California Highway

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Santa Barbara

Morning came, and Tyler picked up his phone. To his amazement, there were several missed calls and voicemail messages. “Hmm. I wonder what’s going on that people are trying to get in touch with me?” he thought to himself.

Message 1 was from Karen. “Do I want to listen to this?” Tyler thought to himself. “She probably wants to yell at me some more. I’ll wait until tonight after I’ve had a few drinks.”

Message 2 – Karen again. Skip.

Message 3. From Robert. “Crap. I forget to tell him where I was heading. He’s probably wondering where I’m at.” Tyler pressed the play button to listen.

Tyler, this is Robert. Just checking in, man, to see how things are going. I haven’t heard from you. Give me a call… Oh, and tell your mom I say, HI.

“Crap. Yep. I know Robert probably called my mom by now. I bet she’s worried, now.” Tyler thought he better get in touch with Robert as soon as possible.

Tyler picks up the phone and dials Robert’s phone number. The phone starts to ring.

Robert notices his phone ringing and sees Tyler’s name pop-up on the caller ID. He answers, “Dude! Where are you?”

Tyler is caught off guard by Robert’s urgent tone in his voice. After all, he is still high on life because of the fantastic events that have happened, he thought he would be a bit sarcastic with Robert. “I’m sitting here in a hotel room. Why? Where are you?”

“Tyler! WHERE… ARE…YOU!?!” Robert was in no mood for joking or sarcasm.

“Okay, tough crowd,” Tyler says, trying to lighten the mood. “I’m in San Luis Obispo. I decided to take Highway One south instead of going to my mom’s. Why? Is everything okay?”

“Dude. You should have told me where you were going. Your mom probably thinks you’re dead. I have Karen calling me every few hours. Dude… You’re killing me. What are you doing in San Luis Obispo?”

“Robert, you’re not going to believe the trip I’ve had so far.” Tyler is trying to calm Robert down by changing the subject. “I thought I’d head down to San Diego and then return home.”

“Tyler,” Robert wants to rebuke him for changing his plans without telling anyone. Still, Tyler sounds generally happy, so he changes his tone. “I’m glad you’re having a good time. It sounds like you’re working through things. That’s great, really. Just be home in time for your court appearance.”

“No problem,” Tyler replied. “I should be home in about a week. Unless some other incredible thing happens.”

“Sounds like you’ve been having a good time. Huh?” Robert’s mood starts to taper down a bit.

“Yeah, I’ll tell you all about it when I get home. But let’s just say, if any more happens that even comes close to the last few days, my mind will be blown.”

“Cool, cool.” Robert needs Tyler to focus now as he talks about Karen. “So, dude. Karen has been calling me. She’s been trying to get in touch with you.”

“Oh, yeah. I saw Karen’s voice messages. I haven’t listened to them yet.” Tyler starts to wonder what has been going on. “Do you know what she wants?”

“Yeah. She just wants to talk to you. She still cares about you, dude.”

Tyler has a confused sound in his voice. “Really? I thought that note was pretty clear.”

Tyler started to think of the event that caused this mess. “You know, I was thinking about what happened that night. I didn’t even do anything. I didn’t have sex with that chick. I didn’t go home with her. I was outside talking to her when a bunch of cops came out of nowhere. What the fuck?”

“That makes sense,” Robert said. “If you didn’t do anything, why are they throwing you in jail?”

Tyler is ready to end the conversation. He wants to listen to Karen’s messages. “Okay, dude. I’m going to get ready to head to Santa Barbara today. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Sounds good, Tyler. Keep in touch. And don’t forget to talk to Karen.”

They end the call.

Tyler sat at the end of the bed for a few minutes, trying to decide if he was ready to talk to Karen or not. According to Robert, she is concerned and just wants to make sure he is okay. But on the other hand, she hurt him, and she left when he needed her most. Tyler decides to wait to listen to the messages and hold off on calling her until he makes it to his next location.

It takes Tyler a few minutes to pack up and head out the door. The next stop was going to be Santa Barbara. He will play it by ear if he will stay the night or not.

As Tyler is driving out of San Luis Obispo, he feels he must have missed something. This was the first stop that he did not have an encounter with someone that influenced his life. He almost felt cheated.

