I Go Back to PB
BY SOFIA MILLER
After “I Go Back to Berryman’s” by Vincent Scarpa
All of the streets in Pacific Beach are named for gemstones or something out of a fairytale–Garnet, Turquoise, Hornblend–and if you walk down Garnet you will see LIME electrical scooters lining the sidewalks where BIRD scooters used to stand, and if you were there early enough, you would have seen our business signs before there was BIRD, and you will see electrical boxes painted with the SOCAL waves, and you will see two hibiscus bushes outside The Fish Shop which you might pass as a young girl and dream of plucking a hot pink flower to place behind your right ear, and you will see the man who owns the smog shop next door to us with the parrot on his shoulder who does not fly away, and you will see the homeless man with the wizard beard and permanently grayed clothes who always walks East past my parents’ shops but somehow never West, and you will see a woman sleeping by the streetlight where the Dollar and Up Store used to be, which was a 99 Cent Store before that, and you will see a man sleeping on the bus stop bench streetlight opposite this one, and you will see trash bags and cigarette butts and rattling grocery carts from the Vons shopping center filled with all of someone’s worldly possessions, and you will see a church on the street corner across from where the people sleep, and you will see a billboard which says (without any supporting evidence): Be Positive!, and another which says (well, essentially): WE HAVE WEED!, and you will see the fuschia-flowered trees which my father hates for the way they vomit over unsuspecting cars parked underneath their seemingly-innocent branches, staining the car paint he so meticulously maintains, and you will see my father’s students trickling into class, followed by mothers who are doctors or fathers who are lawyers, and you will see the intersection my father never let my brothers and I cross on our own on our way to get bagels from Einstein Bros, and you might see a car crash happen there right in front of your eyes, or you might just hear it and then see the aftermath (I have, I have), and you will see a small Goodwill filled with the nice clothes from La Jolla, and a little ways down you will see a Buffalo Exchange which charges three times higher for a mesh crop top from Shein, and if you go all the way to where Garnet ends and beach begins, you will see the man who rollerblades parallel to the sea on one foot, in slow motion for minutes as if they were seconds, and if you’re lucky you will see him switch feet for his next stride, flawlessly, and you will see someone balancing smooth round rocks atop each other at the oddest of angles, and yes, you will see palm trees, and yes, you will see sunset, and you will see California’s first-ever Broken Yolk, and you might even see a stain on the sidewalk out front from the time an old man in a Tesla hit my father and his head spit red on the curb and he woke up facing the sky, and he was okay but he was different after, and if you see the stain I’ll never know; I don’t walk that way, and I don’t know how long it took the fickle SOCAL rains to wash his blood away, but for me it is permanent, and for me, it has seeped into the porous concrete and taken root there, has metastasized, and one day you will see its weedy fuschia sapling, and in enough years’ time you will see its branches have twisted into a red which deepens to crimson at the tips, and in the spring you will see glittering there, and you will look closer and see clusters of garnet gems where leaves or flowers might go, and you will gasp and say So this is why they call it Garnet Avenue, and you will hand your friend your phone to take a picture with the Garnet Tree, and you will post the picture #unfiltered because the tree’s unnaturally bright cherry tones will match the perfect San Diego sunset which I have promised you, and the too-perfect light will make it seem like this tree is ablaze, like it is kindling, like its branches carry constellations of soft embers humming just to spotlight your new red leather Docs and bring out your rosy blush and your glossy lips in a flattering but fantastically natural, unnatural way, and more of you will come to see the Garnet Tree, will try to pluck off the garnet leaves, and you will find that this is impossible to do, and you will find that you will have to find a souvenir someplace elsewhere–a shell from the beach, or those plastic-packed shell bunches they sell in coconut shells at Belmont Park–and if I ever go there to see where it happened, the thing that my mother and I talk about in whispers when my father is home, the thing that we wonder circles around, draw alternate timelines from to see if he would be this way without this origin point of branching, this swerve from which he was set off course from the man we used to know, I will tell you that you cannot take the garnet leaves because their tree will not let you. I will not let you.