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  Terra firma.

Most people think that the world revolves around them; that their lives are so dense that the very gravity of its earth-shattering importance keeps the rest of the world close.

Jeff Pesante is the only person I know who can say this and have it be true.

Science be damned, the world revolves around Jeff. Despite his thin, slight appearance (he’s been called a “tall drink of water” more than once in his life), he weighs as much as the sun. The earth is held in orbit by Jeff’s gravity and if he were ever to lose contact with it, it would simply float out into space.

His density makes getting dressed in the morning a challenge. And flying is out of the question. He can drive and take elevators and ride a bike and a million other things a normal person can do (I call these people “floaters” because I imagine them as being as light as feathers). As long as Jeff is in contact with something that is in contact with terra firma, the world is safe. See the aforementioned statement: “science be damned.”
We found out about Jeff’s “condition” the hard way.

Jeff is my nephew. I was in the room when he was born to my little sister Lucinda. Although, it is strange to write that name because to me she’ll always only be the nickname I coined for her: “Luce.” In Italian, it means “light.” The irony isn’t lost on me.

Jeff was born October 17, 1989 at the UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco, CA. At 5:04 p.m., his nervous grandfather (my dad) dropped him. As he fell to the ground, the earth shook as it began to tear from its orbit. The shaking stopped the instant he landed.

I don’t have to be clairvoyant to know that you’re scoffing at the very thought of the world revolving around Jeff. At this very moment, you’re rolling your eyes, “harrumphing” or perhaps even letting out a heavy sigh. You’re skeptical because you assume that it was just a coincidence.

I know this because I was just like you once. Skeptical. Certain that anything that can’t be explained by science must be false. But since then I’ve seen proof with my own eyes. There are things I’ve witnessed first-hand as I shadow Jeff while he goes about his business through the streets of San Francisco. Long ago, his parents asked me to keep an eye on him. They said it was to keep him safe. But, I suspect that they’re just protecting their own asses.

You want proof? Here’s proof: On January 17, 1994, the Pesante family was visiting family in Northridge, CA when Jeff briefly jumped out of the way of a car that ran a red light as he was crossing the street. His feet left the ground but for a split second, but hundreds died in the resulting earthquake.

On August 23, 2011, Jeff was visiting Washington, DC with a college class when he was pushed off his feet by someone who mistook him for someone else. The Washington monument was cracked in that little trembler.

Over the years, I’ve seen Jeff trip and stumble and ever so briefly leave the earth many times. And every time the result was the same: earthquake. When you’re watching the news and you see that a minor quake has struck the Bay Area, now you know what caused it.

Right now, Jeff is walking down Howard Street on his way to meet someone at the Thirsty Bear brewpub. I like tailing Jeff now that he’s old enough to drink. It makes what has been a boring, thankless job over the years a little more exciting.
On days like this, it’s easy to follow him. It’s June, so naturally he’s bundled up in a dark-colored hoodie, attempting to keep the cool San Francisco summer air from chilling him to the core. He’s wearing comically large headphones under the hood and listening to what I imagine is some angry, young punk screaming into a microphone. It’s an educated guess. I’ve trailed him to countless punk shows around the city. Each one louder than the last.

Right now, you’re wondering how I could follow Jeff for so many years without him noticing. It’s easy. I’ve simply “lost touch” with family so that I don’t show up in family photos or at family gatherings. Plus, I’ve grown a thick beard and let my hair grow long. I look somewhat Unibomber-ish. But, it’s a good cover. Every so often I shave my head and beard so that it doesn’t look like the same shaggy stalker is always following him.

The constant vigilance has paid off. I’ve saved Jeff from muggers, deranged cabbies, bungie jumping and (most importantly) himself. In high school he had a propensity for drinking until he passed out. I was there each time to make sure that at least some part of him remained touching the ground (or touching something that was touching the ground) at all times.

I’ve long suspected that if Jeff is ever seriously injured or dies, then we all die. I strongly believe that it’s his mind that gives his body gravity. I can’t think of any way to prove this theory. Well, other than letting him get shot, run over, bludgeoned, etc. However, if that happened, it wouldn’t matter whether my theory was true – Luce would kill me herself.
So here I am, walking along Howard Street on my way to the Thirsty Bear. He stops for a moment on the sidewalk in front of the brewpub. Like me, he’s startled by a commotion down the street where a gentlemen’s club sits like a pimple on the city’s ass. In front of the club, two drunk guys that look like burned out frats are pushing each other and yelling obscenities. I can’t exactly make out what they’re saying to each other, but it’s obvious they’ve known each other for a long time and are airing a life’s worth of grievances all at once.

Across the street from us, firemen from the SFFD building pour out onto the sidewalk to find out what is causing the ruckus.

When one guy (I’ll call him “sockless-loafer-douche”) lands a haymaker and sends his friend (I’ll call him “Euro-purse-guy”) to the ground, Jeff shakes his head and pivots around to make his way into the Thirsty Bear. Of course, I follow.
Jeff is fast. He’s so fast that I almost lose him when he darts into an empty chair at a table to the left of the bar. It’s a dim corner of the room and I have to crane my head and squint my eyes to see the lovely young woman that was waiting for him at the table. As I take a seat at the edge of the bar closest to Jeff and his date, I notice that she’s also wearing a dark hoodie and headphones around her neck. Brightly-covered tattoos poke out from under her sleeves.

Every other 20-something I pass on the streets in this city seems to be wearing the same thing. I wonder if this is some sort of hipster uniform.

The woman puts her hands on the table, palms up, and Jeff puts his hands in hers. I can’t believe I’ve never seen her before. As they order beer and tapas, Jeff traces the lines in the woman’s palms with his fingers. He has his back to the entrance and I can only see his hands and a three-quarters view of his hoodie-covered head.
I order a beer of my own (Valencia Wheat) and wonder if the tattooed woman knows about Jeff and his gift for making the world quake. Would she still be smiling if she did?

I barely have time to contemplate this when the door is thrown open. A fire alarm from across the street drowns out all conversation in the room. I quickly turn to look and see that sockless-loafer-douche and Euro-purse-guy have carried their fight here. “Jesus, that’s all they need is more booze,” I think to myself as a cool breeze blows though the open door, giving me both a chill and goosebumps. Right now, it looks like they may have settled their differences.

I turn away for a second and take a long drink of my beer. When I turn back, I see they’ve restarted their fight. Before I can register exactly what is happening, Euro-purse-guy grabs a pint glass from the nearest table and throws it as hard as he can at sockless-loafer-douche, who ducks before drunkenly stumbling to the ground.

The glass hits Jeff in the back of the head. His date screams as he slumps over.

His head is cocked at an odd angle and I notice a trickle of blood coming from his nose and mouth. Then the earth starts shaking. A mirror behind the bar shatters. Bricks fall from the walls and crash into the ground like bombs. In the distance I can hear what sounds like a thousand car alarms going off at once.

I can also hear people screaming as I stumble over to Jeff’s table. His date is hysterical, yelling things that I can’t quite make out because of the sheer volume of the noise all around. I reach over and check Jeff’s pulse. My arms are covered in goosebumps for the second time today. The lack of a pulse lets me know that this is the end.

And then it all stops (the noise and the shaking–not the world). I stop in my tracks for a moment as I attempt to make sense of what is happening. I return to the bar and notice that miraculously my drink has not been spilled. I grab it and take a long drink and wonder how I could have been so wrong. About everything.

-Caruso Deluxe


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