Was it only a dream that Literature was once dangerous, that it had the power to awaken and change us? —Joy Williams
You’ll meet the thirsty assholes soon enough, someone tells me. Everyone’s in the business of producing, yet few have an idea of what it is that’s actually being produced. But they’re busy, and they’ll remind you of this by referencing their multiple calendars. They’re booked solid for the first half of September, but maybe we can squeeze in a coffee on the 24th between 10:30 and 11:45am? Thirsty, like the Sahara. Like, give this girl a thimble of water to drink. At least in New York they say a proper fuck you to your face (Hmm, not necessarily true. Cue social kisses and g-chat trash talk). But here, here, they got that knife in you, and they’re taking photos for their Instagram as they’re driving it all the way in. I pause and consider filters. I imagine a car. I imagine driving it. A small vehicle, something low to the ground so I can see the road ahead of me.
In California, I have cable television but regard it as white noise, a distraction. Mostly I watch movies on my laptop while black boxes collect dust. I wake and think, I live here. Although it feels natural to be here, at the same time it feels unnatural not to be there, and I sit in the discomfort known as the betweens. Later this month I may have to take a work trip to New York, and it feels strange to dread going home, because it’s no longer home, and you know how it is. Can’t I just sit still, even for a little while? I stayed in a hotel in New York once. We were ten teenagers renting a room in a hotel in midtown because we wanted to be fancy. I remember riding the elevators and roaming the halls. All the televisions were tuned to a different channel, and all I could hear were voices announcing a murder in the Park, a man screaming Edith! from his chair, a newscaster reading from sheets of paper: if we could just get to the root of the problem–all of which became a different kind of white noise. Hotels were, for me, a collection of voices that didn’t belong to the people inhabiting the rooms. I pictured vacant rooms with only the televisions turned up, if only to give the impression that people occupied these small spaces.
I pass a sign on the street, a bit of graffiti scratched on a wall: In case of earthquake, remain calm. My building rolls with the top down, which is to say that in the center of this structure is a man-made courtyard leading up to the sky. This morning I wonder what if it rained? What if the rain came down in sheets and flooded the halls, the railings spilling water over to the hallway carpets. What then?
Girl, you live in California now. There’s no more rain.
This morning a man shouts to an owner of a shop that sells expensive pastry: What are you doing for the white man, white man? A friend writes to ask me what riding the bus eight miles to West Hollywood was like. Someone emails to schedule a meeting. Why don’t we do it 1pm, your time? As if three hours were something I could claim, as if time was something I could own.
In California, I eat salads for lunch and order personal pan pizzas the size of two palms for dinner. I take pictures of fruit and think: This is pretty, this is bullshit. This is pretty bullshit. But in the end I can’t find an image that explains to you just how I feel.
My kitchen isn’t here yet, I tell someone. It’s somewhere between New York and Los Angeles. That’s why I keep calling for delivery, or maybe it’s for the joy of a stranger knowing my number, my name. Maybe it’s to fill the space that furniture has yet to occupy. Maybe your things don’t want to leave. LOL, a friend texts.
Over the weekend I walk along pavement that separates a ticker tape of houses from sand. For some reason I think of Beverly Hills 90210 and Kelly, David, and Donna living by the beach. I remember this! This all feels familiar, until I realize that that was a show and this is real and what’s familiar is an image of how one could live by the beach. I don’t know why this thought embarasses me, but it does. I buy tacos that are cooked medium and I’m too ashamed to send them back so I sit next to a man and offer him my food and we talk about the weather. He asks me where I live and I say, here. He points to the ground, and laughs, Yeah, me too. I stutter out an apology, feeling like an asshole, feeling my privilege. In response, he laughs again, says, What are you apologizing for? You gave me these tacos, some talk. That’s more than most. After a half hour I leave for home.
My kitchen isn’t here yet.
At night I work because the East is quiet. I wonder whether I should be doing something. Going out more. Seeing more. I wonder if I’ll grow lonely. I read this and it puts my heart on pause. I order pizza again, say my hellos and goodbyes to Pete, and work on this:
She’d outlived her best-by date. She accepted that she would never scramble eggs. She would always burn or break bread. She would only kneel in bed. Her skin would itch and blister after a man touched it. There would always be marks and stained sheets. She would never understand the nuances of dinner parties, where conversations required constant costume changes. She would never maw down to the bone. She was cautious of birds. She would live in a series of homes and never see the deed, never bear witness to the bill of sale. She pinned butterflies to the walls of her room to replace the mirrors that had been removed. The days would continue to leave their scars. She would never take her own life because she couldn’t bear the thought of writing the note. Instead, she’d leave behind other marks. She opens the bible and reads the book without understanding the story. It didn’t matter. In the end, the men will save. This is what she was told. What she needed to know was this: her role was to own the books and believe. Men would do the work.