There was a break for lunch during the conference and Sarah and I walked up to Chinatown. Along the way, we stopped for a berry ice cream crepe from a food truck that was in a line of food trucks that made us regret our lunch choice. We made it to the Chinatown Gate where we stopped to take pictures and to check the time. After checking the time, Sarah and I decided to continue up the street. The street running up through the Chinatown Gate is the touristy side of Chinatown. This street is lined with tourist trap trinket shops and stores filled with elaborately gaudy crystal/glass chandeliers and sculptures.
I didn't mind this walk. I knew that I would be back and that this was just a toe dip into Chinatown. We passed by shops with their wares spilling out onto the sidewalk. Racks of postcards. Tables of plastic snow globes. Racks of cards with names written in Chinese. I spotted Chris's name in passing and snapped a quick picture. It was later, while I was sitting in on talks about cell migration, when I looked back at the pictures I'd taken during that walk to edit them and maybe post some of them that I noticed it. That quick snap of Chris's name written in Chinese included me. There it was. Chris and Cindy, sitting right next to each other on the card rack. I whispered "fuck you, Chinatown" under my breath.
Later, Heather and I were driving around California in the rain. Our plan was to some how sneak some of Chris's ashes onto Skywalker Ranch. As we buckled up, Heather asked "is Chris with us?" I paused with an eyebrow raised and then remembered that she meant Chris's ashes and replied with a chuckle and a "yes". I thought for a minute that she was asking if Chris was present on a spiritual level, hovering somewhere in the car. The image of it and the idea of Chris as a ghost made me laugh. You know Chris would be the most silly, ridiculous ghost. He'd be the kind of ghost that would make a slurping sound every time you went to drink something. Because that's the kind of thing he did when he was living. I'm pretty sure I heard is Dr. Zoidberg impersonation as I hopped out of the car to hastily dump his ashes at the gate of Skywalker Ranch. Heather pretended to read a map because we knew there had to be hidden cameras watching our shenanigans. It's the worst leaving of Chris picture I've taken.
Is Chris with us? Fortunately and unfortunately. Even when I'm not thinking about it or expecting it, Chris shows up some how in some tiny way. It is equal parts lovely and hateful. The true definition of bittersweet. Mostly, at least lately, things seem more sweet than bitter.