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It is dark and 1 am and the cat is sneezing somewhere in the kitchen. The blinds are slightly open and I keep seeing this ghost of light fly from the top of the doorframe to the ceiling. At first I thought it was the cat but then I realized there’s nothing there to jump on.

It’s 1 am and there’s still traffic outside; there are too many people here so they never sleep and always drive their cars. People are always busy but I never see them get anything done. Everyone says they’re creative or musical but I don’t see it. What the hell are people doing here? I look out the window to see my car parked on the road, taking up whatever piece of cement it can.

I don’t know what people are doing out there, but the blinds are closed now and the cat is sleeping on my pillow. It’s so expensive to live here I don’t think people have time to do anything but work to make money and then use the rest of their time spending their money on things that are easy to buy: fancy cars and expensive clothes and whatever health or food thing is popular. Do people even talk to each other? I don’t know. I’m remembering this one time a grown woman from here recorded herself crying on her laptop and sent it out. I don’t think that’s the way to deal with sadness but maybe it’s the easiest way. If you send picture proof you don’t have to talk about it or think about it after you push a button.

It is not worse or better here than elsewhere, not yet. It is almost December and the tourists still come to take pictures of the palm trees. The palm trees are still lovely. And now they are covered with lights and giant decorative snowflakes hang down from them in a place where it never snows.

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I am walking around the grocery store with my little basket of harvested goods. I walk past other people with their little baskets of over-processed foods. This is how people garden in the city. This is how we gather our food. And we do it in a semi-clean grocery store in semi-silence.

I love people a lot. In general and specifically. I care about people a lot. I think people are the most interesting things on the planet. I love meeting new people, no matter how shy I am, and getting to know them, and asking them weird questions, and seeing how they respond. What I’m not very good at is losing people that I love. I haven’t lost that many people in my life. And when I have, it’s been because of their death — something permanent and impossible to change, something I had no control over, something natural and sad but simple and easy to understand. It had never been a loss like, “Fuck off, I don’t give a shit.” It had never been a loss like, “I don’t care if I’m hurting you, I’m not going to change.” It had never been hurtful, it had never been heartbreaking, not in that way.

“You have dimples!” I said, laughing at him. “I do,” and he sent me a picture later to prove it.

There are so many wonderful moments from wonderful people. But memories are from the past. People change. You’ll get over it. Yadda yadda.

I won’t. I haven’t. I’m trying, but not too hard. I keep thinking about his dimples, and the person he was when he took that picture. In a way, it is death. That person is gone, at least for me. Will they come back? I don’t know. It’s not the same as death. That’s why it’s hard. There could be changes, there could be resurrections. There could not be. I’m not going to keep checking the body, though. You can if you want.

Looking back, I should have ended it all sooner. I should have taken their word for it that they didn’t love me anymore, didn’t care, could be a person who could say such things to me. I loved them too much. I love them too much. I’m not going to change that. The world doesn’t need less love. It doesn’t need more silence in the grocery store. It doesn’t need more people dropping each other as easily as I drop bags of potato chips into my basket.

It is terrible and it is ok.  They are terrible and they are ok. I love them and it is terrible and I love them and it is ok. I don’t know how to be anything else, or how to do anything else, and it is terrible and it is ok. They are still the people they were but they are also the people they are now. They no longer exist but they still do. They are dead and alive. I still love them and I don’t love them anymore.

 

 

What the hell is his middle name? I thought, suddenly panic-stricken, elbow-deep in a filing cabinet at work. I stared blankly at the air in front of my face but couldn’t remember a thing. What does that mean? Shit! I don’t forget middle names. Middle names are my thing. That can’t be a good sign. He hates me already and now I’ve forgotten his middle name, this is not going to end well.

But later, at home, I remembered. The J name that he was embarrassed to tell me because it’s from the bible and his mom was really religious and it shouldn’t be anyone’s middle name but it is his.

Driving home I thought about brains and how it’s ridiculous for me to be upset at him because people are just lumps with electricity and heartbeats and it’s amazing we can get along at all any of the time, really.

I think about how I sent another person a song earlier this week, and he replied back that the piano player was lovely, and I think about how that made me want to be an epic piano player. I wanted to go learn the damn song by heart so I could play it just as good. And I didn’t want to learn it to make this person like me more, but because if he thinks something is wonderful then it must be. And if I want to be a wonderful person, I should try to be better. He makes me want to be a better person; whether or not he knows about it doesn’t matter. Which is a strange feeling and thought to have, and it may have made me cry in the middle of an LA traffic jam one night because it was beautiful, and I always cry, and sometimes I cry because things are beautiful.

I am almost in tears standing in the cereal aisle staring at the price tags on the granola bars. Three dollars. Three fucking dollars. I grab a box in tuck it into my basket, because everyone needs snacks. Even me, even for three dollars.

Wandering around the store, and out of it, I wonder what everyone does for a living. I want to ask them, I want to walk up to them and say, ‘excuse me, I see you’re looking very well put together, how do you manage to make money in this city?’

