Fiction, Vol. 8.2, June 2014
Everyone called my sister “mentally retarded,” but I knew she was not. Even our mother pitied her. But as I played with her and watched over her, I could see that she did not suffer from a lack of thought, but rather a sort of holy passivity. She could understand me but did not like to talk. She did not want to have opinions and she never said “I.” She seemed to feel that she did not have any self, but she was always waiting calmly for something and always ready to receive it.
My first serious photographs were of my sister. She faced the camera with a purity of acceptance. Her fine, dull blonde hair and light eyes, with their shadowless transparence, made her appear limp and shining. She saw everything and said nothing.
Two years her senior, I guarded her all the time. In the 1970s, we were an isolated family in a housing tract in Pomona, east of Los Angeles. Our father had been going to night school for many years, bravely trying to get an engineering degree while working as a machinist. Our mother was artistic and impatient, and suffered with a frustration that we did not notice or care about. She was bored and jealous and envied my closeness with my sister, which she could never have. I protected my sister throughout elementary school, but when I left her to go to junior high, she was teased by other children and fell behind. She was diagnosed as educable mentally retarded and sent to a day school workshop.
In the late 1970s, my father got his degree. He started working at an electronics company in San Jose and we were going to move 300 miles north to live in Santa Cruz. My mother was jubilant because she could be happy and creative on the beautiful beach and break loose of some chains of restriction.
We came to Santa Cruz in summer fog at twilight. I asked my mother if we could walk to the ocean. She said no. I asked if we could at least walk down the block and look at the old houses, and she reluctantly agreed.
I whispered to my sister, “Come on!” We ran south, giggling in the fog. The antique wooden houses with balconies and columns seemed ancient to us. The fog blurred them. Orange and red summer flowers shone in the foggy gardens. We crossed a railroad track and an asphalt alley speckled with sand, and ran out onto a warm, misty beach.
All the ocean was silver-white. The horizon was hidden by white fog. Pale, pearly foam fanned out of the whiteness and from gray shadows onto white sand. I had not brought my camera because it was still packed in my suitcase. I looked at my sister and saw she was shivering with delight. I tried to control my own trembling. I said in awe, “Isn’t it pretty? Isn’t it pretty?” and she did not reply but breathed eagerly with her watery eyes wide open.
We ran back. Our mother said, “Do you like this neighborhood?”
“Yeah,” I said.
The rest of the summer I went to the beach as often as I could with my camera because I wanted to find again the look of the ocean from that first twilight. It never looked exactly the same again. But I took photographs endlessly with different f-stops and felt tender toward my vision. My sister always came with me.
In the fall, I attended Santa Cruz High School, but went to the beach first thing every morning with my camera. My sister’s school program did not work out. She was bored by mechanical activity and would only watch people or cars or birds through the windows. I kept telling my mother to leave her alone and that she would be okay. My mother wanted more and more to trust me because she could not endure her anxiety about my sister.
Our mother loved my sister, but the anxiety had been smothering her; she could see no escape from it. Now, our mother could suck in the sparkling Santa Cruz air and grab hold of a thrill in life that she had been longing to invent. She signed up for a sculpture class and started running long distances. My father had to drive to San Jose every day over the infamous, twisting Highway 17 through the redwood trees, so he was exhausted every night. Since I acted as if I knew what to do for my sister, they gradually made themselves believe that I was helping her more than they could.
In the mornings, my sister would go to the beach with me as I looked for the horizon hidden by fog. Sometimes she would stay there when I went to school. Then I would meet her at lunch and we would walk downtown. If I had to go back to school after lunch, she would stay downtown and I would meet her after school.
Santa Cruz was still full of hippies, and boys and girls with long hair and stylized clothes and hats in bright, clashing colors. Some were malicious or despairing and used drugs, including heroin, but others were gentle and full of silly kindness. Some people got to know my sister and watched out for her. She helped to sweep and clean a health food bakery and though they didn’t pay her, they gave her lunch. So I didn’t worry about her in the afternoons when I started taking the photography class.
One morning, I was taking pictures at the beach when I saw my sister looking quietly at someone. As always, when she did this too long, I called to her. “Okay, come on,” I said, hoping to break her attention. But then I began to watch, too; the man she was watching was taking photographs and I could see that he had a good, expensive camera. He was not taking photographs of the ocean but of some broken, plastic junk the waves had washed up. He seemed very serious, lying on his side and his back to get unique angles. I was surprised that a serious photographer would take photographs of ugly things.
A few days later, I met my sister at the beach at lunch time. The autumn light in Santa Cruz had a fine crystal glitter in late morning, but a tide of penetrant deep blue flooded into the sky in the afternoons. I saw the same man with the camera, but this time, tall, long-haired, bare-legged girls in UCSC sweatshirts were with him, carrying plastic buckets and bins of flowers. They dumped the flowers into the foam as the waves gushed in and he took photographs of the flowers being tossed back by the sea water onto the shining sand.
We walked closer to watch. The man saw me with my camera. “Why don’t you take some shots?” he said.
“I’ve got black and white film,” I said. I was grave but felt proud to show that I was a true artist.
But he laughed in a wise, contemptuous way. His laughter seemed to throw all my solemn beliefs about photography into doubt. “Are you a photography student?”
“I’m taking a class at high school, but mostly I learn from books and from looking at things.”
“Oh? What books?”
“Edward Weston and—”
The college girls laughed. “You have to open your eyes first!” he said. “There’s color everywhere! Why do you want to hide from color? That’s like hiding from life!” He smiled at me and gave me his full attention. He was balding on top of his head but had long hair in back. His skin was tan and fine-grained and his eyes were a sharp brown. He called over to my sister, “Hi there! Can I take your picture?”
Of course my sister did not say anything, but looked at him in her yielding expectancy.
“I can see she is your sister,” he said. “Is she shy?”
“A little bit,” I said.
“Do you mind if I take her picture?”
He told me he was an artist and photographer, and that his name was Mark. He invited me to come to his studio and show him my photographs, and he said he would show me some of his. “We’ve got to loosen you up a little bit! We’ve got to open you up to color and life and love!”
I said gruffly, “Okay,” and the college girls all laughed at me until I blushed.
I took my sister with me to Mark’s studio, which was in an old Victorian house by the beach. She stood gazing at the wall-hung weavings and bead work from Peru and Indonesia as I showed Mark my austere images of the sea.
