Searching for Swimmers–Chapter 28
Jason had immediately regretted not asking the kid what the mission was before he’d exited the coffee shop. He’d considered going back in and asking, but after his grand exit made the kid’s jaw drop, Jason just felt it’d be really anti-climatic to go back inside and ask what turned out to be a very dumb question. Jason found out it was a dumb question when he stopped a stranger on the street and asked, “What’s the mission? Is it some sort of church or homeless center?”
The stranger looked at him like he was off his meds. “Do you mean, where is Mission?”
“Uh, yeah, sure.”
“What is the mission,” the stranger laughed. “You’re not even from anywhere around here, are you?”
“Nope from Colorado, just flew in last night via Houston.”
“Yep, I agree. Although, Austin’s not so bad.”
“Oh, I love Austin!”
“Cool, so about this whole mission thing?”
“What’s a matter? Castro a bit, well, too much for you?”
Jason wrinkled his brow, confused. “Um, no, I don’t have any issue with Cuba. I think we should end the embargo.”
“Wow, you really aren’t from around here. The mission, it’s not a place exactly. It’s a part of town. You can walk there. Just go that way.” The stranger pointed.
Since that encounter, not only had Jason found the Mission District, but he’d also discovered that the stranger had, in fact, been talking about the part of town he had been in and not the eighty-some year old dictator of Cuba. He decided that from now on he might try using the voice activated mechanical lady in his smart phone rather than continue to embarrass himself in front of strangers.
He’d spent the last three hours, once his smart phone had confirmed he was indeed in the Mission District, asking random strangers on the street if they’d seen Sheila. He’d always heard that San Francisco was a warm and friendly town. After three hours of soliciting strangers, he had to disagree. Either they didn’t talk to him, thinking he was just a bum asking for money, or they looked at him like a psycho stalker when he showed them the picture of Sheila. The occasional person was friendly, and in Jason’s opinion, a bit too talkative, but beyond the rare exception, most people were as rude as Jason expected of any large city.
Eventually, he hopelessly gave his tired feet a break in a café. He ordered a double espresso and a cheeseburger with fries. Each bite of his burger tasted of hopelessness. Each sip of his espresso tasted of defeat. After finishing his meal, he took out his phone and looked up the name Sheila Hendenmeier once again and found no new information. For Christ’s sake she lives in San Francisco, he thought. Shouldn’t she be an artist of some kind, maybe a painter, a writer, a performance artist? But he found nothing new. He tossed the smart phone across the table and it slid until in slammed into the ketchup bottle. The waitress stopped by.
“Is there anything else I can get you?”
“No, unless you can find a needle in a haystack.”
She smirked. “You never know.”
“Just the bill, please.”
She fished out the check from the pockets of the smock tied around her waist. Jason reached into his front pocket to pull out his wallet. As he pulled it out, the picture of Sheila flopped out onto the floor. Jason looked down at the floor, searching for the picture. The waitress bent down, picked it up, and looked at it.
“Oh, you know Sheila?” She handed the picture back to Jason.
“Well, not exactly.”
“Okay, time for me to get real,” Jason lied. “She’s an ex-girlfriend.”
“Really. I was the last guy she was with before she came out.”
“Oh, okay,” the waitress said nodding her head.
“Now, I’m in town. We were together in Denver. Sure, I was hurt at first but eventually understood. For the first time in the history of breakups, it really was her and not me.”
The waitress laughed. “That’s cool.”
“So I find myself in San Fran wanting to surprise her, only to find out she doesn’t live in the same place anymore. From our conversations, I know she still lives in the Mission District but don’t know where exactly. Anyway, can you help me out? I know she’s expecting a baby and I want to surprise her.”
The waitress held the coffeepot in her hand and stared at Jason until a smile formed on her face. “That’s so exciting. I’m sure Sheila would love to see you. She comes in here all the time with her girlfriend, Louise. Now, we’re not friends, but I’m pretty confident they live pretty close to here.”
Jason noticed the waitress’ blush. “Sheila really is amazing, isn’t she?” She leaned into Jason and half whispered, “Sometimes I wish she wasn’t so happy with Louise.”
“Oh yeah, I’d so get with her.” She giggled, placed her hand over her mouth, and quickly backed away. “Even pregnant, she’s so beautiful.”
Jason paused and while looking at his feet tried to push his rising panic down. It was confirmed, she was in fact pregnant. He forced a smile and looked back up at the waitress. “So, she lives around here?”
“Yeah, not sure where, but I’d guess somewhere on this block or so.”
“If you see her, tell her Jenny says…”
“Jenny says what?”
“Oh,” Jenny blushed, “nothing.”
Jason laid cash on the table, which included a generous tip, and stood up. “Well, I’ll certainly make sure to tell Sheila that you said nothing.”
Jenny smiled big and shouted, “Good luck,” to Jason’s back as he walked out of the cafe.