Sunset in Grass Valley

I wait inside the cool white cafe, an old bank building, as he goes outside to paint a picture before the sun falls too far. He leaves me his notebook to read. Everything with him is wide open. I gaze out the window at the small town gas station—the locals in their beat-up cars, the blonde Europeans on their classic hog. They dismount, don’t speak to each other, pop open their cell phones and talk with ghosts as the gas pours, climb back on together without speaking and ride into the sunset. He has painted a picture of the building that I am sitting in with a sunset of watercolors surrounding it. His face is wide with joy as he swings through the swinging door past the canisters of coffee and bronze knobs. He grabs me in the roomful of people—his grabbing surprising me as usual and delighting me. He has painted a small picture for me at the corner of the big picture which I’ll fold into a small card and write Love inside and send to my father in the hospital who has been to this town and been to this bank more than half a century ago. My father’s ghost drives out of the filling station in a 1940’s fat black Ford. The slender man with dark hair watches me, tries to catch my glance as the poet warms the cafe with his beating words. Afterwards, everyone meets everyone. He is happier than a child. His physical beauty catches me off-guard, the embrace of his smile is wide open. I tell him he is a jaguar, literally, one who catches his prey in the first leap. He grabs me and we laugh uncontrollably—both of us having temporarily escaped the prison of that other town where our haranguing lovers call each other and rip us apart with their words and compare sinister notes as the two of us share the fragile dusk. We do not mean to hurt anyone, we just help each other escape from the ringmasters with their spurs and whips, their condemnations and allegations. But here in this town, there is nothing wrong with us and we find no fault with each other. We are as perfect and natural and beautiful and as innocent as the sun which falls very very slowly especially for us because when darkness comes, we’ll have to return to the vampires. The jaguar grabs me. His sunset drips down my body. His hot blues. My cool yellows. We are streaked with red.

© RM



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