The colors are too vivid, like they vibrate at an undetectable frequency and what we see is something that is at the height of our perception but still less than what is real. We park the car and walk along a gravel road that wanders through the autumn vineyard and we might as well have stepped into a painting. An infinite cerulean blue sky stretched over russet colored grape-vine ridged hills gives way to a luminous chartreuse green carpet of grass. I stretch out my hand to touch the canvassed sky, but this painting moves and dances with the wind. We can’t help but laugh because the beauty is too much and our hearts might explode from the eternity of it all.We continue to drive along the Pacific Coast Highway from Bodega Bay towards San Francisco, the road cradled by ocean and fog on our right and wine-soaked rugged mountains to our left pushing our hearts ahead of us. This is California distilled up through the mist and washed by the sun.
The car hugs the road as we climb higher past trees with curling brown cinnamon stick bark and sweet jasmine scented air. Paul does not brake to meet the curves, but shifts the car into a lower gear and it whinnies at the restraint. With no guard rail between us and the yawning cliff, I close my eyes and lean in towards Paul as if to counter balance the weight of the car should the passenger side wheels suddenly leave the road.“Have I ever crunched you?” Paul says.
“Not yet,” I reply weakly.He laughs and continues the climb, sure of himself and of the road. I manage to open my eyes and peak through the window. My stomach drops into the ocean below.
I close my eyes again and think about all of the roads we have travelled that crisscross and connect this ocean to the one on the other side of the country. The roads that slip through rows of tobacco fields and corn stalks flickering by like the spokes of a wheel towards Eastern North Carolina and into the dunes of the outer banks; the long road that threads together the lonely pearls of keys off the southern tip of Florida; Mile Road that connects my heart to the rocky beaches of Maine and the gravel road in between two endless vineyards. All of those roads and Paul has never crunched me.He pulls the car over onto a rocky outcropping and turns off the ignition. We step out of the car and stretch tensed muscles, pushing our arms towards the sky. Paul walks to the edge and peers over the clouds that drift below us. I hang back afraid of the precipitous edge. I look at his fearless face bathed in the setting sun and slowly step towards him as he holds out his hand.
“I won’t let you go,” he says.I stand next to him and say “I know you never will.”