A Place called Hemet

Yesterday I drove to see some friends from San Diego. We agreed to meet up at the San Juan Capistrano Mission.

Since 2009 the famous cliff swallows have not returned to the Mission from Argentina in the spring.

We had lunch in the old town, just by the railway track, with the big Amtrak engines stealing in and out of the station beside us.

After lunch we drove out to Dana Point. I saw a dog with a backpack. Never seen one before.

We said goodbye and I drove east through the Cleveland National Forest, then down to Lake Elsinore, continuing to a place called Hemet where I found a good motel, run by an Indian couple, originally from Mumbai.

They said Hemet was growing fast. A lot of retirees were coming to Hemet because there were very good doctors here.

The room had free wi-fi. I found a new text from Maureen. It read: btw u didnt tell me about jess n derek? r we all in a comedy? lol. cumid.

I wonder how that got out. I hadn’t said anything to anyone.

Discretion best, I texted back. Pretty feeble.

I had to look up “cumid”. It means See You In My Dreams. I felt a tingle of pleasure.

“You look happy”, said the woman at reception when  I asked about  somewhere to eat.

I had no idea I was so transparent. I must have been smiling to myself.

I had dinner at Applebees, whose slogan is No Place Like A Neighbourhood. Hadley worked there once. They always seemed to be in dispute with their servers.

This morning I set off early up into the San Bernardino Mountains.

A big truck came round a corner swerving into my lane and pushed me into a turnout.

I waited there looking back down into the plains, recovering my composure.

I watched another truck labour up the valley side.

Then there was the long, looping descent to Palm Desert.

Up in the mountains I had thought: what would it be like to rent a cabin here for a month together, hiking the trails, going down to Palm Desert occasionally for food or a restaurant meal?

I wonder if she would like that. I wonder if Maureen would want to come.