“You have talent, if that means anything,” he said, “but you are too rigid. You are bound up in this tightness and the false sense that you have to hold in your emotion and hang back from life. You should not take any photographs for a while, but just look at the colors of the sky and flowers, and pay attention to your sensations.”
I was embarrassed, but he continued.
“Do you have a girlfriend? You ought to fall in love and eat delicious food and break free of this bullshit bourgeois morality that is strangling you before you have even been born.” Then he saw my photographs of my sister. “These are very nice,” he said.
He took his own photographs of my sister posing with seashells and flowers and bundles of feathers. “You have a remarkable face!” he told her. “What a lovely face!” and she smiled in her lucid vacancy.
Though at first I was insulted by Mark’s criticism, I started to realize that the gray and white purity I longed to see in front of my eyes was a cage I used to shield myself from the gorgeous chaos I feared might invade me. At first, the cuts he made on my pride hurt so much I almost cried, but later, I felt that he had opened me up to the true beauty of Santa Cruz and my youth through those little wounds.
I often went to Mark’s studio and brought my sister. Mark was a college art instructor who also gave private lessons, but he never charged me anything for looking at my photographs. When I started using color film, he paid for the developing. He always talked to my sister and sometimes she spoke back, saying only, “Yes,” or “Okay” in her low, unused voice.
A woman with long, brown, wavy hair who wore intricate necklaces and bracelets lived with Mark, but she was his girlfriend or lover and not his wife, as I had first assumed. Her name was Bridget. At first, I thought from her clothes that she was one of the college girls who helped him with his art, but then I saw the lines on her forehead and realized she was older. I thought Bridget resented me because I did not pay for lessons; she was cool and terse with me at first. But then Bridget invited me and my sister to a reception for Mark to celebrate the acceptance of his show by a gallery, and I was grateful to her for this.
I brushed my long hair to a luster and my sister put on a bright yellow skirt our mother had bought for her, and we went to Mark’s reception. Everyone smiled at her and touched her shoulders, and Bridget gave us food from trays. Mark was exuberant and talked eagerly to a thoughtful, curly-haired man. The thoughtful man had seen my sister in photographs. “Oh yes. I recognize her,” he said. “Marvelous.” He looked easily at my sister. “Hello. What’s your name?”
I responded for her. “She doesn’t like to talk very much.”
“That’s good. I think that’s fine. I think most people talk too much.” He observed her eyes while she took in his watching.
I heard people at the reception talking about my sister. Mark said, “You can see she’s not retarded. The obscenity of it! She has a kind of wisdom the rest of us could never penetrate.”
The thoughtful, curly-haired man asked me, “What kind of work does your father do? How long have you lived in Santa Cruz? Where did you live before? How does your mother get along with your sister?”
“My mother doesn’t know what to do for her. I’m the one who helps my sister.”
“I see. Oh, I see.”
Bridget took me into the kitchen because I was eating crumbs from my plate, and she sat down, smiling, bracelets clinking, to watch me eat more. I said that the curly-haired man agreed that my sister was not retarded. Bridget said, “He must know what he’s talking about. His name is Dr. R— and he’s a psychotherapist.” She sighed with relief or sadness. “It is sweet of you to always watch out for your sister. I hope you will always want to do that.”
“I’m used to it,” I said.
A fat man with a bushy gray beard burst into the kitchen. He was looking for a bottle of scotch. Bridget said, “Is that other bottle gone already? You know we’re going to smoke later. We’re going to smoke some you-know-what.”
“But my dear, I am old-fashioned,” the man said with a trace of a Spanish accent.
“This is someone you should meet,” Bridget said to me. “This is Erasmo.” She said to Erasmo, “This is that girl’s brother.”
Gray-bearded Erasmo said, “Ah yes! I see the face! I see you are the brother!” Then he said to Bridget, “You know I am thinking very much about photography. Mark is making me to think about it. I believe I shall paint on photographs.”
Bridget laughed. “What? Like a baby scribbling on photographs with a crayon?”
“Yes yes! Exactly like the little baby!” He looked at me, smiling.
Bridget got up, her necklaces jingling, to look for the bottle of scotch, but Erasmo said he had changed his mind. “This young man is making me ashamed,” he said. “No! I do not want it now. If I drink too much, I only remember Cuba. Go. I shall wash the dishes. Yes! Go, go! Save Mark from Dr. R—. If you do not take Mark away from Dr. R—, you shall find Mark’s mind be turn all inside-outside! Yes! Go! This young gentleman and I shall wash the dishes. Do you not believe in the woman lib?”
I did not want to wash dishes, but I stayed to listen to Erasmo. “Are you from Cuba?” I asked him.
He said that he was, and ran the water, making a foam of the detergent. “Mark has capture something in your sister very fantastical,” he said. His voice was musical and smooth and he did not use the past tense. “I think almost she is like a blank. She is like the movie screen before the movie start. It seem like the male eye or the male desire can to put its own image upon her. Do you know what I say? Like she is just waiting to be what the eye long for her to be. She is like this in reality? Or has Mark create, what you say, myth like this? Do you know what I say?”
“Well she’s very cooperative,” I said. “She does what people want her to do. She’s very quiet. People used to say she was retarded, but I said she wasn’t and I just heard Dr. R— say she wasn’t.”
“I think Mark is in love with your sister. Do you believe this is possible?” I laughed and shook my head. “How old is she?”
“She’s only fifteen.”
“Fifteen. Well. Fifteen. Do the boys at school say she is beautiful? She has boyfriends?”
“She doesn’t go to school.”
“Oh, but are your parents living?”
“Sure, but they figured out school wasn’t helping her. They know I keep an eye on her. She doesn’t go anywhere by herself.”
We talked about the ocean. I told him how I tried to photograph the horizon hidden by fog. He told me about the beauty of Havana.
“Listen, my son,” he said. “I am teaching at UCSC. You know, up there in the big red trees? You must to come to my studio and bring your photographs.”
Then Bridget came back to the kitchen and I took my sister home. I asked her if she liked Dr. R—, but she did not say anything. She only walked in the damp black night in her yellow skirt, looking at the stars as we climbed the hill.
I hardly had any friends in school. But I liked a girl in my algebra class named Elly, because she was charming and talkative and had thick, straight black hair. When she saw my photographs in a school art show, she said, “I love your pictures! I love the one called ‘Horizon Hidden by Fog.’ It’s so beautiful!”
