On the phone, at a gas station, in our dreams
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Philip Kelly lives in Newport Beach, California, where each day he swims in the Pacific Ocean and says two prayers to a statue of Saint Francis that sits on his deck. His writing has won a Pushcart Prize.
We rent a condominium together, my eighty-six-year-old widowed mother and I. Sometimes she summons me from her bedroom at the end of the hall. I have learned to guess from her tone what it is she wants.
We all have to borrow in life. We borrow money to buy a home or to travel. We borrow from our independence and our spirit to make a living. I borrowed from my health to try to become Hawaiian. And somewhere a ledger is tallied.
Irish Mike and I had planned my trip — the “Grand Tour,” we liked to call it — on the floor of a job site. While all the other painters and construction workers were busy with lunch and football arguments, we’d draw a map of Europe in the dust with our fingertips and make wavy lines across it for my route.
I invade people’s lives for a living. At dawn I climb ladders to their second-story windows and fiddle with their locks. I place flammable materials in their garages and wake their sleeping dogs. I meet flannel-robed housewives as they hurry their husbands out the door.