How I Didn’t Meet Your Mother
in San Francisco
They’re making the Golden Gate Bridge jump-proof. Fortunately, I have impeccable manners, and would never dare dream of such a flight of fancy. In fact, when I first met Janine, she mistook me for a waiter. We met in a sterile, bookless place.
I said, “Hello, I’m Howard. I will be taking care of you this evening.”
She said, “That’s funny, you don’t look like a doctor.”
I saw that she had irresistibly dirty lips and wore the most wholesome sequins I’d ever seen. Her eyes were shiny as a new bicycle. I detected just a faint twist of crinoline in her otherwise dulcet voice, as if she had had attended boarding school in the Black Forest or was an exile from a Norwegian protectorate. Of course, in those days, I was a member of the faceless masses, and women obliviously peered through me, like I was a pair of binoculars, or a window at the Louvre. I consoled myself by recalling that when George Washington became President, he had only one tooth. A mere mechanic of a man, with a little scar of a smile and a scalpel at the ready, had I only imagined that Janine had been blowing French kisses in my direction, that she was making googolplex eyes at me? It was spring and anything seemed possible, even snow.
The emergency room had never smelled fresher, and it had been a perfect day for a man about town: a murder of crows sang cheerily as they flapped across the funerary sky, I was in no immediate danger of busting into flames, and death seemed like a lost monkey in an abandoned nature preserve. That said, as it turned out, Janine was not the right woman for me. Far from it. She believed King Tut was a palindrome. She loved humanity, but despised people. She remained unimpressed by my smooth comportment and absence of visible dog bites.
She abruptly rose from the operating table, and said, “You are a soldier, Howard. I require an army.”
It was then and there that I realized that the charms of the snake charmer belong entirely to the snake. So I married your mother, instead. A goose-necked, pillowcase of a girl, with a steady income and beautiful safety goggles, your Nebraskan mother never once complained of suicides, nor the nightly tongues of fog that creep in bellow the Golden Gate, and swallow Alcatraz like a lethal little pill.