We talked in the corridors and out on the glossy green high school lawn in the glinting Santa Cruz winter light. She had dimples on her chin and her little ears poked through her straight black hair. I thought her small breasts were exquisite as they pushed out in soft curves from her flannel shirt. When she became my girlfriend, I would often go to her house after school.
I did not take my sister to see Elly. I still walked to the beach in the mornings with my sister, but I wheeled my bicycle with me. In the afternoons, when my sister was downtown or posing for Mark, I rode my bike from school to Elly’s house.
My girlfriend’s house had a little garden gate. I felt a precise happiness each time I opened the gate and wheeled my bicycle past the flowers. The clarity of the air made the colors sharp, but the saturating light gave the colors a heaviness that seemed to draw them back from their surfaces. The sexual pleasure and the merry love I felt with Elly was drawing my mind into plush color and showing me that the world was lavish and careless with its color, as I should be. The nasturtiums and daisies bloomed all through the autumn and winter.
One day when I went to Mark’s house with my sister to return some camera filters I had borrowed, Mark told me he wanted to display some of my photographs at a seminar on creativity that he and Dr. R— were organizing. I was flattered. He said I should bring my sister and my photographs to Dr. R—’s house.
On a Saturday, my sister and I rode in Bridget’s car to Dr. R—’s house. I clutched my photographs in their matte frames. Dr. R—’s house was up past UCSC, nestled deep in the redwoods. The house, too, was made of redwood, and its color resonated with the tree trunks in the cloudy shade of the branches. A college girl took my photographs and glanced at them quickly. Then she stuck them to a little board with thumbtacks, without saying anything.
Ten or twelve people sat on the redwood deck in a cool, brimming bowl of green shadow. Slender Bridget sat cross-legged on the deck smoking cigarettes as she listened to the others. Dr. R— talked about our stifled humanity and how our minds long for beauty although our bourgeois culture casts us in ugliness. I felt that the vision I needed for good photographs, and to see and fully understand Elly, was gathering in a warm pulse in my chest, but I knew that it would have to make a dangerous leap through my eyes someday.
Dr. R— and Mark took my sister into the house and talked to her and watched her face as people on the deck read ancient poetry. Dr. R— saw me watching my sister and beckoned to me in the dim light. “You see,” he said, “she is a kind of genius. She has mastered the same creativity we’ve been discussing all day. You want to be an artist of the outer world, but she’s made art out of herself. She’s made her emotional being into a beautiful, hard object that yields when it’s pressed by the culture, but always retains its shape. Oh, I think you do know. I’ve heard all about your parents. She’s reacted to the greed and impotent striving of your father and the bitter frustration and buried anger of your mother. Do you see? You shake your head no, but you do see, because you have tried to follow the same path, though in a different direction.”
In the redwood twilight, I thought I did see that beauty had to be linked with some dark red jubilation inside the body. I thought I saw how my parents were sad victims too, of society’s repression of emotion, and that my sister had discovered this and resisted it mysteriously.
My father didn’t come home anymore. He rented an apartment in San Jose because it was unbearable for him to drive over the mountains every day and my mother would not cook for him anyway. She worked on her sculptures in the garage for hours into the night and didn’t eat dinner anymore. But my sister was speaking more, to Mark and Bridget and Dr. R— and others. She stayed alert and had friends for the first time in her life, though they were all adults. Dr. R— was right to say that the family mesh was a poisoned web that she had secretly struggled against. And I felt that, as my sister became beautiful, she would reflect some boy’s joy as my girlfriend’s beauty reflected mine.
Because I wanted to be with Elly, I would tell my mother I was with my sister when I wasn’t. When I told my mother that my sister and I often went to Dr. R—’s house, she said, “Your sister shouldn’t go there alone. You always go with her?”
“Of course,” I said. “You know I always go with her.”
One morning at school, Elly’s friends invited us to ditch school and drive to Half Moon Bay the next day. I said we would have to go to Mark’s house first to tell Bridget to keep my sister there so I could pick her up when I returned.
When we walked into the studio, Mark didn’t hear us coming. Mark had his hands on my sister’s shoulders, posing her for a photograph. Then he petted her neck with lingering hands. When I said hello, he did not seem startled and commenced taking his photographs.
When we left, Elly made a gesture of disgust. “Didn’t you see how he was feeling up your sister? Why didn’t you say something?”
“He was just posing her.”
“Mark is a creep. He’s a hippie. I don’t understand why you always go see him when you have much more talent than he does.”
“Are you crazy? Mark has taught me everything. He opened me up to color.”
“I think he’s a disgusting, dirty old man. To feel up your sister when his own girlfriend is right there!”
“God, you are so bourgeois. Where do you get this false morality?”
In the bliss of our trip, we forgot our argument. I kissed Elly and held her pliant back as she leaned back onto me. I believed that if Mark loved my sister, he would feel the ecstasy I felt and if my sister was loved by Mark, she would feel the ecstasy my girlfriend seemed to feel with me.
In the middle of Santa Cruz, a stone stairway climbed a flowering hill. In the spring, Elly and I walked up and down the stone steps through scarlet and blue-and-white flowers from the high streets downtown to the low streets by the beach. At the top, we could see the scintillating blue ocean to its fine horizon and at the bottom, we waded through flowers.
I had been going later and later in the afternoons to meet my sister downtown until one day, I found she was not there. The bakery hippies said a man had come for her: a tan, balding man with strong brown eyes.
When I went to Mark’s house for my sister, Bridget said he had gone to Dr. R—’s house, but she didn’t know he had my sister with him. I waited at Mark’s house, my anger and fear rising, until he returned with my sister at dark.
I was nervous and shouted, “If my mother finds out I wasn’t with her all day, she will kill me.”
Mark laughed. “I’ve done more for you and your sister in six months than your repressed parents have done in their whole lives. You can see I would never hurt her. Dr. R— is getting her to talk. And when she speaks, her poetry will amaze the world.”
I could not sustain in my mind any suspicion about Mark. I saw that Mark and Dr. R— were helping my sister. I needed Mark to teach me and to pay for my color film developing. I knew that Bridget would guide Mark’s sexual energy to herself because Bridget was beautiful in her way. I felt that sex could not be harmful if it was the culmination of beauty that all colors tended toward.
One afternoon, I went to see Erasmo at UCSC. I took the bus alone and walked through the campus redwoods to his studio. A large, blurry photographic print of strange old buildings lay flat on a table. Erasmo was scraping at it and painting on it with water colors. He described how Mark had helped him make a different kind of emulsion so the paint would stick to the print.
