He had a couple of days before his meeting at Mario’s, and Fred was delayed in Ft. Lauderdale on the way back from his cruise, so Luca decided to visit his friend, Wesley, who had just completed his third stint at Kaiser Permanente’s Chemical Dependency Recovery Program.
He scooped up the little brown puppy that had been delivered anonymously to his door a few days earlier—now excised of its illicit cargo—and placed him in a milk crate mounted on the handlebars of his bike.
“Let’s go, Bummer. You and I are going visiting.” Despite the cone of shame, which obscured much of his view, Bummer held high his twitchy, wet nose and lapped up the beguiling, city-scented breeze as they rode across town to the Haight. Luca, envious of Bummer’s obviously carefree disposition, spent much of the ride thinking about how he was going to explain their new pet to Fred.
After a 20-minute ride, Luca and Bummer climbed the front steps of Wes’s place, a four-flat, Stick Style Victorian on an odd-shaped lot near Buena Vista Park. The neighbors had affectionately nicknamed the dark-blue building “The Bear House” because of the number of burly, bearded, hirsute men who lived there. Luca let himself in, made his way up to the second-floor apartment and found Wes sitting on his back porch staring at a laptop screen.
“Hey, kiddo, whatcha doing?” Luca asked.
“Waiting in line for Burning Man tickets.”
Luca marveled. Waiting in line. Online. Even inconvenience has gone virtual. “How’s that going?”
Wes stood to give Luca a hug. He looked great, healthier and a little heavier than usual. A month without meth does a body good. He was wearing cut-off jean shorts and had his hair pulled up in what Luca referred to as a “man sprout,” a tiny ponytail of sorts that stuck straight up off the top of his head.
“Okay, I think. Though the countdown timer keeps jumping between ’17 minutes’ and ‘More than an hour’ remaining. Oh, my god, lemme see doggie!”
“Bummer meet Wesley. Wesley meet Bummer.” Luca said, picking up the squirming pup and handing him to Wesley.
“Please tell me you saw Patty Hearst at Westminster.”
“Nope. Missed that one.” Luca said.
“No? Well, her Shih Tzu, Rocket, won the toy group. But then it lost best in show to some Beagle named Miss P. Anyway she looked gorgeous.”
“The Shih Tzu?”
“No. Patty Hearst.” Wesley glanced over at his computer screen. 25 minutes remaining.
“You know I went to the first Man burn on Baker beach?” Luca said.
“Yeah when I was 14. My folks used to hang with the Good Earth commune when I was a kid. So I’ve kinda known a bunch of that crowd for a long time. I went to the playa a couple times, too, early on. But it’s been a while.”
“Your parents were hippies?”
“Sort of. More like coke dealers.”
“Yeah. Big time. Grace Slick once traded my mom a Mercedes for an ounce of blow.”
Wes sat back down, put his feet up on the porch railing, and grabbed a joint off a table. He lit it and handed it to Luca who sat down beside him.
“Is this part of the program, now?” Luca asked.
“I’m trying San Francisco sober this time.”
Luca looked confused.
Wes explained, “You know, people who are ‘L.A. sober’ still drink white wine. ‘S.F. sober’ means you can still smoke weed.”
“Ah, gotcha. That makes sense.”
“I mean, it’s not officially in the Big Book or anything, but I think there’s room for interpretation. And you heard about Pink Saturday?”
“No, what about it?”
“Cancelled. Done. We got together and took a vote. It’s just too much trouble.”
They passed the joint back and forth a few times without saying much. Wes was one of the few people Luca knew whose silence didn’t make him uncomfortable. In fact he’d come to value the quiet moments he got to spend with his younger friend. One of those red, double-decker tourist buses drove past, and they caught just a piece of the guide’s narration, “…as we pass several of the most adorned Victorians in the…”
“Did I tell you about the guy I met on Scruff?” Wes asked.
“I don’t think so.”
“Yeah. A few weeks ago. I took him to dinner. We went to Kitchenbeard’s pop-up dinner. He was cute, a teacher I think. We totally made out on the way home.”
“The next day I sent him a message to see if he wanted to go out again and he said he didn’t think so because my arm pits aren’t smelly enough. I mean, only in this town will someone tell you you’re not dateable because you wear deodorant.”
Luca draped a comforting arm over the shoulder of his young friend. Wes rested his head on Luca’s shoulder, his sprout tickling Luca’s ear. They sat in silence. Breathing in unison. Watching the fog break up above their heads.
“I need to meet someone like you.” Wes said, finally.