John Tang

Her Vacaville

Posted in Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on May 12, 2010

Her Vacaville

“Before you came here, Vacaville was also known as Onion City.” The elderly woman said. Her breath smelled of thick tobacco. She wore a purple dress, silk, with a golden bracelets jingling every time she switched hands on the knees. She spoke to John, an employee at the optometry, who was leaning against the counter, listening closely, it seemed, as you saw his boss a bit irate from the conversation. She said, “I want to stop here.”

“I live in Vacaville.” He said, as if he never heard the last remark. “Why Onion city?”

“I lived here since ’46. My father owned a farm where what is now the ice rink.”

“That’s downtown, by Brendon Theater.” He tried to paint the city. “The tattoo parlor. Bank of America. The library, Town Square is in that area. The bus stop to Davis is there.”

“That’s before Vacaville modernized. Before the outlets, before the highway 80 towered over fields and hills, this was a farm land nothing of onion. My father owned a farm exactly underneath that ice rink. He closed it a couple years after World War II. On the field the dust always got caught in his eyes (You know California’s dry heat—the same as before). That’s why he always took the air-eye, or what is it called now, the air-puff test. He had his eyes checked every year.”

“Was Travis Air Force Base there?”

“It was.” She adjusted how she sat. “Did you know Vacaville never wanted to connect with Fairfield. Even with that sliver we call Peabody, they always made sure it was separated from the each other. Not like Suisun and Fairfield, they are also known as Twin City. That must have been past your time, too. But Travis was there—I don’t know if it was used for the wars.

I met my husband in Vacaville when he was in the military–before he passed away—that’s before both of our divorces. Five kids, he had and only one with me. He was on Travis, supplier for the airplanes that stopped before wherever, usually, I know in Oklahoma because he always visited. I was a couple years out of high school, and we were friends for two years—more so, I never let him date me. He was persistent, I’d say. I remember he said ‘if you didn’t play too hard-to-get, do you know how much time we could have spent together?’ That’s two months before he passed away in March. You should go now, John. This was pleasant for me.”

The conversation carried so fluently, she was unsure how she found herself in the examining room, surrounded by large equipment in the dark and a slice of light from a creak in the door. She was casting a smile downward, before the conversation broke, before her head rose and saw John’s boss made the fifth look over the shoulders. He was a short Chinese man, who wore a faded sweater, once a navy blue. John held the door open, hanging onto the silver handle.

“The doctor will be with you shortly.”



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