Kage Baker loved Saturday nights. Not because she was mad party girl, revving up to bar-hop half the night; not because she liked to go out and dance. For her, they were a big King’s X in time.
What she liked about Saturdays was that they were a guaranteed, insulated safe spot in the week – the work week was done, and Sunday was another guaranteed blank spot coming up at her back. Even during Extreme Christmas, Saturday nights were a time out. Kage could relax and have a cocktail or three, stay up late and retire knowing the next day would begin on such smooth, practiced rails – mostly managed by other people – that all she really had to do was be awake by the time we hit the Cow Palace.
I used to lure her out bed with a Starbucks’ latte – make sure she was dressed and had her shoes on, brush and braid her hair, and shove her into the car. Kage was tremendously organized: she never lay down to sleep on a Fair Saturday without laying out her costume pieces for Sunday, and doing 90% of her packing for the ride home. So it was pretty easy to include – along with the other passengers, the duffels, the baskets with earrings and stockings and spare cans of Coke and extra mustard – the limp, bundled up figure of Kage, clutching her coffee with stiff blue hands in the frosted morning air.
She usually woke up completely about the time we got to the Bay Bridge. Then she could eagle-eye my approach to the City, so I didn’t screw up at the lane changes and take us off to San Jose or Half Moon Bay; which I occasionally did. Fair Sunday mornings only lightly touched reality …
When we weren’t doing Dickens, Kage just attached herself to her desk symbiotically. All day, she wrote; into the night, through meals, with brief breaks to cook or request a ride out to watch waves, or the necessity of an ice cream cone from a a particular ice cream shop. Other than that, she wrote right over the boundary between Saturday and Sunday, consenting to awaken only when the second carafe of coffee began perfuming her bedroom.
And then she wrote all Sunday as well, unless she was taken with an irresistible urge to go look over the cliffs on the edge of Highway 1 in Big Sur.
Tonight is a Saturday night, but it’s not like any others in my 67 years. It’s palpably winter time – brief grey day and a sudden night like the fall of a black velvet bag. But there’s no frisson of energy running below the surface, no mad pulse like spring water running silent under a cap of ice: there’s no Fair. There will be no Fair tomorrow. I haven’t even gotten out of my night clothes today, let alone dared pantaloons and hoops and corsets – which I daresay would kill me now anyway. But I do so miss the impatient, demanding, raving energy …
Kage never did, or never said so. She always expressed relief at a genuinely free Saturday – More time to write! Get me a fresh Coke, will you? And put some Gilbert and Sullivan on permanent repeat, she would demand. And then fall through the screen of her monitor into the world inside her head. She just stayed in there longer when she didn’t have to do Fair the next day.
At the moment, I am trying to introduce artistic tension into my blood by watching Riverdance. God He knows it’s a fascinating challenge, trying to simultaneously type coherently and still keep time to the dancers’ feet with my poor ten fingers. But it’s exciting!
Still … I wish I could put any of those Saturdays with Kage on permanent repeat. I could do that, like, forever …