in los angeles, i drive and then i park. and then i park and then i drive, and then i park, park and then i look for my car for awhile in the parking lot, then i drive. i often miss the interchange between freeways and end up somewhere near burbank where there are lots of suppliers of small business; plumbing, dental and paper.
these are just some of the hard facts of my life in los angeles.
also, j. who i have not spoken to in years now. strange how most of living occurs in the remembrance of the past. i am thinking this is why we eventually die; our minds move backwards, our bodies inevitably forward, then a rip occurs.
anyway, perhaps i think of j. because now we are at a safe distance. where and when did we meet exactly? somewhere near brooklyn heights. i think of her in her red toggle coat, so old and tattered that the polyester lining was slipping out through the many tears. her hair which went down her back in a pitch black fury, like rain, never brushed. her infant face; wide forehead, wider, slimmer eyes, prone to smiling, and these upturned lips which suggested something like trust. she looked about 14.
she was a skinny, small thing. in the hospital she complained that she had simultaneously lost and gained weight. when i went to visit her, i could sense that she didn’t want to be touched but i thought i should and had to hug her. the meat off her arms hung tenderly. they look like chicken wings, i told her and for some reason this made her laugh.
j. was very clumsy and absentminded. she lost her wallet often, like once a month. she lost her phone often. she lost her keys often. she was a bad drunk. so bad that even her good nature when sober could not make up for it; people who met her drunk never wanted to see her again. but she had a sense of humor about it, however tinged with an alcoholic’s denial. one time, after a night out, she woke up in the morning and found herself in south williamsburg. she had a hard time finding the train, hungover and the streets colliding and all. it was the sabbath and the hasidic jews she approached for help, took one look at her and faced the wall. see? very funny.
she was drawn to men with one, blaring physical defect. like a lazy eye. i didn’t understand this till later when i met her father and he swung his left leg, stiff as a peg in a wide arc, like a compass. we often ate at ghang thai (smith street) and buddy’s tacos (court street). maker’s mark was her jam. sported holes in her stockings before it was in. majored in russian literature and didn’t care about money. i used to read her poetry.
sometimes i dream she is dead and that i killed her.
what does that mean?
you can’t take everyone with you, rosa says.
her parents drove to my place from new jersey and arrived in matching windbreakers. i had left the windows open the night before in the middle of november to air out the cigarette smoke. when they got there, i served them water and cut fruit in a semblance of propriety. i thought i should start with the most basic facts: their daughter had been institutionalized. this they did not understand and the mother began to cry. if we could all just smoke a commiserating cigarette, this would go better, i thought.
we should go to the hospital and take her home.
i don’t think we should do that.
what should we do?
(something like, turn back time.)
in the end, of course, she wants nothing to do with me. i don’t blame her. here was the girl who had flown with me back and forth to los angeles, 3 times in 4 months. i’d sit in the bath tub of the hotel they put us in with the water up to my belly button, in a futile attempt to make order of the past. she was in the bedroom, smoking a joint out the window. one day, after being in court for 9 hours, it started to rain and then we had a flat tire. we were tired and i was uncomfortable in my suit, we walked to an empty mexican restaurant and asked if they would turn on the karaoke machine for us. no only on thursday. it was wednesday and we laughed at our terrible luck.
we waited for triple a to come then we drove to in n out and talked about how santa clarita was a cat town. a town where we had come by coincidence, and at night came alive not with people but with cats. cat lawyers, cat doctors, cat gas station attendants, cat life, and we were the only human beings there and that soon they would smell us out and find us. (plainly stolen from murakami’s 1Q84).
how does he end it? she asked. the yellow boomerang illuminated the interior of our rental car. we looked out, facing north, but it might as well have been the ocean, so pitch dark were those dusty hills. i read from the book:
“The young man knows that he is irretrievably lost. This is no town of cats, he finally realizes. It is the place where he is meant to be lost. It is another world, which has been prepared especially for him. And never again, for all eternity, will the train stop at this station to take him back to the world he came from.”
crazy, she said. then turned to me with this look of clear contemplation. i wouldn’t ever see that look again. after, her face would always be a contortion of fear, stiffened scared by me, the lithium, olanzapine and the world.
ahh. j. if you could only see my new existence in los angeles. kb told me that i already knew how to make a life in new york, and that i could go back to it at any time. this is true. but life in new york was never the same without you. and i don’t want to go back until this gaping hole in my chest is closed. there are so many things i should have done, and so many i shouldn’t have and they change on whim.
i do not know how to make a life in los angeles; and frankly find this desert outpost, hostile, strange and stupid. yeah okay, i have a bigger apartment, dine al fresco often, and see the boyfriend regularly. and i am beginning to think there is a correlation between the expansion of the inner life and the constancy of the pacific ocean. there are the startling san gabriel mountains that rise up cold and quick on the 210 east. more counterspace, carpet and dry heat. there are other things.