“Where did you get the negative?” I asked him.
“I take that photograph myself many years ago when I am your age in Havana.”
I had brought photographs but now I did not want to show them to him. “Was Havana beautiful?” I asked instead.
“More beautiful than Santa Cruz?”
“In different ways. The sea in the Caribbean has a dark blue light of inside or below. Here, the light on the sea spread out flat on the top. Sometimes there I can see a blue flame or, what you say, aura at the horizon. Here when the clouds come, the horizon fall back behind them.” Erasmo sighed sadly. “I no longer can remember the colors of the buildings in Havana. I think they are bright colors like blue and rose-pink and aquamarine but have fade and bleach for centuries and all wash in that sun of the Caribbean. Now I do not try no longer to remember the colors but I only invent them for myself.”
He went on painting colors on the blurred print and I looked at the wavery images of the old buildings of Havana. He did not speak for a while. Then he said, “Havana when I am young is a corrupt city but very lovely. Santa Cruz is very clean. I say it is too clean. The people hide their corruption with the U.S. American clean. Everybody is pretending. Even the hippies are pretending. In Havana you know who are the assholes. Here, they are secret assholes.”
I did not have any reply for this.
“When I am your age,” he continued, “I fall in love with a lovely little girl who live in one of this old buildings by the harbor. That’s when I take this picture. After school I run every day to a store where she and her mother sell fish. Always I try to see her. Then I find out that a famous poet who is middle-age man is also in love with her and want her to be his, what you say, mistress.”
Erasmo continued to paint and I watched the color bead up on the paper. “This man is a poet I love too. I love poetry, and in those days, they have it in newspapers. One day I go to the fish store and I see a lady with elegant dress talking with much excitement to the fish store woman. Then I see the elegant lady leave with the pretty girl. The girl is crying and shouting and calling back to her mother, but the elegant lady is dragging her away. Everywhere people stop to watch but no one interfere. It’s the corruption and they can do nothing.” He continued painting. “I hear that this elegant lady is send by the great poet to bring the girl to him.” Erasmo had painted the foggy images of the old buildings in five different colors. “At first I am very angry. I hate that poet who I love before and I hate this woman who is pimp for him. I wonder how a woman can love a man so much that she will bring his mistress to him. Or I think maybe she do not love him but knowing he is a great man and want to help him make the perfect poems. So I think I must sacrifice my love to the honor of that noble artist. So I forget about that girl and do not try to find her. I fall in love with another little girl.”
He looked up at me and smiled.
I still did not want to show him the color photographs I had brought. I wanted him to tell me something about Mark and my sister, but I did not want to let a question take shape in my mind. Instead, I asked, “How did you get the idea to paint on the photograph?”
“Oh! Just a few months passing. From a dream. I dream I am back in Havana looking for that girl. I am wander around all through the streets by the harbor, pass those old magical crumble-down buildings looking for her. But when I wake up, I cannot remember any of the colors. That is when I get the idea for this project. I think it come from seeing Mark’s photos of your sister. Maybe your sister remind me of that girl? But I don’t think so, because that girl is very dark skin-color and your sister, she is very pale.”
Just as my suspicions about Mark and my sister were becoming painful, he left with Bridget on a long trip to Japan. I was relieved, but without Mark, I could not afford to do my own color developing. I was no longer interested in black-and-white photography, so I stopped taking photographs.
As summer neared, I tried to study harder. My grades had fallen and it began to look like I might not graduate. But I stopped seeing my girlfriend so often and was able to pass my classes. When I did graduate, my father came down from San Jose to watch. But he and my mother did not sit together; they were going through a divorce and had gathered up a casual rage for one another.
I did not feel angry at my parents because my thoughts were always shimmering over the landscape. Without photography, I was paying close attention to my senses, not to other people, and I began to ignore my parents, then Elly.
When the summer started, my sister and I went to stay with our father in San Jose, but we were bored there and our father didn’t talk much. So I took her back to Santa Cruz. I went to the beach with her every morning, looking for the horizon hidden by fog. One morning, as we walked along the water, the ash-gray fog lifted and blue light began to dance off the swells. My sister saw a man ahead of us and watched as he threw sticks into the water. Then I saw that it was Mark.
He saw us and began walking toward us. He hugged my sister and then he hugged me. “What a trip!” he said. “Japanese art has opened up a new universe for me. My God—the precision and the discipline. You see how perfect freedom can be when it’s on the knife-edge of control. The true freedom is in that control itself. Oh, you’ve got to come to the studio. We’re having a seminar with Dr. R— and all the students.”
He seemed smaller and older and gentler. He walked with us and let the edges of the waves flood over his strong, bare feet. I felt I had been missing everything without him. My sister said only “Hi” to him. She smiled and blinked, and they held hands childishly. I was happy and didn’t mind seeing this.
A few days later, we went to Mark’s studio for the seminar. A group of college students and Mark’s and Bridget’s friends and Erasmo and Dr. R— came to see the slides of Japanese art. Some people were giggling because they had taken acid, and others smirked at them or told them to hush. Then there was another seminar but I couldn’t stay; my mother and her new friend Greta were leaving on a trip soon and I had promised to paint the house before she left.
The following week, Mark and the students drove to Natural Bridges Park along the beach, and my sister and I went with them. The students had built tiny constructions out of colored yarn and plastic, and photographed them in careful patterns as the waves submerged them. They leaned old pieces of wood they had spray-painted against the rock bridges carved out by the ocean to portray a unification of nature and humanity. I helped carry the heavy, painted timbers and moved them to catch different angles of sunlight. I laughed and stood close to the long-haired college girls and told them I was going to start junior college and transfer to UCSC later. Mark gave me a whole bag filled with rolls of color film, and I took pictures recklessly. Later, I saw Mark sitting alone with my sister in a sun-washed hollow of purple-brown rock, and I saw she was happy so I did not mind.
One morning a couple weeks later, as my sister and I walked again on the beach in the summer fog, we saw a woman far behind us, waving her arms. My sister turned around to watch her and by habit, I said, “Okay, come on…” Then I recognized Bridget in her batik skirt. She beckoned urgently, but we could hardly see her in the fog. When we walked back to her, she was panting and gasping and could hardly speak. She finally said, “Mark’s been arrested. I’ve been up all night. We’ve got to hide your sister.”
