Maura, the land’s end
The only person I had in Daly City was Maura, whose company made me nervous, despite all her good intentions. Her no-bullshit affectation and ability to make the best of even the most terrible situations made me feel guilty for being such a mopey bastard. She was in a shitty relationship; her roommate had failed to come up with rent; her car had just gotten broken into before breaking down all together. Still, she always managed to hang tough.
“Come on, stranger!” she yelled up to my window. She was always calling me stranger. “I’ve come to take you to a beautiful place!”
When we arrived at the end of the bus line and walked down the steps to the bathhouse ruins, I realized where I actually was. It was a backdrop of a scene from one of my favorite movies, Harold and Maude. Watching the waves crash upon the beach as we sat on a blanket, eating cold polenta, I felt for the first time in a long time that all the crap in my life hardly mattered nearly as much as I had previously believed. That day, I had all that I’ve ever really desired: a moment shared with a beautiful woman. Not everyone can claim so much.
When she dropped me off, I wanted only to bring her inside and dote upon her beautiful body until we ran out of food. It would have been the perfect end to a perfect evening. But we couldn’t. Her boyfriend was about to go away for a long time, and she felt she had to do right by him. And I had someone else too, though I hadn’t seen her for months and the thought of her was becoming increasingly abstract.
Maura always did do the right thing when it came to other people. I often hid behind imagined insanity and youth to justify all the stupid and inconsiderate things I’d done, but it was all a farce. I wasn’t actually crazy. I was merely an invalid. Not Maura, though. She always found a way to do good, even though she was truly nuts. And every time I watch Harold and Maude and I see Ruth Gordon stealing a tree to transplant into the forest, I think of Maura at Land’s End, eating polenta as the waves crash upon the ruins of what she and I could’ve had, if only we’d said and done the wrong things at the right times instead of pretending we were something we were not—just to keep from hurting people who were so far away from us.
Some people get broken up about the bad things they’ve done. I get more broken up over the bad things I didn’t do. Maura and I never gave it a chance. We never did get to learn it the hard way. I don’t suppose I’ll ever get over that.
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