Frank finished the story. It was sunny in the courtyard between boutique restaurants, a bakery, and Peet’s Coffee. The weather was cooling in the shade. He was relaxed and comfortable. He could see through a screen door a woman working with flour in the back of the bakery. The woman reminded him of Nicole, who would be starting her life, working in a field that would never make her money. What made Frank think of this was working in the restaurant business and how an ex, a pastry chef, worked long hours filling measuring cups to add to pastry recipes and how beautiful she was in her white outfit. She made about $13 an hour and lived in a house in the back of another house. Her house looked like an oversized chicken coop with a shower as small as the standing area in an airplane restroom. The three women, his ex, this woman in the back of the bakery, and Nicole, were svelte and thin-faced. Their hair was straight and strawberry blonde to light brown in color. He could see the three of them with their hair pulled back in a pony tail. Nicole was young and probably starting out at work. He knew if she started a job like the pastry baker’s, she couldn’t afford it and eventually the idealism would be eroded. He knew this too coming to the end of his life, that life cost more than it seemed and that you really had to sacrifice if you wanted to make it. Sacrificing also spoke of having to pick a line of work that you didn’t particularly like. Still, it would give you an income to buy a house and then to buy another. You couldn’t stop until you had enough money for the rest of your life.
Frank contemplated his life, work, cafes, short trips to San Francisco via BART to merely walk around and perhaps buy a meal that sometimes cost over $100. He imagined how much more it would cost if he weren’t working. Plus, he never traveled anywhere beyond the three cities: Oakland, San Francisco, and Walnut Creek. He wanted to travel abroad after everything was done.
Frank had eaten, read, he had slept earlier, and now he was staring into space as various people were walking by, catching the yellow leaves that littered the ground and moving them ever so slightly. Just off the edge of the curb was moisture from the rain over the past few days. It was still gray overhead as scattered clouds blocked a sunny blue sky.
Nicole was 19 and had a smile that indicated terror and derision. Why Frank thought this was because his architecture professor said that you could read the faces of people by isolating quadrants: Each eye and each half of the mouth. When you did this you could surmise their personalities based on words that came to you. The professor said that we could have predicted Hitler and serial killers using this method. When Frank did this to Nicole’s picture, he saw terror and derision.