I was shocked. “What?”
“He’s been arrested. He was stopped by the sheriff last night and they found some pot and pills in his car.”
“But my sister isn’t mixed up in that.”
“Mark told me they would come for her! He said somebody had ratted on her and we have to hide her!”
“They wouldn’t arrest my sister. She’s only sixteen.”
“The sheriff is already looking for her. They think Mark gave her acid and they’ve already been to our house. They think she lives there.”
My sister was watching Bridget calmly, with a faint, alert smile as her pale hair fluttered in the sea breeze across her ear and cheek.
“Can’t she just go home?” I said.
Bridget was shivering. “No! No! They’ll come for her! Mark told me I’ve got to hide her! He said not to let her go home!”
I felt my heart pounding. I was frightened but also excited, in an adolescent thrill of play and scheming. “I better come with her. My mother will kill me if she hears about this.”
“Okay, but for God’s sake, don’t tell anyone where we’re going. We can spend the night at Dr. R—’s house.”
“Okay, but I’ll have to think of an excuse to tell my mother first.”
“Go ahead, and you can meet us there. Do you have bus money? Make sure nobody follows you.”
Bridget walked away, holding my sister’s hand. Bridget was saying, “Now we can go to Dr. R—’s house! You want to visit Dr. R—’s house with all the redwood trees?” and my sister said, “Okay.”
I stayed at the beach for hours. I watched the fog melt until I thought my mother would be home from her run. I did not think my sister or even Mark could really be in serious trouble, but I feared I would lose my power of decision-making over my sister and that we would, in turn, lose our precious freedom. I eagerly invented a story to tell our mother.
At home, I told our mother that Dr. R— was having an overnight creativity seminar at the university, and that he thought it would help my sister a lot.
“But where will you sleep?” she asked.
“In a guest house with a lady professor and her boyfriend. Mom, Dr. R— is really helping her and she talks a lot when she’s with him.”
It was strange seeing how tenderly my mother folded the clothes for my sister’s overnight bag.
“No, you don’t have to drive us. We’re getting a ride from the bakery,” I said. “And she doesn’t wear those pants anymore. Just give her an extra pair of shorts.”
I took the bus up the highway, carrying the two overnight bags, then walked secretively through the shade of the redwoods to Dr. R—’s house. But he was not home that night, and my sister and I were alone with Bridget. After Bridget cooked dinner for us, we looked at the drawings hung on Dr. R—’s walls and watched TV, although the reception was bad. My sister seemed tranquil in the small, masculine, wood-paneled house.
But Bridget was anxious and kept smoking cigarettes and sighing. She dialed several phone numbers, but nobody answered. As I watched her, I felt that we were in more serious trouble than I’d first thought, and stayed alert to her and her dangerous emotions. She told us not to turn on any lights, and went to sleep on Dr. R—’s bed. My sister slept in the other bedroom and I lay down on the leather couch in Dr. R—’s study.
Then there was a loud knock on the door and men’s voices shouted, “County sheriff! Dr. R—? Dr. R—. We need to speak to you.”
“He’s not home,” Bridget told them through the door. “He’s at a conference in Chicago.”
“Who are you, ma’am?”
“I’m his housekeeper. I can’t let you in without his permission. He has private medical records in here. If you have a search warrant, I can let you in, but otherwise, you’ll have to wait until Dr. R— comes back.”
The deputies left, and Bridget sat down on the leather couch where I’d been sleeping. She was shivering in her button-down pajamas. I could see in the starlight the beautiful, smooth skin between her neck and her breasts.
“Don’t turn on any lights yet,” she told me. “They’ll probably come back. Hide under the bed or in the closet.”
In a few minutes, the deputies came back. They tapped at the windows and shone flashlights inside. They knocked on the back door and tried to open it. We stayed quiet with the lights off. The flashlight shadows swayed and eerily slapped across the walls and furniture.
The deputies left again and I lay awake on the couch for a long time. Then the phone rang and I heard Bridget answer it in the dark bedroom. “Jesus, I’ve been trying to reach you. The police have been here! Yes, I’ve got her. I’ve got her right here. No. No, I can’t do that. No. Listen to me. No. Oh you fucking liar! You fucking liar! You’re lying! You just want the girl!”
“Listen to me,” I heard her say after a brief pause. “What kind of shit is this? What kind of shit? What am I to you? Oh, go fuck yourself with your art! Go fuck your goddamned art!”
Then I heard her sobbing and pounding some hard object against the wall or Dr. R—’s headboard until it broke. When I finally slept, I dreamed that the leather on which I lay was Bridget’s skin.
I awoke at dawn and got up to gaze through the high, narrow kitchen windows at the fog. The fog smothered the deep red trunks of the trees and streamed through the black branches. I heard Bridget come into the kitchen with her bracelets softly jangling, and saw that she was already dressed.
“I’m going to have to go now,” she said. “Wake up your sister and I’ll drive you guys home.”
“I thought we weren’t supposed to go home,” I said, surprised.
“There’s been a change of plans.”
“What are the new plans?”
“My plan is to get the hell out of here. I guess you’ll just have to make your own plans, sweetie,” she whispered sarcastically, half to herself. Then she looked at me. “How old are you?”
She put her hands around my head and stroked big handfuls of my long hair. She felt and fluffed my hair the way girls did to other girls’ hair.
“You’re just a baby, but according to our society, you’re all grown up now. I’m not your mommy. You have to decide what to do. Do you want me to drop you and your sister off at your house?”
I thought for a minute. “No,” I said. If we came home so early, our mother would think something had gone wrong and would ask questions. And the deputies would find us once they learned where my sister lived. I guessed that if the deputies asked questions of my sister, they would interpret her silence as guilt and she would be taken to juvenile hall or foster care, and my life and freedom would be destroyed.
“You can stay here until Dr. R— gets back, I guess,” Bridget said. “Or you can take the bus home later. I’m sorry, but I have to go right now, before somebody brainwashes me for the millionth time.”
“When is Dr. R— coming back?”
“I don’t have the slightest idea.”
“Is he really in Chicago?”
“What about my sister and the deputies?”
“Oh yes,” she said cynically. “It turns out your sister can do just fine. Oh, your sister’s got all sorts of tricks up her little sleeve. You’d better keep an eye on her.”
“I always do.”
“Give me a kiss,” she said, and I leaned through her hair and necklaces to feel her cool cheek with my lips. Then she padded out of the house to the car she had hidden in the redwoods. I heard the engine start in the distance and she drove away, the sound of the car muffled by redwood branches and fog.
