Gary wanted to get away. As if leaving our home was some rite of passage on the road to healing, and new scenery could help us escape the emptiness of our house.
We decided not to go too far. “Baby steps,” my brother advised.
I wanted to see the ocean. We agreed on Jenner, a small coastal town, north of San Francisco. Gary made a reservation. “A room with a view of rocks and waves,” he said.
We left late on a Friday afternoon.
“I forgot a jacket. It could get cold by the ocean.” We were already on the freeway but still close enough to turn back.
Gary didn’t slow down. “You can buy a sweatshirt.”
“And, I forgot my nightgown.”
“Fine with me. You won’t need it.”
Traffic was slow getting in and out of San Francisco. We stopped in Sebastopol for dinner. It was dark by the time we finished. We headed toward the Coast Highway, stopping for gas in Guerneville. Then, through Monte Rio and Duncan Mills on a winding 2-lane road.
“I think we just drove through Jenner,” I said. It was just past 11pm.
“Are you sure?” There were a few houses dotting the east side of the highway. A restaurant, a gas station — both closed.
“So, where’s the lodge?”
“It’s probably up the road a ways.” We were on the coast highway by then, but it was too dark to see the ocean.
I entered the address in the GPS app on my phone. “It’s only 14 more miles.”
“Shouldn’t take us more than fifteen, twenty minutes,” he said.
“Gary, Mapquest says it will take another hour plus.”
“Mapquest is wrong.” Gary was confident. I’m glad he was driving. Night driving puts me to sleep. The road turned left, then right, then switched back and forth.
I dozed off for what felt like a few minutes.
We arrived at the lodge close to midnight.
The desk clerk joked around about I don’t know what. I was too tired to hear him.
“We’ve got our last ocean view room waiting for you,” he said.
Gary opened the door and turned on the lights. We stood at the entrance to a large room, too roomy to be called cozy, with dark tiles and flat muddy brown carpet. The king sized bed faced a sixties green Jacuzzi. Two bathrobes hung on a long rod that served as a rudimentary closet. Gary swung open the door to the bathroom and stared at the immense space. It was big enough to park our car. There was an elevated toilet seat and a raised sink. The shower had no door or bottom ledge to catch the water. You could roll right in.
“This is a wheelchair accessible room,” he said pointing out the obvious.
“We’re not staying here,” he said.
He wasn’t angry so much as spooked, like she had followed us. Later, we will joke and say that she was laughing at us. But, at that moment Gary turned around and marched back to the front desk.
“What exactly did you tell the clerk?” I asked Gary as he ushered me out into the night.
“I told him our daughter used a wheelchair, and she died four weeks ago.”