I don’t do it, but I keep thinking it, keep wondering. On my walk home I pass a cardboard sign that someone has taped to a streetlight. It is large and written with black marker. It says, Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Some homeless man took the time, and the ink from his marker, to write this and post it up for all of us people walking by to see. 

Walking home with my granola bars stuffed into my backpack, I nervously spin my phone in circles in my hand. I need a job. I need a job. I need a job. There are so many stories of people who went to a city almost penniless and made it. But how did they make it? How do I make it? There are so many people here. There are so many people walking with me, crossing streets, running, biking, rolling along on their skateboards. Driving. They all have a place. There must be a place for me. I have to be able to contribute to this. It’s been a week of looking. A week. I can’t tell if a week is forever or no time at all. It feels like both. My phone spins in my hand as I turn the corner.

The street I’m staying on is nice. Somehow there is always parking, even in the middle of Los Angeles, and there are trees and plants along the sidewalk. A lovely place to walk, and a lovely place to be. There’s this huge, leafy palm plant that catches my eye as I walk toward it. It’s very green and calming somehow, just sitting there, growing. The trees are pushing up the sidewalks as we walk on them, going wherever it is we’re going.

I feel a little bad for being afraid or being worried, because I’m fine, really. I have friends to help me, and a family who cares about me, even if they are across the country. I have plenty of access to cardboard and markers. I have a roof to sleep under. I have time. I have some kind of place already. I have granola bars. But I no longer have that three dollars.

 

What is there to say? Not much, the same questions tumbling over one another. There is even less to do. You are standing at the edge. Here we are the end. Here we are in the middle. Here we are at the beginning.

We understood each other, perhaps that is a simple enough thing to be happy about. But people fade and become only time stamps in your past, sections of years labeled and crossed out.

The words that were meant to be meaningful were the last straw. The last complaint. The last sentence. People die and words die. Understanding dies.

It has never been good. It has always been wonderful. It may have been true or it may not have. Maybe that is not the thing to focus on. What do you focus on now?

That lake is still there, full of water. I have a picture of it from the past. The trees I saw are still living. And you and your smile, all of these things without me.

Here we are at the beginning. There is a new understanding, or a lack of one. There is another new language I don’t speak, one that is unlearnable.

Here we are at the end. Some things you can’t fix. Some things you shouldn’t. Sometimes you just need new trees and new lakes. And we go on, and we stop, and we begin.

 

 

“He has kind eyes.”

“He’s high. He has high eyes.”

His eyes are so blue and so pink as you look at him standing there looking at you with his head tilted to the side. He’s wearing some weird hat and you assume he’s gay because he’s slim and neat and showed up with some other man who is slim and neat.

It is dark and the people are cold; the group closes in without noticing, huddles together unconsciously, forms small packs of humans, tiny false families.

“I’m a filmmaker.”

“I’m a writer.”

“What do you write?”

“I write about you. And I write about nothing. And I make things up that never happened. But it sounds better later, if I edit it, if I add in things. If I knew at the time what to say.”

The little families are not all false. These people love each other, I just don’t know them. I don’t know them as a family, who loves who, or who hates who occasionally, or what happened that one time on the beach last weekend.

Time goes by, it gets lighter and warmer, and different people sit on the same benches and form similar friendships. The man, who is not a boy, as he’s an eighties baby, and not a child, might have worn that hat again. The woman with curly fairy hair has sobered up but kept the light in her eyes. The little families separate and draw in again, accidentally and on purpose.

Every Friday my neighbors, on the other side of the fence, whom I have never seen, have a barbecue. They are loud and the air smells like smoke and they play good music. They are young, or so I imagine, and they clink their beer bottles, or so I imagine, and they grin into the fire and the light glints off of their eyes and off of their bottles, and they talk loudly about their jobs and their girlfriends and their rent, or so I imagine. It is dry and dusty here, and quiet, but at night you can hear more somehow, maybe because there is more noise. People have time to gather together and speak and make noises and drive their cars past my house and roar their engines and love each other.

Every night the woman comes home from her job. She works hard five days a week, for too many hours each day. At home is her dog, who watches her leave every morning, lays on the rug in the afternoon, and plays fetch with her at night until they go to sleep after watching a few hours of television. Sometimes this little family gets larger, when the woman’s son comes to visit, and brings with him his son and his wife. But they leave again, and the woman and the dog stay.

The girl with curly fairy hair was humming to herself as she walked next to me. I listened but ignored her, in a way, as I didn’t turn my head to smile, or to acknowledge I had heard her. Eventually she stopped, and laughed, and she said to me, “I’m bored!” It was some attempt at friendship or fun. When I had just met her, before I even knew her name, I had told her her hair was beautiful, in a sort of blunt, honest way that happened too early on in the meeting-someone process. But it had worked out somehow, and so there she was, humming next to me, making something, at least for the length of a walk.