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Californiacation

He thinks he is a rabbit. Small, young, jovial. Walking through fields, past lakes, hiding in caves. He thinks he will never die. He wants to look for something but doesn’t quite know what it is.

It is a big world. A huge, beautiful place. And even more, the universe, but one planet is more than enough for most of us, for a lifetime of adventures or of hiding in caves.

I have been old for many years. Since I was 10, knowing I was no longer singular. And now, 26, four or five gray hairs on my head, a candle flickering beside me, burning away.

I see you sitting there and growing old. I see your armchair is comfortable with you.

I know there are many different types of stories. What I don’t know is what kind mine is. How can it plot out a path if I keep moving? What if it never forms to anything? I’m not running away, just searching, running towards.

I had a dream last night that I was in school. I got good grades. I showed my grandfather. He said something like, “good, you can be a teacher.” And I replied with, “maybe when I’m older.” And he laughed, implying I’m there now.

When does youth leave you? What day? When do you become old and no longer young?

Count the days. Count the lines on your face. Count the moments of happiness. When does it happen?

So far it has been mostly the same. Wonderful days and days we wait out. Bunker down to hide from them. Seek the weekends. The two of seven days that belong just to us. The freedom.

I hear a door shut. I can hear my neighbors upstairs. I don’t know them. I never will. I am leaving and I will never have said hello.

I sit at the traffic light often, waiting, almost home, or almost to work, or almost to somewhere. I watch people drive by, alone, their turn to move. No more waiting. Still ignoring everyone except those who might cross their path.

We made this world. It has grown up with us. We raised it, taught it how to behave, how to drive, how to wait. We showed it what to care about, what not to. Together we ignore the man standing in the middle of the road with a sign. We tell ourselves he doesn’t need us. He’s a trick. He’s a lie. We can’t love him like we love our mother, we’d never get home to her. Maybe it’s human. Maybe it’s not.

I am not done searching. I haven’t found anything yet. All I can do is keep going and hope the world doesn’t ruin me. It hasn’t so far.

I love you.

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I was laying in bed thinking about how I miss the sixties and also how I have practically no idea what the sixties were like but that my mom was born then and my dad was young then and my grandmother was alive then.

It is such a rush. We are all in such a rush. Where are we all going? There is only death at the end.

My grandmother died when I was 3. I remember her as a tall, thin, cherry of a woman. She looks elegant in photographs. I think about her a lot, though there’s not much to think.

I’m going to be 26 next month. That’s happening. I don’t know how. My mom called me old last time I talked to her on the phone. How did that happen? I wasn’t even rushing.

I have a cute apartment. I like it a lot. There’s lots of windows and sunshine and pillows and plants. That’s happening. I still want to run away from all of it; I still plan to. I still don’t want to be the person with a nice car and a nice, well-paying, boring job. I never want to be that.

My grandmother was that. She was a proper lady of the fifties, with lots of babies and a full-time job at a car factory. She was beautiful. I wear her jewelry now. She died of Leukemia.

It all ends in death or changes which is another death. All I want to do is fill up my life with colors and adventures and happiness and lovely people for as long as I can.

Happy Spring.

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He walks into his life with a nasty grimace on his face. He is tired of everyone already. It is all repetition with only a few beautiful moments. It is all time being traded for other things not as priceless.

He got a tattoo on his right arm near his elbow when he was about 23. It says family, even though he hates his family. He stole his mother’s jewelry and gave his sister a black eye for Thanksgiving. There’s more, but that’s all repetition and no beautiful moments.

In the Summer, in some places, there is light for 24 hours. It is hard to sleep. People get used to it. Then it changes. This is important but you can figure out for yourself why.

The man with the grimace loves me. He’s not very good at showing it. So instead we fight and give each other figurative black eyes that last for months and stop us from speaking.

My brain hates repetition. The same office chair, the same people, the same city, the same stop lights, the same food, the same love, the same words, the same good mornings, the same country, the same world. Everything gets better and then worse and never really changes. And we get used to it. The sun rises and sets. Bruises heal and we mostly forget them until the next one.

My memory is bad. Worse, I think, than most peoples. I don’t know why. It’s never been very good. Maybe my brain is bad. Too simple. It thinks simply. Uses small words. Is incapable of remembering. Doesn’t care about trying to sound impressive when the story can be told easily and simply and slowly.

I love him, I think. But we will always keep hurting each other. We don’t get used to it. We don’t have the words to get along. Most things are not tattooed and permanent. Love isn’t. People aren’t. Repetition might be.

