California One/But Not As Much As Tomorrow

“And the road a-winding goes
From golden gate to roaring cliffside
And the light is softly low as our hearts become sweetly untied
Beneath the sun of California One”
-The Decembrists, “California One/The Youth and Beauty Brigade”

July 25th, 2008

There really are roosters crowing outside, I thought to myself as I ran mousse thru my jheri-curl wet hair. It was 5am and the sun hadn’t risen yet. Why are you little shits making so much noise?! It doesn’t matter really; I’m already awake and Mark sleeps like the cousin of death. Mark was in the back bedroom of the house; the bedroom that shares a wall with the swimming pool pumps outside that make soothing gurgles. They used to scare me as a child and now they have a Linus-blanket effect. It’s funny what happens when you grow up and you realize that the monsters outside are really just water being filtered and redistributed.

I finished grooming myself and made my way back to the bedroom, dirty clothes in hand. I glanced over at Mark and for a second I thought that maybe he wasn’t breathing. I threw the dirty clothes on the carpet and climbed back into bed. I put my head on his chest and waited. And waited. Finally I could feel his breath on my forehead. Oh Lord. You really had me going, I thought to myself.

I lay there, head on his chest, for what seemed like forever but was really only a half hour. I don’t know if I’ll ever get this moment again, I thought, so I better enjoy this right now and live in it. I could hear the slow wheeze inside his chest; what I imagined steel wool pads would sound like if they could breathe.

Rise, fall, rise.

Looking back, I wish I had stayed there all morning like that.

August 10th, 2008

It’s pronounced Bell-ARE-us, genius, I laughed. No, it’s not, it’s Bella-ROOS! Bella-ROOS! Go team go! His eyes glittered with mischief and he let out his trademark cackle.

This doesn’t mean I’m not mad at you, I said.

I know honey. 

But do you? Do you really know? Because your mom called me today and told me not to let you in the house. You were doing SO WELL, Mark, what the hell happened? How could you do that to her again? 

You don’t understand, it’s not me. I can’t help it, it’s not me I swear. I’m trying. 

I hate you right now. I hate that you’re so sick. It’s like a car accident I can’t help but watch. It’s killing me. It’s killing your mom. I LOVE YOU. I can’t do this. 

Tears are streaming down my face. He grabs me swiftly in one arm where I stand and pulls me tight. We collapse onto the couch from the force of his movement. I sobbed silently in his arms. It’s ok, it’s ok, I’m going to get better, I promise. This is the last time, I swear. 

Come on, honey, are you coming to bed?

No. I’m going to stay up and watch more of the Olympics and keep cleaning. 

Come on, honey. 

Nope. Not coming. 

The next morning I called my mom. “Can I come stay with you? I’m having a rough time. I just need a break.”

I showered, moussed my hair and applied mascara to my cow-eyes before coming into the back bedroom.

Honey, I’m going to stay at my mom’s for a few days. You can’t stay here, but you can come back when I come back. 

I walked him to the back door of the house.

His lips touched my forehead first, then my lips.

I love you, Darling. 

And that was the last thing he ever said to me.

After I left my house and stayed with my mom and dad, early the next morning Mark was attacked while he was sleeping in his car around the corner from his mom’s house on Bennington Avenue. He was stabbed over 15 times. His white Mitsubishi Galant was set on fire. In the Turlock Journal, it states that nobody could hear his screams as he ran down the street for help. What poorly written journalism. Someone heard his screams—the one holding the knife and the gas can.

On June 25, 2014, almost six years after his death, Nicholas Harris was found guilty of second-degree murder.

I wish I could say I threw up a V for Victory. I wish I could say that I jumped for joy and that I fist-bumped somebody.

I wish I had my beautiful boy hand-in-hand. Now we’ve thrown away two lives like Sunday’s trash.


This Wednesday I rang the doorbell to Mark’s mom’s house after a 3-day drive to California from Texas. I hadn’t even unpacked the truck yet. Not much has changed in six years.

Where’s the lamb? I asked.

What the heck are you talking about? 

The lamb. The little lamb figurine that used to be on top of the coffee table. 

It’s under the coffee table now, she laughed.

Not much has changed in six years.

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