When my sister awoke, I told her Bridget was gone. She did not seem surprised or interested. Dr. R— had no cereal and milk in his house, so she ate oranges and apples.
I longed to stay here in Dr. R—’s perfect, hidden house with my sister. I thought it was safest to hide where the deputies had already looked. I supposed that Mark’s university friends surely would straighten out the trouble and the deputies would stop looking for my sister. And I loved the redwoods and their scent and loved to be protected with my sister in this secret cave of trees. I tried to think of a way to stay a while without my mother telling us to come home.
I turned on Dr. R—’s electric typewriter and typed on his stationery a “Parental Permission Slip for Minors” that would give permission for my sister to join a “group retreat” if my mother signed it. Dr. R— had a photocopy machine in his study so I copied the slip to make it look authentic.
I told my sister, “Stay in the house and don’t open the door to anyone unless Dr. R— comes back. Just stay inside and I’ll bring you back some cereal and milk, okay?”
I took the bus back to town. I walked down to the beach and past Mark’s house, but no one was there. I stayed at the beach as the fog shrank back behind the horizon and the sunlight opened up its brilliance. I secretly treasured the idea of knowing my sister was safe in that affluent hideout in the redwoods, where nobody would know about her except me.
I walked home and met my mother as she came in from her run. She seemed bony-faced in her new endurance. “How’s your sister doing?”
“She’s doing great. She’s doing so well at the creativity group that we were afraid to take her away, and Dr. R— said if she could join this group retreat, she could make a major breakthrough and start talking a lot more.”
“Oh. Well. That’s good news.”
“You just have to sign this permission slip for her.”
She read it quickly. “But it goes till Saturday and I’m leaving for New Mexico Friday,” she said. “Shouldn’t I see her before I go?”
“Well, we can try to leave the retreat for a while on Friday or you can come up to the guest house and see her.”
“Oh yes, I could do that.”
I knew she wouldn’t want to, and anyway, she didn’t know the address.
“Didn’t you bring a permission slip for yourself?”
“Mom, you know I’m eighteen now, so I don’t need one. But I’ll be with her the whole time.”
I brought cereal and milk and other food in a bag and took the bus back up toward Dr. R—’s house. Walking up the road, I saw tire tracks leading up to the house. I was suddenly anxious and pounded on the door, shouting, “It’s me! Let me in! It’s me!” but my sister did not answer. I looked through the bedroom window and I saw that her overnight bag and her clothes were gone. The doors were locked and Bridget had taken the key, so I had no way to get inside. I felt stunned, and sat down on a mossy stump feeling panic and dismay. I could see that my sister was gone. I did not know if she had been taken by the deputies; or Dr. R—, if he had come back; or Mark, if he was out on bail; or anyone else. I knew she would not have left by herself.
All of my teenage exhilaration for improvisation had left me. I didn’t know what to do. It was a Santa Cruz summer afternoon saturated in beauty. In the fragrant shadow under the redwood trees, the rich blue Santa Cruz light filtered almost to silver as it drifted down in long falls through the plush, green-black boughs.
I thought that if my sister had been arrested, the deputies would call my parents. My parents would go get her and she would be okay, but they’d be furious at me. They would claim I had betrayed them and I would have to retort that I despised them. My precious life arrangement would be destroyed. I could not go home. I started to feel very hungry. The cereal and milk in my bag now seemed to be so far from enough for my sister or for me.
I considered that if I took the bus downtown before the organic bakery closed, I could get free bread. But then the bakery hippies would ask where my sister was, and maybe the deputies had already been there looking for her. I waited till the glowing twilight began and then I left the redwoods. I took the bus to Mark’s house to see if anyone was there. But the house was still empty.
As darkness came, I walked to Elly’s house and slipped through her garden gate. I was afraid that she had a new boyfriend and would be out with him. But she was home. I whispered to her in the dusky garden, “My mother kicked me out of the house.” I felt the drama of this lie made it almost true. And the lie came easily, because I already felt for myself the luscious pity for me that it was going to create in her.
She said, “God! I can’t believe this! What are you going to do?” She brought me sandwiches and peaches. We sat on her garden steps, and she whispered as the stars shone, “You could sneak into our garden shed and sleep there.”
“What if your dad or brother comes in?”
“My brother’s gone, and my dad won’t open the shed if I tell him the cat is sick and locked up in there. I’ll bring you my sleeping bag.”
I crawled into the shed after ten o’clock and curled into her sleeping bag, which smelled strongly and alluringly of her. In the middle of the night, she tiptoed into the shed and sat next to me, barefoot, her eyes shining brilliantly. “I can’t believe she kicked you out! Don’t you hate your mother? How can you not hate her?”
“It’s not her fault,” I said, and started to cry.
Elly rubbed my neck in the dark. “I am so sorry for how I treated you. You were always so sweet to me.” She seemed to feel thrilled by her compassion. “Where’s your sister?”
“I don’t know.”
“God! I can’t believe it. You love your sister so much and you do so much for her, and your parents don’t care. You do more for her than they ever do, and they treat you like dirt! I’m sorry to say so. I know you still love your parents, but they treat you like shit! It just shows how good you really are. Oh, I do love you!”
Then it was Friday morning. Elly had lent me some money, so I could buy food for a couple days without going home. I went to the beach at dawn. Delicate assemblages of black driftwood were lying in an arc where the tide had placed them. The moon-colored foam was hissing as it swept in and out of the fog. But the landscape seemed slippery and my gaze slithered over it and fell away.
I walked to Mark’s house again, hoping that he or Bridget or my sister would finally be there. But no one was home, and a note on the door said that all art lessons were cancelled.
I took the bus up the misty hills to Dr. R—’s house. No one was there either. I felt numb in my hands and in my mind. I felt that my sister had vanished through my clenched fingers and strangely, no one would know or care. I walked, stumbling, back to the highway and took the bus back down. I got off at a gas station and called my mother from a pay phone.
My teeth chattered from fear and my hands were very cold. Even as I heard my mother say “Hello?” I had not yet decided what to tell her. But she burst out eagerly, “Oh, I’m glad you called! I’m getting ready to leave! I’m so excited. I thought I might drive up to see you guys, but I guess I won’t have time. Greta and I are driving to the airport in San Jose. Is everything okay? How’s your sister?”
