Martin was still wondering why this girl had brought up a bloody Clint Eastwood movie when he was feeling all soft and trusting and about to tell her his whole story. Bloody Clint Eastwood, “make my day,” ultimate American tough guy thumbing his nose at any old-world male vulnerability! Million Dollar Baby, he thought she’d said, though he’d never seen that particular film.
But they’d spent a dreamy day wandering up and down San Francisco’s toy-town hills, ogling painted-lady Victorian houses still garishly advertising the prosperity of the Barbary Coast. Twilight had found them amidst the ancient splendor of the neoclassical Palace of Fine Arts, built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, before a brisk walk north across the Golden Gate Bridge that left Martin wondering why people claimed California weather was any better than England’s.
Now they were all snuggled up against the fog about to descend on the Marin hills. From so high up they imagined they could see the Farallons far out to sea, they were watching the sun set. And this girl from the plane had given him what she said was an extra iPhone, so he could cross “watching the sun set over San Francisco Bay” off his new, trusty to-do list. Plus there was the latest vanilla latte she’d bought him in his other hand.
A blanket she’d brought was wrapped around them both. With her pressed up tight against him, he could feel when she sighed heavily. What he still couldn’t do, however, was remember her name. Annoyed by that, he blurted out, “You said it again in your sleep last night!”
She turned and looked up at him with dreamy but conflicted eyes. “Said what?”
“Ma cushla, or whatever that is.”
“Mo chuisle?” She reddened. “No, you must have been dreaming again.”
Probably meant dumb, prissy, effeminate, vulnerable Brit that could never hold up to the likes of Clint Eastwood, even if Clint Eastwood was now ancient.
She ran her fingers over his shoulder, probably without realizing she was doing it as she looked up him, thoroughly gobsmacked. “Where are you from?”
Couldn’t hurt to tell her that. “Originally? Kent.”
Soft fingers traced delicate patterns around the back of his neck. “What was it like there?”
Again, what harm if he told her? He looked beyond her, to where the sun would soon drop into an ocean afire with pink and orange. For some reason he couldn’t remember, the first thing he thought of was his father’s garden hose when he watered the flowers.
Insanely, this memory that should have been tranquil brought on a rush of painfully vulnerable terror. Something about a nightmare. Something about blood spurting from that hose. Then the pink and orange Pacific Ocean undulated. Had he really stopped hallucinating?