Day 19 (Part 1): If They'd Ever Be Able To
Mendocino → Anchor Bay
↑ 2162 feet ↓ 2136 feet
We needed to get out of Mendocino. Breakfast couldn’t come fast enough, the caffeine couldn’t kick in fast enough. We just needed to leave. We just needed to put distance between us and this place.
Early that same morning, when darkness draped heavily over the sky, Cory and I woke up to the sound of yelling. It came from a few doors down. Shouts, thuds. A slap. My body froze.
“Call the police,” Cory said, jumping out of bed and throwing on a shirt. I nodded, my hands already shaking as I searched the wrinkled bed sheets for my phone. The noises continued--violent, loud, the sounds of human struggle.
“Stay inside and lock the door,” he said as he left the room.
I sent up a silent prayer for his safety as he walked down the hall looking for the room, each step an aggressive thump against the maroon carpet.
He pounded his fist against the door where the noise was coming from.
“What’s going on in there?” he demanded, his voice strong and steady, crystal clear through the thin walls.
On the other end of the phone, a voice answered.
“911, how may I direct your call?”
I could barely breathe, not wanting to be heard in case it made the situation worse.
“I need to report a case of domestic violence,” I whispered.
The next few hours were a sleepless blur. Cory returned to the room, the sheriff arrived, the crying and screaming slowly stilled, the chilling lucidity of “No sir, I’m not upset at the lady.”
By the time the sun rose, we were ready to leave all of this behind and move forward, to put physical space between the incident and ourselves. Safety was only 45 miles away.
As we biked away from Mendocino that day, each pedal forward creating more and more distance, I tried to assess the scrambled emotions running through my tired body.
Fear? Sadness? Loss? My mind kept replaying what I had heard that night, diving into questions with no concrete answers. What happened to them? Were we safe? Why do these kinds of things happen?
That night, those people, we knew them. We’d met them the day before, two good kids just trying to find their place in the world, excited for a trip to Mexico they were about to take together.
“Why?” I asked Cory as we rounded a wide bend. “It doesn't have to be like this.”
“No, it doesn't,” he said.
Domestic violence, climate change--these things are happening in the world right now, but there’s nothing mandatory or natural about them. They don't have to happen, but they do. They are.
We reached Anchor Bay as the sun began to set. Our sea lion neighbors sang and talked and barked from the other side of the cliff.
A half-crushed pear lay on the pathway leading up to our Airbnb.
“Who left this pear here?” Cory wondered aloud.
We looked up and saw a pear tree growing in front of our little cabin, its arms long and wide, its leaves green with tinges of yellow. Cory put his bike down and scaled the tree, reaching for the closest pear he could find.
“Hey, try this,” he said, throwing me the pear he’d just grabbed. “It doesn’t look ripe yet, but it’s good.”
I reached out and took a bite. It was sweet, crunchy. The way pears are supposed to taste.
My mind wandered to the couple we’d left behind, if they’d ever be able to share something like this together ever again.
I handed it back to Cory and watched him take a bite.