I could tell immediately that the county sheriff had not called her and that my sister hadn’t been arrested. In the rush of relief I felt from my mother’s innocence, I had to say, “Fine. She’s doing fine.”
I felt a greedy longing for my mother to go on her trip and free me from what suddenly seemed like half of my fright. With her in New Mexico, I could go home and try to find my sister in a calmer, more organized way.
“She’s right here,” I told her. “Maybe she’ll talk to you now.” I held the telephone receiver in the air for a minute. “I guess she doesn’t want to talk now, but she was talking a lot before.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful.”
“Dr. R—says when she really starts talking, she’ll talk in poetry.”
“Listen. I expect you to be responsible now. I expect you to take care of the house and take care of your sister. You’re grown up now and I know you can handle it. I’m leaving a hundred dollars in the kitchen drawer under the steak knives. Okay?”
“Listen,” she said again. “Sometimes I feel a little bad for not being a good mother. Sometimes I even blame myself for your sister’s problem.”
“But you’ve turned out fine, and I know I’ve done something right with you, and I’m proud of you. Okay?”
I felt a grim elation as I got on the bus to UCSC. I planned to find Erasmo and ask him where Mark was. I thought I could be a tough detective and track down and take back my sister. But then as the bus climbed Bay Street and I could see the blue ocean from the open hills, I was hit with terror. I could see how the lack of my sister did not change the world at all. Its beauty was callous and its opulence malign. A part of my mind would not admit this, and I thought with self-pity, “I don’t even have a car. I don’t even have a car.”
When I reached the campus, I went to Erasmo’s studio, but he wasn’t there. Frightened, I found a pay phone and called my father at his office in San Jose.
“Is something wrong?” He was busy; his voice sounded remotely in the past, as if he had already hardened against me.
“No. I just wanted to tell you Mom’s leaving for New Mexico today.”
“Oh yeah, she mentioned that some time ago. Are you and your sister going with her?”
I half wanted to bawl out to him what had happened, but instead leapt for the glossy excuse he’d tossed to me. His question showed how far away he was from me now, and I felt so exhausted with him that I could not take even one step on the tedious road of explanation. Or, I felt that if I was strong and resisted the petty truth, I’d be free and could escape the fear for my sister, which I suddenly decided was only my parents’ fault.
“Well, we weren’t going to go with her, but she invited us. I think we will go, if that’s okay.”
“It’s okay, but you don’t have to ask my permission. You’re an adult now, aren’t you? If you want to go, just tell me. But have a good time and take care of your sister.”
Waiting for Erasmo, I sat under a redwood tree until I thought I might turn into a wisp of fog or a thin rod of light so I could dissolve into the sky. I tried to sit as long as I could without thinking. When my mind began again to spin with fear, I got up and walked back to his studio. He still wasn’t there. I sat cross-legged by his door in willed motionlessness, dreaming that I might turn into a small stone or the edge of a rock. When I saw Erasmo waddling down the corridor with his bushy beard, I was startled to remember I was a human being like him.
He let me into his studio and I talked. I kept my voice cold and would not let him stop me and would not let myself cry. “So I just can’t find her. I don’t know where she is.”
He stared at me, rubbing his beard. “This is difficult. This is very, very difficult. You know Mark, he is out of jail now on the bailing. But you say Bridget is angry. Why does she take your sister to the house and then go away? What make her angry?”
“Something with Mark?” I guessed.
“If you are afraid that your sister is to be arrested, why do you not send her to her father to hide?”
“I don’t know.” I thought that this did not seem like American advice. “Do you think she is with Mark?” I asked. “She must be.”
“I do not know. I cannot know.”
“Should I call the sheriff and say that Mark kidnapped her?”
“Do you think this is what happen? You are upset, of course. You don’t understand. You know a man need different things in different times of his life and sometimes it come to him. Maybe your sister is in love with Mark. She do know how to love, I think. Mark has the grand power and personality. I know since I meet him he has change my work completely. I think I see something in your sister’s eyes when she look at him and how she hold his hands.”
“But it isn’t right. She’s too young.”
“Your sister will always be young.”
“But what if he gets her pregnant?”
“That is not possible. How do I know this? I know that Mark has made, what you say, vasectomy.”
Erasmo took out his paint box.
“Do you have any idea where my sister might be?”
He painted without speaking. Finally, he said, “I remember Dr. R— is owning an apartment building in Salinas.”
“In Salinas? Where in Salinas? What street?”
“I do not know.”
“Will you help me look for her?”
“No. No, I cannot. You must to call your father. Now I am very sorry, but you must go. I must work on my project. I am very sorry for your trouble but I must to concentrate. Please. I am sorry.”
As I slowly walked to the bus stop, I realized I could go to the Hall of Records and find the address of any real estate that Dr. R— owned. I got off the bus downtown and ran frantically to the Hall of Records to find the secret address before the big Hall and all its colorless and monumental facts closed for the weekend. I arrived just before closing. But the woman clerk told me with sympathy, “This is Santa Cruz County. Salinas is in Monterey County.”
The empty weekend passed over me, alone in my house. I looked at the washer and the dryer and the old gas oven. I studied the furniture and the TV and our beds. Everything slid back from my vision behind Formica and polyurethane, and my gaze did not stick anywhere. I angrily and fearfully shuddered for my sister and her way of always letting herself be looked at.
I could not call Elly because I could not tell her I had lied to her and done evil instead of good, as she thought. And though she had been kind to me, I thought the kindness had been for her own sake, and I did not love her again.
On Monday I took the Greyhound bus to Salinas. The morning fog had lifted in Santa Cruz, but the highway pulled me away from the sunny coast and back into fog. At Moss Landing the fog was brown and lay massively upon the earth, so that ocean and land were smeared together. Thin, brown poles and masts of boats hung in brown fog from water and bridge alike, and I could not tell where the ocean began or if it was to my right or left. Then the road turned inland into the cold, gray valleys of Watsonville and Salinas. Gray fog hung over the mold-green lettuce fields and the fields of green carrots, where the Mexican workers stooped sadly and endlessly in their softly blurred flannel shirts and scarves.
In dark, drizzly downtown Salinas, I found the Monterey County Hall of Records and the location of Dr. R—’s apartment building. I walked the damp, gray streets to a bus stop and took the bus down gloomy roads of factories and canneries. Everywhere, I saw poor Mexicans walking slowly past dirty stores and old metal buildings in the fog.
