place tempts even people such as myself who carry our phones on the offchance that we’ll frame a photo which will sustain us when we get back home to our dreary, landlocked lives.
When I had finished the book, I reversed my path and discovered that I could not force myself to retrace my steps all the way to the road. I tried, and for my troubles, I landed on my bottom in the mass of ice plants. I said, to no one, to the black birds, A fine mess you’ve gotten us into now, and the black birds rewarded me by taking flight to another spot in the path where they could search for grubs without being disturbed. I regarded the sky above me, feeling a bit like someone’s old aunt in my hat with its jaunty flower and my red jacket buttoned clear up to my neck.
Eventually I pulled myself back to my feet but the book remained on the ground, with Mssr. Simenon’s portrait gazing at me expectantly. Finally a man came along and steadied me as I scooted over the last little hump. Where is your car, he said, and I felt oddly comforted by the cadence of his accent. Another German, I thought. I thanked him. I gestured toward the buildings clustered at the base of the lighthouse. Ah, you’re a guest here, he said. I nodded. Then he got into a red Corvette parked at the side of the road and took off with the rapidity of the young. I walked on to the hostel, with its warm kitchen, the pleasant chattering of the children staying in the Seal house, and whatever I would find to occupy the rest of my day.