On a good day, when the sky is blue and there are no cars on the road, it takes fifteen minutes to get to Vi’s house. I drive down Laguna Boulevard, past the overpass where it changes into Bond, and past the high school where I turn left on Bradshaw on the outer flanks of the suburb. When you get out far enough, the boundaries of the new developments and decaying farmlands jut up against one another like shifting plates. The miles of tract housing reach out and imposes itself over the decaying and slowly abandoned farms and ranches. This process takes the form of cows and horses creeping towards the wire fence to observe, I assume, the Honda and Nissans gathered at the stop sign intersection. Where are you going? Why the hurry? The bulging eyes and slack jaws ask me over the iron barbs. To Vi’s house I say.
I drive north, past Sheldon, and turn right onto Calvine. Vi’s house is off of Vineyard Road. Maybe some time ago, there were actual vineyards there.
On Google Maps, the route makes a seamless and angular S shape from my house. Here are the exact numbers: Vi’s house is 8.8 miles from my home. Taking the bus, the distance is still 8.8 miles although the route is not as smooth. As charted, the path resembles more of a bedroom key and to follow it to the end, the required time would be anywhere from 1:39 to 2:19 hours depending on the time of day. The bus does not run a constant schedule in this part of town.
Walking, the way is smoother. After all, you are not beholden by the rules of the bus schedule, just your own pace and level of fitness. In the summer, you are only beholden to your tolerance of the valley’s dry summer heat, and in the winter, the valley’s biting cold. But the path looks nice. Like a person climbing a small mountain. Or the incline blip if you are on the exercise bike. Thinking about it now, I’ve never ridden my bike to Vi’s place before. It’s something to consider. I think about her singing She & Him, “Alone … on a bicycle for two.”
Still, I like the drive. I put my window down, feel the breeze blow into this grey bread loath of a car and watch the suburbs sweep itself out from underneath the road in front of me. I watch the landscape transition from Spanish missionary beige into dusty yellow. Like watching the strands of a straw broom stretching itself out on the cold tiles of our kitchen floor. Vi calls it Steinbeck yellow. Vi is full of sayings and jokes. Sometimes, I can feel the puns forming in the air between us and all we have to do is look at each other after the opening semantic links have been established. We both mind a lot.
The distance from my home to Hong Kong is thousands of miles. Three thousand? Four thousand? Three thousand five hundred? I have already forgotten. All that I can remember now is that it was an unfathomable distance and yet somehow, I was able to make that work for a time, condensing those months and hours into nothing but a small trip into the country side instead out of the country. Unfathomable. Phantoms.
When I input Hong Kong into Google Maps, there is no route. No bus timeline, no walking path, no driving directions. The points of transit stop and end where they begin.