Santa Barbara Moments
The Sweet Country Inn
When the car salesman called, I was still only half awake after another lousy night of initial insomnia. His call did not come unexpected, though, and I just delivered my little speech which I had prepared days before during a vacant moment. I didn’t say I could not afford the car, or that I did not want it; I said that I did not need it for the time being. Which was true, if not necessarily the whole truth. He did not sound disappointed, but simply asked me courteously if he could call me back every month or so. That caused me to become somewhat defensive, so I told him I did not want to raise any expectations. He sounded understanding, and I ended up relaxing more and asking him about his business, which seemed to be going well.
Then I went to the Sweet Country Inn.
Which is one of the things I truly detest about myself. Not going to the Sweet Country Restaurant, of course, I can go as often as I like. No, the fact that the little conversation between myself and the salesman caused me to feel uneasy; so uneasy that I left my apartment prematurely, before I had been doing any work at all. Sometimes, I am really a coward, afraid to have offended someone such as a car salesman who, though friendly enough, was ultimately an intruder of my privacy. So, there I was on my way to the restaurant; if it had not been for his call, I might still be half asleep; just accumulating energy for another wonderful but disturbing day in Santa Barbara.
The Sweet Country Restaurant was located right by the Sweet Country Inn. The entire establishment was accessible from State Street, the main street of Santa Barbara, where many tourists went through any time of year. Inside the restaurant, heavy green leather-look furniture and ceiling lamps over each booth were intended to create a country and western atmosphere, though in my humble opinion not a very successful attempt. I came here when I had letters to write or checks to send, but didn’t want to sit and do that kind of work at home. I worked out of my apartment, I was alone during that period, and I felt a daily need to get away and see and experience something quite different. The Sweet Country Restaurant was just one of my resorts, which I liked because the staff was kind and the food as good as anywhere else.
Whether I, myself, was and still am a tourist I cannot say for certain, since I would probably be a somewhat biased judge in the matter. Not to say an extremely biased one, since I have long ago fallen completely in love with this town of 87,000 people.
A difficult decision
“Take it or leave it,” the real estate dealer says. “Just take it or leave it; I ain’t got all day.”
“Well, I do not know,” I respond. “It’s a hard decision to make, and a big one, so you shouldn’t push me like that."
"Well,” I say while looking at my wife,” what do you think?”
But obviously, she is paralyzed, her loyalty equally divided between the real estate dealer and me. She is an extremely fair and objective person, one could say the opposite of a born liar. She doesn’t respond except through facial expressions that I can’t read, and her silence turns me off.
“Forget about it,” I tell the dealer, and then my wife and I walk to the car. “Why didn’t you say so at once?” I ask in an angry tone of voice as soon as we get inside. She looks at me, obviously feeling that I am treating her unfairly, which is probably true.
“What do you mean by that?” she says. I shrug, not knowing what to say; after all, the house was my idea, not hers, and I shouldn’t try to push her into making that decision for me. Even though it would be lovely if she had, so that I would then have someone to share the blame with in case the decision was wrong.
Believe me, saying no was hard; because that house was really a darling. Big and Victorian, situated in a quiet neighborhood, personal just the way I like it. But then again, I have tried it; two times prior to this occasion, I took her silence as encouragement, or as a provocation which made me revolt and rush into decisions from which I have not yet recovered financially.
Nobody seemed to care. Every time I entered a shop, there seemed to be somebody new; or was it me who hadn’t noticed their faces before? Was it me who imagined that I suffered, while the truth was that I contributed to the suffering of others? If I did contribute to the suffering of others by being superficial, then what did it mean, and what would it take for me in order to break through the mental wall? If not, then what would it take to simply fit in?
I pushed these thoughts away as much as I could, and much of the time I was successful. It was mostly when somebody was kind and felt near, only then to disappear again moments later, that I felt loneliness, which was perhaps not, in itself, deeper than the kind of loneliness a child can sometimes feel when abandoned for too long. But my loneliness was different, because it had been there too long; either as something which I had pushed away, or as a conscious state of mind which I would later recall when I felt the same way again. It had become so deep, I felt, that a sense of pessimism had managed to sneak its way into my heart and my soul.