UBERLIFTER OR MY BUM HEART OR WOMEN WHO REJECTED ME OR THE RAIN TREE IN THE GOLDEN VALLEY by Joel Tomfohr
Which brings me to this afternoon, like many others this summer I hope. How I was out by Lake Merritt, out next to the giant Children’s Fairyland sign and the fountain, out on that hill right there in the sun trying to you know, like, melt into the earth. That’s my goal. To melt into the earth. And, if I can’t do that, then raise my vitamin D levels as much as I can.
And nothing really in particular happened; I guess this:
An older man pushed his bike up next to my head to get my attention while I was lying there listening to Ambulance Blues and he asked me if he could ask me a question.
“You already did,” I said.
“Hey man,” he said back to me. “What’s your problem?”
I told him I was tired and he asked me again if he could ask me a question and I said sure.
“My wife needs tampons, but we don’t have any money, so can you give me some money so my wife can get tampons?”
I was afraid he was going to roll his bike over my head or kick me in the head or do something to my head. I was lying there in my cutoff jean shorts and nothing else. Prone, you could say. He walked off, though, without saying anything else and then I felt like an asshole for being a wiseass to a man who looked like he was at least fifteen years my senior and like he did need the money and it didn’t really matter what for, so much so that he would suffer the ignominy of having to ask someone at least fifteen years younger than him for money so that he could buy his wife tampons. But it was true. I didn’t have any money on me. It was also true that I could just as easily be him if my landlord decided to evict me. I can’t afford rent in Oakland anymore.
I rolled over and fell asleep while the last bits of Ambulance Blues played, the final duet between the harmonica and the violin—it sounded extraterrestrial, like a portal had opened up and this was the music transmitted out of it and I was following the sawing sound of the harmonica and the violin through that portal and when it finished I realized that I had fallen asleep. When I woke I was disoriented, like I had come back through the portal and forgotten where I was and hazy from the sun and it reminds me now how last summer when I was in Abiquiu for a week staying in a yurt behind the house of two Sufi mystics, a husband and a wife, my girlfriend knows there. So, one of the afternoons that I was staying there, I drove twenty minutes up the highway to Ghost Ranch and I walked through Georgia O’Keefe’s house with its viga-and-latilla ceilings and I saw a bleached out cow skull hanging above a door and outside the little square windows all the red and yellow-colored bluffs like huge walls boxing it in, except that they really couldn’t, not really, because the sky was so big and I hiked up this trail to what was called Chimney Rock and when I got there that’s what it was, a giant rock that looked like a chimney but I realized that that was not really the best part of what I could see. I could see out across the landscape, the old volcanoes, the steely flint of Cerro Pedernal and the blue, blue Abiquiu Lake and the field of white clouds scudding across the sky vividly. I stood at the ledge and I remember being afraid of it. Gales of wind blew and whipped my hair all around my head and dried out my eyes and so I turned around and hiked back down the trail, satisfied that I had seen all there was to see but also not because one could spend an eternity at a place like that and not see all the ways in which it could be seen, the changing light and colors. The sky at night the cosmos like an infinite dynamo.
When I got back to the yurt the Sufis were home so I knocked on their door and the old man greeted me. He wore a light blue kufi and a matching light blue flowing kurta. He brought me to the kitchen where there was a table made and carved from pinon, lacquered beautifully so that I could see the wavelike grain of the wood. His wife was sat there; she wore an emerald green headscarf. They offered me chai, and it was pink and they asked me what I had seen that day. I told them about the Ghost Ranch, the Cerro Pedernal, the red and yellow bluffs. They nodded and smiled.
“It is beautiful here,” the wife said.
“Very beautiful,” the husband said.
When I finished my pink tea I felt more awake, but also calm. “Thank you,” I said.
“Of course,” the husband said.
“Of course,” the wife said.
I went to my yurt around back and lay out on the bed I was so tired from hiking but awake and calm in a way that is hard to describe. I put in my ear buds and listened to Beethoven’s Ninth and I was listening to it and drifting off much in the same way that I drifted off to Ambulance Blues next to Lake Merritt this afternoon and I did and then I was back up on that ledge at Chimney Rock out at Ghost Ranch with the red and yellow cliffs and blue lake and ancient volcano and fleet of white clouds scudding vividly except that this time I was not afraid of the ledge. This time out in front of me just beyond the ledge was a door (a portal) that had opened up and the silhouettes of two human figures stood in the door (the portal) and behind them was only this bright white light, but they were serving me pink tea like the Sufi mystics and I was reaching out for it and I can’t remember if I took it or if it was already in my hands or maybe that was what I was trying to figure out in my vision and then I rose up out of it and I was back in my bed in the yurt and now it was completely dark outside.
So it was in the middle of the day on the little hill next to the Children’s Fairyland sign next to the lake with the fountain splashing when my brother Jason sent me this text about a script he’s working on about a guy who works odd jobs, one of them being an Uber driver, and is estranged from his daughter who lives in Rio (Why Rio? I wondered) and this was the text: Should I call it My Bum Heart or Uberlifter or Women Who Rejected Me or The Rain Tree in the Golden Valley. I ignored it. Instead, I decided to listen to Neil Young with Crazy Horse and I nodded off to the final fuzzy distorted bars of Cinnamon Girl and I decided that that is the greatest closing to a rock and roll song ever and when I woke up again Cowgirl in the Sand was playing and I opened my eyes and Jason was standing there above me blocking my sun wearing his Ray-Bans that make him look sort of like Jason Patric in The Lost Boys. No kidding. He has the same thick curly hair and bone structure, and it occurs to me now that they both have the same name.
“I thought you’d be here,” he said.
I squinted up at him sort of disappointed that he had come here to my spot because I was busy trying to melt into the earth as I said, but I said hey and rubbed my eyes and put on my Ray-Bans and sat up.
“So,” he began. “What are you doing?”
I wanted to say what does it look like I’m doing, but I didn’t. I told him how I was trying to waste my life out here and melt into the earth and he kind of chuckled, but I could tell he was a little concerned.
“Or at least raise my vitamin D levels.”
I couldn’t tell if he was giving me a puzzled look because he was wearing his sunglasses, but I imagined he was.
“I like the titles you sent me.” I paused. “For your script.”
“Oh yeah,” he laughed. “Which one?”
“Why not call it all three? Don’t settle for just one.”
He looked down at me and I looked up at him and then I lay back down on my back. “Can I sit down?” he asked.
“Be my guest.” Now I was happier that he’d come by but also wishing that he hadn’t. I had felt another portal coming on before he appeared but sometimes that happens. I think the moment will arrive and then it gets interrupted or it simply doesn’t and then there are other times when—Boom!—it does and everything opens up and there I am laying in the middle of it all, the sun setting and melting and I’m melting into the earth and generally wasting my life or at least trying to gather vitamin D from the final rays of sunlight and my brother Jason next to me thinking of titles for his script.