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Saturday, May 23, 2015

House #1: Asha

Briefly, I am going to describe first Asha's little house, where she rented a room in the last months of her life.

Before I went to the neighborhood, I stopped by at a new place, the Ben Lomond Baking Company, and got an excellent sfogiatella (an Italian pastry, flaky, and with ricotta backed in), and the ubiquitous-for-Santa Cruz chai. The pastry was made with lemon and olive oil instead of butter, which to me is the taste of home and of family (I am half Italian and grew up in an Italian-speaking home). It was definitely comfort food; these field trips have their upsetting and disquieting side: little by little, Asha takes shape for me through the places where she went, the home she lived in.  It is like the Cheshire Cat in reverse: and as she becomes clearer, so does the horror of her loss, and Anina also.

I drove by the house and did not walk, so I did not get a chance to look at it closely, though I will this week.  It was a bit on the rainy and cold side, and so I drove.  The first thing I noticed about the street was the layer of gravel, in great need of repair.  She would have heard the same popping and crunching as I did, when she drove along it.  The opposite side of the road has a small, meadow-like area, with some well-established oak trees.

As I said yesterday, her final home looks like a little Victorian cottage, as if someone had transplanted a small Santa Cruz house to the Ben Lomond woods.  The house is painted a lemon-cream color, and there are daylilies well past their prime in the front planter (eg. fronds and no flowers).  I notice a couple of juvenile palm trees in the front yard; there are full-grown palm trees on the street, so incongruous among oaks and redwood trees that it is almost funny.  The house is so small that, even though I knew it was there, I drove past it without noticing.

There is a metal roof over the porch; if it had been there when Asha rented her room, she would have heard the unique sound of rainfall on such a roof, a tinny sound accompanying the falling rain.  It is an altogether pleasant little house, a bit larger than it seems from the street.  There is a small structure on the very side of the house which looks like a tiny studio apartment, so small.  There is a package on the steps of that structure.  Is it a living space?  I look at the house and wonder which was her room, what kind of things she could see out of her window.  I tell myself this neighborhood is what she saw, going to work and coming home every day.  This is where she planned for the baby, brought home the small clothes.  In her backpack, found on Quail Hollow Road, there was a list of items for a baby shower.  Did she write that list in this little house?

 It  must have been so hard to transition from her hopes and dreams of her marriage working out, to a room in the little house.  Uprooting is always hard; uprooting when you are pregnant and when traumatic things have happened to you, one thing after another, would be, at the least, disorienting. I wonder if there were mornings she woke and in a half-sleep, thought she was home with her husband and nothing bad had ever happened.  Such things have happened to me, the reality taking over what my half-sleep is telling me.

It is a pretty, quiet neighborhood, but seems vulnerable, as I said before.  It opens off a main road.  If someone really wanted to find her there, they could have, easily.  I would not have felt safe there if I needed to get away from a negative situation.

A small house.  Palm trees on the street.  A corrugated metal roof.  Oak leaves littering the ground.  A turnaround at the end of the street, which borders the forest.  A gravel road that pops and crunches when a car drives over it.  That was what she saw every day.  I look at this place and am glad she was able to find a place to live: the rental market has always been awful in Santa Cruz.  I am glad she was able to land somewhere.

Next post, which I should have titled, "The Unfairness of it All," deals with the McClish house.  It is a true study in contrasts.