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Assisi & Brannan #6: Grease Monkey

Mar 4, 2014

When I was in Hong Kong, Sam’s family moved into the same building where my family lived. He and my brother, James, attended the same missionary school and soon became inseparable. They played football after school in the field nearby in the evenings. It was strange at first to hear the light-haired, grey-eyed boy speak Cantonese. He played video games with James at our house and often stayed for dinner. The Griers left Hong Kong for America when I was 10. Sam’s father’s business prospered. They had fat choy.

I got the job with the Bay Area Reporter before I graduated. Bruce had contacted my school and met me in LA. So I moved up the coast to San Francisco which pleased my mother since it was a shorter flight to Hong Kong from the west coast.

The paper was small, but I liked what Bruce had done with it. The problem was that the job paid very little.

I went to see Sam because when I started school because he had told me to look him up if I ever needed help.

It had been 12 years since I had seen him.

He was in San Francisco. The shop, SOMA Car and Limo, was on the corner of Assisi and Brannan in the South of Market. Off-ramps from the I-280 crisscrossed overhead. The dull roar of traffic muffled the sounds of construction and it felt like I had headphones on. Brannan was pot-holed. Assisi was 1980s industrial, tired and hard. Next to Sam’s garage and limousine shop was a florist, a barbeque shop and a thrift store.

There was someone at the counter. Grimy nails, oil-streaked overalls.


“Yeah.” He was impatient at the interruption.

Jeez, I thought. I gave him a mental eye roll.  “It’s Garnet.” Remember?

“Oh, yeah, Garnet. Come on in.”  He waved me deeper into the auto cave. A couple of tough, buff, you-talking-to-me characters looked from under raised cars.

He was about to shake my hand and then withdrew it to wipe on his overalls. “Sorry.” He paused for a moment. “So…how’s James?”

“He’s well. He—and his wife—are having a baby next month.”

“Wow, James with a family. That’s hard to imagine.”

“Actually, this is the second one.”

“Yeah? That’s great.”

Small talk. A necessary evil.

“So…I came here to see if I could do some work for you. Office work maybe.” I forced the words out of my mouth.

“Sure, sure. Let me think. The shop kind of runs itself and Angela does the books.”

Angela appeared and lased me with a death glare. Short skirt, teased hair, accessorized.

My heart sank. It was not looking good.

“But you can make good money as a limo driver. If you drive that is,” Sam continued.

Since our flare up about the article Sam hasn’t talked about BAR again. He’s too busy with the limos and his shop.

Okay, truth be told, I wish I hadn’t said what I did because now I can’t talk to him anymore about the paper. The only confidant I have left is my roommate, Katherine.

© Jocelyn Uma 2014. All Rights Reserved.