Tyler made it to Santa Barbara in about three hours. He parked near the beach and decided he would take a stroll on Stearns Wharf and call Karen from there.

As he walked along the wharf, he could not believe how blue the sky was and how it matched the ocean. The weather was perfect. It was the upper 80s and not a cloud in sight and very little wind. Tyler could not ask for a more perfect day.

As he reached the end of the wharf, he found a seat on a bench where he could sit and watch the fishermen. Even though Tyler was not fishing, he still hoped one of the guys would bring in a nice catch – it was always fun to watch.

Tyler pulled out his phone and opened his voicemail app. He pulled up the first message from Karen and pressed play.

Hi Tyler. When you get this, I will most likely be gone. You are still in jail, and I have no intention of bailing you out. You hurt me, and I cannot deal with that right now.

I’m going to leave you a note on the door. Please don’t look for me.

Good-bye.

Tyler could hear that Karen was not only disappointed but angry. Maybe the second voice message is better. He opens that one and presses the play button.

Hi Tyler.

This is Karen. You should be out of jail by now and read my note. I was hoping we could talk in person to discuss what happened.

I still care for you very much, Tyler. I’m still trying to figure things out. But I really hope we can talk and be civil to each other, so we can get through this.

I miss you. I miss us.

Call me.

Tyler could tell by her voice that she was sincere. He was hoping that she genuinely did want to work things out.

He picked up the phone to call her. It rings.

“Hello, Tyler?” You could hear a slight sense of worry coming from Karen’s voice.

“Hi,” Tyler said. He was not sure of what to say yet until he could sense how she was doing.

“Oh my god, Tyler.” Karen was almost in tears. “Where have you been? I’ve tried getting a hold of you a few times. I even called Robert, and he didn’t know where you were.”

Tyler was relieved that she was not yelling. “Yeah. My phone died, and I just realized it late last night. So, it charged. Then I wasn’t sure if I wanted to call you. The note sounded like you were mad at me and really disappointed.”

“I am Tyler.” Karen’s tone started to get stronger. “But I also wanted to let you know that I still would like to get through this together. I miss you.”

“I miss you, too,” Tyler said.

“Where are you?” Karen asked.

“I needed some time to think, so I took a drive down the coast. I’m in Santa Barbara now.” Tyler said.

Karen was shocked, “Santa Barbara? Wow. You must have had a lot of thinking to do.”

“I did. And I still do. I’m going to get to San Diego and then head back home.”

“You were always one for the coast,” Karen said.

“Yeah. I feel a connection.” Tyler felt the conversation had taken its course, and it would be a good idea to end it now before people got angry. “I’ll call you when I get back, okay? I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and I believe we can get through this.”

“That sounds great, Tyler. Thank you so much for calling. Take care, and I’ll see you when you get home.”

The call ended, and Tyler felt a sense of relief. He thought the conversation was going to go in an entirely different way.

Tyler started heading back down the wharf. Time to find a hotel to stay in for the night. And more importantly, a place to get some food.

* * *

Tyler found a room at the Beachside Inn, right next to the beach. After settling in, he decided it was time for some good Mexican food and a margarita. He located this small Mexican restaurant nearby called Santo Mezcal and thought he would try it out.

When he walked in, he was greeted by a young woman with long dark hair, beautiful brown eyes, and a gorgeous smile. Tyler felt his heart skip a beat. A feeling that he had not experienced since meeting Karen for the first time. She seemed shy but happy to see him. Almost as if she had her breath taken away when she saw him.

She spoke, “¿Cómo está, señor? ¿Cuántos hay en tu fiesta?”

Tyler had a couple of reactions. First, the sound coming from her mouth was so smooth and soft it actually made him quiver. It reminded him of a gentle breeze on a warm day. Second, Tyler thought it was going to be difficult ordering here. He did not understand any Spanish, and that seems to be what she was speaking.

He did not know how to respond. “Uh, I no comprende.”

The hostess laughed, which made Tyler more infatuated with her. “Welcome to Santo Mezcal. How many in your party?”

“Oh,” Tyler was relieved that she spoke English. “That I understood. It’s just me.” He glanced at her name tag, which read “Carmelita.”

“Would you like a table, or would you prefer sitting at the bar?” she asked.

“A table would be nice,” Tyler said. Carmelita walked him to a small table towards the back of the restaurant up against the well. He felt as if he was being hidden in the corner. “Will this be okay?” she asked.

