Many Ways to Win

The lesbian across the hall knocks on my door, "You wanna watch the American Idol finale with me?" She's the most interesting person in the building, which is saying something. This is San Francisco. Everybody's interesting here. I am in people-watching heaven.

"Sure," I say. "I'll get the kids upstairs to come, too."

The kids are my kids: my one kid Dylan, his fiance Michelle and their baby. I guess I should stop calling them kids, especially to people who don't know me well. Examining what you say and how it sounds is never a bad idea, I think, particularly when you're the new person and you come from Portland where everybody's forgiving, green, and most likely thinks very similar to you (unless they come from, well, outside Portland).

Dylan and Michelle and the baby arrive and we're getting ready to watch. Miss D, the lesbian, opens her door. I use this term, the term she uses to describe herself, as a compliment because she's an outgoing, fun, happy person who knows who she is and is so infectious that you kind of wish you were more like her, in a way.

"Our part of the hallway is the fun side," she says. "We could put up signs, keep our doors open and make everyone jealous they don't live over here."

"Who do you want to win?" Michelle asks Miss D.

"Who do you think? Isn't it obvious?"

"Who do you want to win?"

"Adam, too," Michelle says. "He's just better."

"How about you?"

I was hoping I wasn't going to be outed.

"I like the ones who'll never win. I like the least slick ones," I say. "Jason Castro was my favorite last season and I liked Megan."

"You want Kris?"

I am used to agreeing with people. I can work both sides of this. I tell her I once said Adam is like Freddie Mercury in a high school talent show. I tell her this, hoping she'll still like me. I want to be like her, like people who don't care what other people think about them. I want to be me and let people take it or leave it. I could never be a lesbian, I realize. I'd be back-pedaling all day, saying, "I'm a lesbian but I'm not like that, really, please like me."

"You drink beer?" she asks.

I don't but I really want her to like me. I'm from Portland, microbrew heaven. Maybe I can act like a beer snob and she won't notice.

"Not really, but what are you drinking? What do you like?"

"All different kinds. We have too much leftover from the party last weekend."

She runs back to her apartment get some. "I'll get some for the kids, too." As soon as she's out of range and I can't quite hear her, we hear a loud crash. We both live on the front side of the building, facing the busy street. With single paned windows, everything you hear on the street outside is loud but this is really loud.

"Oh my God!," Miss D yells. "There's a big crash out front! It's a really bad one!"

She runs through our apartment, trying to see out our windows. Michelle happens to be at the living room window and looks out.

"I can see a baby seat," Michelle says.

"I heard the crash so I looked out the window and I saw this white truck flying through the air, spinning around," Miss D says. "Oh my God! I'll call 911."

We all head downstairs. I'm not even realizing I'm holding the baby. I can't rescue somebody else's baby if I'm already holding one but I don't want to put her down.

We look around outside. There have been two crashes at this intersection in the past two months. This is the third one. People don't notice there's a light and just keep driving. It's stupid to park out in front of your own apartment, unless you want to total your car.

We decide the light was red on our street and the cross traffic had the green. A white truck didn't see the red, kept going, and hit one of our neighbors moving through the signal. The white truck took flight, along with our neighbor's bumper, tumbled in the air and landed in front of my living room window. There's a baby stroller and a bottle in the middle of the street. There's broken glass everywhere.

Nobody's inside either car when I arrive although the white truck is pretty smashed up.

"She crawled out the window," Dylan said. There's a young woman, the white truck driver, holding a less than six month old baby and standing by the truck. "She pulled out the baby, too. I can't believe the baby isn't even crying."

Miss D runs around talking to everyone: tenants, neighbors, accident victims.

"Did you see?" the driver of the hit car says. "Did you see?"

"No," we say.

Miss D points to some people standing by. "She saw," Miss D says. "She was in the bus and saw the whole thing."

The neighbors and tenants talk about how amazing it is no one's hurt. The truck is completely smashed on the front side and the windshield is smashed close to where a regular person would be sitting. The baby's car seat is inches from the truck frame.

The white truck driver holds her baby while talking to some of our other neighbors. I put my hand on her back and say, "Thank God you're both okay." It's more for me. I feel like I have to do something and that's all my shy mind can think of. "I don't even know you but I'm so relieved."

Ambulances, police, fire fighters all come and take over. I really want to leave. Now we're at somebody's job site.

"You'd better get that baby inside," the woman in #302 says to me. "You don't know what kind of damage this might do to her, and that's coming from a child psychologist."

Oops, but now I know what you do for a living.

Soon we're back inside watching American Idol. The baby goes to sleep right in the middle of Kiss.

"Kris won," Michelle says.

"No!" Miss D says. "How do you know that?"

"I looked it up."

"But it's live."

"No, it's live on the East Coast."

"Now I'm really upset. Really? Why'd you have to tell me that?"

I wish I could tell someone something directly like she does, like that. It's good she knows, I think. It's easier to watch, knowing your favorite lost, and prepare for it. I have lots of experience watching my favorites lose.

She's over it already, back to watching Adam sing with Kiss.

"That's why he lost it," she says. "Look at the crazy shit he's wearing. Middle America doesn't go for spiky black leather. Oh wait, everybody already voted."

She doesn't get annoyed about anything. She says it like she sees it and lets it float. I'm still busy thinking about what I should say from ten minutes ago when Miss D said, "I hear Queen Latifah dates the ladies."

"It's true," Michelle said. I've seen it on the blogs." Michelle, I notice, doesn't care about what people think either. She likes stuff that my mom frowned upon. If I admitted I liked reading about famous people, my mom wouldn't have let me out of my room. You just weren't supposed to do that and you really weren't supposed to admit it if you did. You were only supposed to say good things about yourself.

They might think you have something to say and you aren't worried about what people think. Examining what you think all the time might have its negative side.

We look out the living room window to see the busy street out front back to normal. There's lots of glass on the road but there's nothing else left to prove there was such a commotion.

Nothing to prove here, either.