The Imaginary Home

Mark met Diane Eisenberg at San Francisco’s prestigious Lowell High School while cutting classes from Galileo, the city’s dead-end high school.  After they dated a few times, Diane invited him to meet her family in their home on Twin Peaks.

Soon, Mark began taking different bus lines across San Francisco to spend a few hours with Diane in the den.

Then, around nine at night, he would say goodnight to Diane and her family and return home the same way he had come.

Diane had a girlfriend named Margie whose boyfriend Richard was a college freshman and drove a new Chevrolet convertible. One night Richard and Margie dropped by to ask Diane and Mark if they wanted to go to the Lowell junior prom together.

Mark was nervous. He had no dress clothes of his own and not enough money to pay for dinner. Luckily, his mother’s boyfriend lent him a tweed sports coat and a gray tie, and just enough money to pay for Diane’s dinner and his own—as long as they weren’t extravagant.

The evening went well—even though Mark couldn’t afford a corsage like the one Richard had given Margie.

Trouble came after the dance, when Richard drove everyone home. As he, Margie and Diane lived across the city, Richard said he would drop Mark off first.

Mark didn’t want them to see he lived in a rundown wooden cottage behind a gas station on Lombard Street, a thoroughfare leading to the Golden Gate Bridge, so he directed Richard up to Pacific Heights and then down Jackson Street until he saw a formidable brick house overlooking the bay.

“I live there,” Mark said.

Richard pulled up in front of the house.

Mark kissed Diane goodnight, thanked Richard and Margie, then got out.

Opening the gate, he walked up the steps then turned around at the front door to wave goodbye as they drove off. When he could no longer see the taillights of Richard’s car, Mark started down the hill to Lombard Street.

The next day Richard decided to come back and visit Mark. When he went to the big house on the hill, the owner said no one named Mark lived there. Resourceful, Richard looked up the Mark’s last name in the phonebook. Only one Saddler was listed in San Francisco: Mark’s mother, on Lombard Street.

When Richard appeared at the front door, Mark pleaded with him not to tell Diane where he lived.

“No,” Richard said. “You lied. I’ve got to tell her.”

That night when Mark arrived at Diane’s house, it was as though everyone had forgotten who he was. Mr. and Mrs. Eisenberg only looked at him long enough to turn away. Without greeting him, Diane’s brother and sister went upstairs, leaving Mark at the entrance. Soon, Diane appeared to tell Mark she was breaking up with him for lying.

Then she closed the front door.

Mark walked back up the hill and waited for the 36 Teresita bus. Climbing on the deserted vehicle, he sat near the driver, telling him what had happened, for it hurt too much not tell someone—even a stranger.

At the end of the line, Mark got up to transfer to the 47 Potrero bus. As he started down the steps, the driver called to him, “Hey, kid.”

Mark turned.

“Don’t take it so hard. You’ll get over it. Everybody does.”