 

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I am a fucking child of snow.

I flew into Detroit the day before Christmas eve and saw the blanket of white covering our bit of Earth. Veins of streets that had already been plowed and salted and driven over fearlessly. Strong winter people.

I had a window seat and as we landed I watched the world tilt and wrote poems in my head about the lines and the white and the snowy trees; “Thin but sturdy mother fuckers who hold their weight in frost every year.”

No wonder we are better at living our lives than those sunny Californians. Not living through seasons seems like the equivalent of being an only child.

I would like to tell him to stop listening to the songs I sent him. I would like to tell him to forget me. I would like to pretend none of it ever happened. Cover it with snow and let it melt away in the sun a few weeks from now.

I am a strong person. And weak. I am a snow-covered tree.

Seasons are reliable. Unreliable weather is reliable. My memory is bad. My sight is getting worse. I am old and still have no idea where I’m going and it’s getting harder to see.

I love you but it is cold and California is far away.

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.

 

hi, want to be friends? i don’t have many here. we could get in n out together, if you’re down, even though it’s really not that good. yes, i said it. i should tell you, though, i’m not very good at being with you yet. especially driving. all these u-turns are confusing and sometimes i get distracted by the palm trees. also, i use too much of your water. i’m sorry! i’m from michigan, that one state literally surrounded by water, so forgive me, ok? you just keep having nice weather and i’ll keep trying to be a good resident. now, let’s go to the beach.

The jet engines roared and I was pushed further back into the uncomfortable aisle seat of the plane.

We’re going into the sky, people! Wake up! The sky! We’re freaking flying!

The flight was to be almost four hours long, headed East, gaining three hours as we flew. It was dark, midnight, and the flight attendants asked for the window shades to stay down, as the sun would soon be coming up. For that reason, I couldn’t watch, even from my aisle seat, as we left the ground. Instead, I closed my eyes and felt my body tipping. We were flying. There was no longer such a thing as “level” or “up” or “down”. If you’ve flown before, if you’ve looked out the window as the plane tilts, you know what this means. Flying. It’s very different from anything else.

Electronics turned off, forced into the 1800s by the man over the speaker, you lose track of time. You almost forget it exists. You want to, anyway, because the seat is uncomfortable and you don’t want to know that that nap you just took that seemed like it lasted for hours was really only fifteen minutes, and you are really not very much closer to your final destination, as they say.

No such thing as time, or space. And surrounded by strangers. The man in your row who couldn’t stop talking before take-off sits by the window, leaning against the side of the plane, dozing. The man who wore a cowboy hat on the plane  — is he a real cowboy? — who sits in the middle and is made of only arms and legs and keeps knocking his foot into your foot as he adjusts his sleeping position, attempting to make himself comfortable, and failing, and making you uncomfortable, too. All the rest of them, the boy with too-large muscles, the latino couple across the aisle who made polite chit-chat with the weird older guy who boarded the plane late with too much luggage, the group of three young brothers who are spread throughout the back of the plane, passing around bags of food and making the other passengers laugh with, “Marcus! Marcus! Can we eat yet?” Somehow you’re all not really strangers, at least while in the sky.

Long hours, what seems like hours, anyway, pass, and the voices over the speaker tell you many different things, things you’ll forget afterward, but remember again when you board another plane, even if it’s a month later, or four years: “The captain has turned off the seatbelt light. The captain has turned on the seatbelt light. We’ll shortly begin serving free drinks and expensive bags of pretzels. Please make sure your tray tables are stowed and your seats are in the upright position. You may now use your cell phone, if it is within reach. We thank you for flying with us today, and hope to see you again soon.”

The plane touches down, and you feel it, but you can’t watch the ground as it quickly grows larger. Someone opens a window shade rebelliously, and the plane is filled with light. Only then does everyone remember that’s morning, that time has passed, that we have just crossed our country in the air. Phones are immediately turned on, time is checked, people jump up to claim their bags and then stand, waiting. Gravity has returned, time has returned, and once again we are a group of strangers, ready to head to our final destination.

But flying is different. And although travelers part ways, although the man with the cowboy hat takes his cowboy hat and goes about his business, there will always be those strange hours when hours did not exist, when one day became another and we were in the sky and didn’t notice, and didn’t know. When time did not exist, and the only way to know what time it was was to look out the window  and wonder what state, exactly, was that tiny car driving in? And where was that person going? And did they see the other tiny car on the other street, not far from them? And would they ever meet that person they passed by, so closely? Would they ever know how close they came? Would we?