For some people, a quarter-million dollars is the seed of their future business empire. For me it offered a new perspective on life.
However, by my thirty-first birthday, a substantial portion of that quarter of a million dollars that had been in my bank account when I left my job as an investment banker at the ripe old age of twenty-six had been depleted, and all I really had to show for the past four years were a number of romances, some travels, and one big revelation. Now, six months after the big revelation, I was in San Francisco, in the finest hotel, on top of the highest hill with the widest view, gazing at the vast, orderly skyscrapers in wonder.
Lying naked in bed behind me was a lovely woman whom I’d had to see one last time. Her name was Francesca, pronounced with a soft c as she had been quick to correct me when I’d got it wrong at our first encounter. She lay on her side with her hands underneath her head. She was a brunette, lithe and natural looking, and she had hurt me a great deal.
“Why are you leaving me?” I asked as I turned back to her.
She rolled onto her back and the sheet covered her breasts. “You’re the one going to Greece,” she countered.
“Just come with me.”
Francesca was the image of perfect beauty I had always hoped to find in a woman. Unfortunately, she was also a piece of fabric woven tightly into my American blanket. She was a modern career woman, financially successful. She was on a rocket into the future, on a trajectory marked by opulence, which I feared would leave me insignificant if I didn’t participate in it now. She was everything that I had been. She was also my last chance to reverse my decision; yet whenever I contemplated doing so, I was consumed with anxiety and a twinge in my gut that roiled down into the depths of my bowels. I honestly felt that I had no other choice but to go.
The pace of society in the US overwhelmed me. I felt hijacked by my way of life and out of control. No, not even this nascent romance, as wonderful as it was, was going to stop me from going on this quest I had chosen for myself.
Next morning, we left the hotel and took breakfast at a fancy place on Fillmore Street. Afterwards, as we still had some time before Francesca’s flight, we went to Lafayette Park and lay on the grass together where we could see the bay. The beach towel I had brought was small; Francesca rested her head on my arm and squeezed close to keep off the damp grass. We remained silent, though I wanted to know what she was thinking.
I was thinking about last night at the jazz bar at the InterContinental hotel; about Francesca’s voice when she’d said, “You make me so happy.”
She hadn’t been wearing a bra because I had asked her not to. I wanted to be able to grab her breasts cleanly and cover them with my palms when I kissed her. We had kissed and touched each other with enough passion that I had insisted we return to our hotel room.
“Not yet,” she had said in response, tightening her grip on me.
I pulled Francesca onto my lap, and she draped her arm over my shoulder. When we paused from kissing, we looked out at the city stretching away from us.
“This is spectacular,” I said in reference to the entire night.
“You made it all happen,” she responded.
I had made this night happen when I bought her a plane ticket to come up from LA to see me one last time. I had booked my flight to Greece out of SFO instead of LAX, so I could spend my last week with Mom who was visiting my two sisters who lived in San Francisco. In hindsight, I should have flown out of LA and avoided the chaos I stirred up with my sister, Toula, that led Mom to break out in tears when she witnessed us spar over my plan to leave a few boxes in her storage room without having asked her and I called Toula a bitch. I was not going to miss my two sisters nearly as much as I was going to miss Francesca.
Now, on the grassy knoll in the park, I thought about how this moment would soon be just a memory, paired with the memory of the night before. I was bothered by this fact, this passing of moments into memories. Because if they were good memories, I knew my oversensitive self would harbor the nostalgia until an onset of sad feelings arose within me. Soon, Francesca would be back in LA, and I would be here, alone. Having her close to me and relaxed in my arms, yet knowing she would soon be gone, was a terrible thing for one who had never felt better.
Though we both insisted we would see each other again, I knew it wasn’t true. It was the way we had made love the night before that had revealed the truth: we made the kind of love you make when you aren’t holding back for the next time. It was the kind of lovemaking that was guided by all the love we’d made in the past, and the accumulation carried enough weight to squeeze out the space for any more.
“I’m going to miss you,” Francesca said.
I insisted I would drive her to the airport. The ride was silent and tense and we arrived at terminal three much too soon for me.
“Should we head back into the city?” I asked, half-seriously.
“I have a birthday party.”
“What if I change my flight and we see each other again next week?”
“I’ll be in Dallas for work…Peter!”
Francesca had her schedule planned out months in advance. She already had her thirtieth birthday in Cabo organized and that was six months away. She shifted off her seat, her bottom resting on my center console, and kissed me.
“What am I going to do without you?” I asked when we separated.
She gazed at me for a long, silent moment. “You’re going to go to Greece, and you’re going to be the new handsome face there. In a month, you’ll have forgotten all about me.”
“Why do you have to say that?” I demanded, taking hold of her hand.
We gazed at each other some more, and she saw that I was deeply hurt by her comment.
“You’re adorable!” she said, as if she always knew that what we had couldn’t last but had nonetheless enjoyed our time together. “But Greece is where you need to be.”
Unfazed, she changed the direction of our conversation on a dime. “What are you going to do today?”
“Write for a while, then wander the city thinking about you…missing you.”
I kissed her one last time, tenderly, and, when my lips touched hers, it hurt so much and I felt I would never get over it. The last I saw of her were her long legs, clad in impeccably stylish jeans, striding away.
I drove on to terminal four and attached my Uber sticker to my windshield. Within a few minutes, a passenger pinged me. He was a young businessman. He entered my car with a sense of urgency and a brown leather bag. “Four Seasons, downtown. Thank you,” he shouted in a monotone.
The man reminded me of my old self. I had no sooner asked, “How’s your day going?” than his phone rang and he told me to turn down the music. Yes, this had definitely been me, I thought.