“Yes. This is fine.” She could have sat Tyler in a boiling pot of water, and he would have been okay with it. He could not believe how beautiful this young lady was.

She handed Tyler a menu. “My name is Carmelita. Just ask for me if you need anything.”

Tyler was not sure if he caught the name, “I’m sorry, what was your name again?” He wanted her to speak one more time. He loved the goosebumps he would get when she talked.

She smiled. “Carmelita.”

Tyler repeated her name, “Carmelita. What a beautiful name.”

She smiled and appeared slightly embarrassed as she looked down and away. She left smiling.

Tyler noticed that she appeared to be walking almost in slow motion. As if time was trying to stand still when she was around. He saw that everything with her seemed to be moving that way.

Tyler was so engulfed in Carmelita’s natural beauty; he never noticed the man approaching his table with a glass of water and some tortilla chips.

“Sir,” the man said. He was obviously the waiter, and he knew who Tyler was looking at so intently. “Sir… SIR? Hello?”

He finally got Tyler’s attention. “Sorry. Thank you.” Tyler was a bit embarrassed that he had been caught staring at Carmelita.

The waiter put the chips and water on the table. “You better be careful, sir. She’s the boss’s daughter.”

“Well,” Tyler said, “I don’t see the boss anywhere around?” he said, half-joking.

“He sure is.” The waiter replied. “It’s me!” The waiter turned around quickly and walked away. Tyler was more embarrassed and now nervous. The waiter, or owner, seemed to be agitated about Tyler’s actions. Tyler thought he may end up spitting in his food.

Tyler noticed the man walked directly to Carmelita and said something to her. He pointed at Tyler. Carmelita looked at Tyler, but this time, she was not smiling. She appeared to say something back to her father, but he was very insistent with her.

Carmelita approached Tyler’s table. “Sir, I am very sorry. My father,” Carmelita looked up at her father, “THAT STUPID MAN OVER THERE.” She looked back down at Tyler, “asked me to tell you that you are not welcome here, and you will have to leave.”

Tyler looked confused. “What? Why?”

“He said it was because of the way you are looking at me.” Carmelita smiled. She did not mind the gestures. And she knew that Tyler was not the only man to watch her with such infatuation.

As Carmelita was talking to Tyler, he saw her father approaching the table rather quickly. He started to yell at her, “TELL HIM. DID YOU TELL HIM?” Then he pulled Carmelita away from the table and looked at Tyler. “GO. YOU LEAVE. YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE. ERES UN HOMBRE MALO. HOMBRE PERVERTIDO. ¡SALTE!”

Tyler did not understand the last part of his rant. But “perv” in any language is pretty much wrong. He stood up and left while the man continued to yell. Tyler was simply happy nobody in this town knew who he was. He did not need another fiasco like what happened back home.

Tyler had to walk past Carmelita on his way out. She looked at Tyler as he was leaving and mouthed the word, “Sorry.” Tyler knew it was not her fault.

As Tyler was heading back to his hotel, he could not help but think, “If you have a daughter that looks like that, why the hell do you have her greeting people in the first place?”

When Tyler got back to his room, he picked up his guitar and started to play. Before he knew it, he was writing a new song. It was fast and furious and called, “Stupid Ass Restaurant Owner.”

Then Tyler thought about Carmelita. He realized that he needed to write a song about her. And he did.

Afterward, it was time for another journal entry.

I was able to talk to Karen today. It sounds like she is willing to try and get our relationship back on track. She appeared to be worried on the phone but also relieved that I’m doing okay.

Robert was happy to hear from me, as well. I’m such a dork for letting my phone die. But, hey, can you blame me? These last few days have been incredible.

I made it to Santa Barbara today. This place is gorgeous. I met the most breath-taking young lady named Carmelita. She was the hostess at a restaurant that I tried to eat at. It turned out her father, the owner, and the waiter did not care for me because I had an eye for his daughter. So much so that he kicked me out of his establishment. Oh, well. At least I got a good song out of the experience. “Stupid Ass Restaurant Owner” is going to be a big hit.

I should be able to make it to Los Angeles tomorrow. Then to San Diego the next day. We’ll see how things go. But for now, I’m having the time of my life.

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