I found the apartment building— stained, damp stucco, crumpled aluminum foil stuffed in broken windows, cars leaking oil on wet asphalt. I looked at the mailboxes and saw that one apartment had no name, so I walked toward that number. Then I saw Mark’s car, with its wet windshield, parked by the trash dumpster.
I knocked on the door but no one answered. “It’s me,” I shouted. “I came to see my sister.”
Then Mark opened the door. “What the hell are you doing here? Who drove you here?”
“I came on the bus.”
The apartment had hardly any furniture but was filled with unframed photos and drawings, tacked or taped to the walls. Through a doorway, I could see one big bed with red blankets. Then I saw my sister. She stood and watched me expectantly. Behind her was a cluster of red and white helium balloons, all floating up against the rough, textured ceiling. I said, “Hi,” and she said in her low, rare voice, “Hi.”
“I didn’t know you were coming,” Mark said. “We don’t have much food in the house. One of my students is going to do some shopping for me later. Unless you want to go out for something.”
“I’m not hungry,” I said. “I just came to take my sister home.”
Mark looked at me coldly. “Why?”
“She doesn’t belong here.”
“Do you think she belongs to your bullshit, lying, bourgeois world?”
He saw me looking at the bed and, with contempt, said, “Do you think I hurt her? Do you think my phallus is barbed like a cat’s? I’ve done more for your sister than you or your piss-headed parents could ever do. Why don’t you ask her if she wants to go with you or stay?”
I looked at my sister and she looked at me calmly. “You know she doesn’t like to talk.”
“Go ahead. Ask her.”
“Do you want to come home?” I asked my sister.
“No,” she said.
I looked at her and sensed for the first time that she, like the earth and sea, was resisting my eyes.
“Do you want to stay here?” I asked her.
She did not say anything.
I said again, “Do you want to stay here?”
“Yes,” she said, and I left.
Walking timidly among the weary Mexicans, I passed back through tragic Salinas and its gray fog and poverty. I was too humiliated to think. I rode back through the fields of strange, dull green and into the brown mysteries of Moss Landing. Again, the poles and posts and masts hung in faint, broken lines from invisible boats and piers as the brown water seemed to soak up into the sky, and the brown sky sank down into the hollow skin of the land. And I returned to gleaming Santa Cruz in the glassy depths of the afternoon.
I slept for fifteen hours.
The next day, I went to Mark’s house to see if Bridget had returned. But the house was still empty. Then I took the bus to Dr. R—’s house, and it was empty too. I went to UCSC and Erasmo was not in his studio.
In the hall of the art building, I saw a college girl who had helped Mark. I called out to her, “Hi! Do you know where Mark and Bridget are?”
She laughed and said, “Oh didn’t you hear? Mark got arrested for drugs and Bridget was so pissed off she left him. She went back to Ohio. Mark’s out on bail but he had to go to a retreat somewhere because he’s so upset. Doesn’t that suck? God. The stupid Establishment harassing a great artist like Mark! But he’ll be back.”
I went home and washed clothes and washed the windows and swept out the garage. Now I knew that I should’ve taken my sister back from Salinas. I would have to go back, and not be scared of Mark. I knew no one would help me, so I would have to go alone.
The next day, on my way to the Greyhound bus station, two boys I knew from high school, Alvin and Dominic, drove by, honking and waving. “Hey, you need a ride?” Dominic shouted.
“Can you take me to the bus station? I’m going to Salinas to pick up my sister, she’s just staying with a friend.”
“We’re going through Salinas!” Alvin said. “We’re going all the way to Los Angeles!”
We drove into the brown fog of Moss Landing where the bridge vanished in the fog under the car; we seemed to be spinning futilely on the curdled water. No one spoke. We rode over the long, misty fields past the Mexicans, who bent low over the flat, densely green fields of lettuce.
“Look at those poor suckers,” Alvin said.
At the apartment, I asked them to wait for me and to come up with the baseball bat if they heard me shout for help. I was afraid Mark might try to kill me. But I saw that his car was not there.
I knocked and knocked on the door. When I stopped knocking, I heard a weird, sweet sound. It was my sister singing.
“It’s me! It’s me! Let me in! Open the door!” I shouted.
Finally, she opened the door. She was wearing a new frilly dress that Mark must’ve bought for her. ore colorful balloons drifted along the ceiling.
“Do you want to come home?” I said.
I took her by the hand and brought her to the little folding table where I thought she probably ate her meals.
“That’s a new dress. It looks pretty.”
“It’s a pretty color.”
“Yes, it’s red.”
“Do you like staying here? Do you like Mark?”
“Yes. I like it.”
“Don’t you want to come home with me?”
“Are you sure?”
“No, I want to stay here.”
I laughed in bitter confusion. I heard Alvin honk the horn.
“You better come with me right now,” I said. “You don’t belong here. Mark isn’t the right person to take care of you. You have to come back with me.”
“You’d better come right now. If you don’t come with me, I’ll just leave you here and you’ll be in big trouble with Mom. Is that what you want? No, it’s not. Come on, you’re coming with me.”
I felt a lacerating rage, but did not touch her. I ran down to the car.
“How long are you guys going to stay in L.A.?”
“Three days,” Dominic said.
“Can I come with you?”
I had abandoned my sister. Later, my parents reclaimed her when Mark had tired of her, but in recrimination, I was the one who had to leave forever. If I had stayed, I might’ve stopped her from using drugs. There were many intermediate steps leading up to her death. But I still feel that the destruction of our family really began that day in Salinas—not in her defiance of me, but in my hatred of her for it.
The day Alvin and Dominic drove me to Los Angeles, we rolled on in the thinning mist, and I thought of a frenzied letter I would write to my father. I would tell him how Mark had seduced my mind before he seduced my sister. I would blame it on my mother, who had abandoned motherhood and thrown us to the wolfish corruptors. I would admit that I lied, but only because others lied to me.
Then I realized I could not write that letter, just as I could not do anything I should’ve done at any of the moments that had blown past me while I was looking for the horizon hidden by fog. The horizon is only in our minds and not in the world. We think we see it because our human eyes cannot follow the curve of the earth or the swell of the Pacific. But although it is not physically real, like right and wrong or the duties of love, the horizon is always there.
As we drove south, my fury made a hot, coruscating blindness flow and waver across the landscape that, like a fiery sun, hid everything else from my sight. At King City, the real sun broke out and burned over California, all the way to Los Angeles.