Part 2: Santa Martinez
Using my meager blogging budget, I booked the next flight to Santa Martinez, CA, a dusty suburb of San Francisco, located in the East Bay area. I’ve visited Santa Martinez before, back in 2007 while working for my previous employer, though I have this odd memory of the name of the town being Martinez instead of Santa Martinez. Regardless, memory is a tricky thing, and this would only be the beginning of it’s trickery.
When I arrived in the town, it was as I remembered it. Very quaint and quiet compared to the hustle and bustle of San Francisco, but very peaceful. One of the first things I did when arriving in the town was seeking out the Thai restaurant that my boss and I visited when we came almost a decade ago. Unfortunately, when I located the restaurant, I was disappointed to find that the original Thai proprietors had sold the establishment and it had since become an Indian restaurant. The disappointment had affected my appetite, so I decided to move ahead with my purpose in coming to Santa Martinez: find Ronald.
I had very little to go off of. The operator had only told me that Ronald would like to be left alone here, which in itself, was clearly intended to get me here. It was at this point that I froze. I had been so caught up in the excitement, and genuine terror from the phone call that I never stopped to think if I was being set-up. Did the McDonald’s people expect me to follow this clue? Was it an obvious red herring that completely undermined my aspiring hopes to be a decent journalist? Did I even talk to McDonald’s? Why did I think I could afford a $600 ticket to California right now? Had I even told my wife? All of these thoughts hit me like a sack of bricks that had been plummeting from the stratosphere ever since I stepped on the plane. What was I doing here?
Suddenly, I felt very dizzy. I checked my phone to see that I had 56 missed calls from my wife and 200+ text messages. All from my wife. This was a problem. She had no idea where I was, and I had no doubt at this point, the cops were looking for my body. I had to call her, but at that moment, my phone died. I had not charged it, and had no bag in which I would have carried a charger. I just jumped on a plane and flew across the country with absolutely nothing except what was on me at the time I made the call. I had to find a pay phone or borrow a cell phone immediately before my wife lost her mind. I decided on the Indian restaurant. As I walked inside, the smell of curry nearly knocked me to the floor. A flood of memories swept through me that I entirely forgotten about. Eating curry and talking about the complexity of relationships with a man that….I couldn’t recall. But, this all conflicted with what I knew was true: a Thai restaurant in too big of a room with, honest to God, 5 tables in a 1000 square foot room. This Indian restaurant was the same architecturally, no question, but with many more tables. I could tell I hadn’t eaten while in my fugue state, so I decided to sit down and have a bite after I called my wife.
I asked the waiter behind the counter if I could borrow his phone. He was a young Indian man who smelled like an Abercrombie and Fitch store as a living thing. His phone even reeked. As I put the phone to my ear, I noticed the older woman in the back staring at me, in what I can only imagine was a look of disbelief. I had too much going on to consider what social taboo I had just violated by asking to use a young Indian man’s cellphone, but I had no time for pleasantries. I dialed my wife’s number. The phone rang and rang, and went to voicemail.
“Hello, you’ve reached Chris. I can’t take your message…”. I took the phone from my ear, and glanced at the screen to see what i had goofed up when dialing the number. Nothing. The number was exactly what it should be. I ended the call and tried again.
“Hello, you’ve reached Chris. I c-“. I looked at the phone again. Same number.
I approached the young man and asked if he had a landline I could use. He exhaled sharply and took me to the backroom. A beat-up rotary hung from the wall. I picked up the headset and rotated my wife’s number into the phone. As I reached the last number, I realized something very terrifying.
I couldn’t remember my wife’s name.
To be continued…