This love story took place during the last spring of the Beat Generation. She must be in her middle thirties and I wonder what she’s doing now and if she still goes to parties.
Her name slips my memory. It has joined all the other names that I have forgotten that swirl through my head like a tide pool of discontinued faces and invisible syllables.
She lived in Berkeley and I saw her often at the parties I attended that spring.
She’d come to a party all sexied up and really move it around and drink wine and flirt until midnight came and then she’d lay her scene on whomever was trying to get into her pants, which happened to be a lot of my friends who had cars. One after another they answered the fate that she had waiting for them.
“Is anyone driving to Berkeley? I need a ride to Berkeley,” she would always announce erotically. She wore a little gold watch to keep track of the midnight.
One of my friends would always say yes behind too much wine and drive her to Berkeley and she’d let them into her little apartment and then tell them that she wouldn’t go to bed with them, that she didn’t sleep with anybody, but if they wanted to, they could sleep on her floor. She had an extra wool blanket. My friends would always be too drunk to drive back to San Francisco, so they would sleep on her floor, curled around that green army blanket and wake up in the morning, stiff and grouchy as a coyote with rheumatism. Neither coffee nor breakfast was ever offered and she had gotten another ride to Berkeley.
A few weeks later you’d see her at another party and come the midnight she’d sing her little song, “Is anybody driving to Berkeley? I need a ride to Berkeley.” And some poor son-of-a-bitch, always one of my friends, would fall for it and keep an appointment with that blanket on her floor.
Obviously, I was never able to understand the attraction that existed for her because she did nothing to me. Of course, I didn’t have a car. That was probably it. You had to have a car to understand her charms.
I remember one evening when everybody was drinking wine and having a good time, listening to music. Oh, those Beat Generation days! talking, wine and jazz!
Miss Berkeley Floor was drifting through the place spreading joy wherever she went except among those friends of mine who had already availed themselves of her hospitality.
Then midnight came! and, “Is anybody driving to Berkeley? I need a ride to Berkeley.” She always used the same words. I guess because they worked so well: perfectly.
A friend of mine who had told me of his adventure with her looked at me and smiled as another friend, a virgin to the experience and quite aroused behind an evening’s wine, took the hook.
“I’ll give you a ride home,” he said.
“Wonderful,” she said with a sexy smile.
“I hope he enjoys sleeping on the floor,” my friend half-whispered to me, loud enough for her to hear but not quite loud enough for him to hear because he was kismeted to make an acquaintance with a Berkeley floor.
In other words, this girl’s scene had become a very in joke among the stung and they were always amused to see somebody else take that carnival ride to Berkeley.
She went and got her coat and out they traipsed, but she had drunk a little too much wine herself and she got sick when they got to his car and she puked all over his front fender.
After she had emptied her stomach and was feeling a little better, my friend drove her to Berkeley and she made him sleep on the floor wrapped up in that goddamn blanket.
He came back to San Francisco the next morning: stiff, hung over and so fucking mad at her that he never washed her puke off that fender. He drove around San Francisco for months with that stuff residing there like a betrayed kingdom until it wore itself away.
This might have been a funny story if it weren’t for the fact that people need a little loving and, God, sometimes it’s sad all the shit they have to go through to find some.
This story is collected in Richard Brautigan’s The Revenge of the Lawn: Stories 1962-1970. It is reprinted here with the generous permission of Ianthe Brautigan.