Monday, March 10, 2008

please forgive the duplication

while most folks i know are loath to lose that precious hour at the start of daylight savings, i woke up yesterday morning and reset the clock on my nightstand with gusto. hello sunshine!

spring is still a couple of weeks away, but at 75 degrees and hardly a cloud in the sky, you wouldn't know it. yesterday i celebrated the near-perfect los angeles weather by riding my bike through griffith park. if i had a doctor, this would most certainly be against his orders, but i don't, and so i went, oblivious to the ache in my ankle. riding up the winding park roads, there were so many moments i wanted to get off my bike and hike the trails, but i knew this would be more damaging than the bike ride, and so i resisted.

i rode up through the hills, and eventually landed at the observatory. i'd never been there.

my injury-induced blogger's block persists. instead of writing about the observatory, here's a related post from my other (not-public) blog, written before i got hurt:

I keep running into Chris - you know, Michelle's brother? I hadn't seen him since we were together, but suddenly he's around the Doll Factory a lot. He's friends with an artist who rents studio space from us. Some nights during practice, on my way to the bathroom, I skate through the empty factory - the spaces where our track isn't - the industrial-looking void filled by bands and vendors and fans during the games. In a room to my right, I'll catch a glimpse of Chris sitting among the dozens of red velveteen-covered busts his artist-friend has made. Affixed to the head of each identical bust is a red velveteen Mouseketeer cap. Chris and I will wave to each other as I pass.

The first time I saw him was back in September, and it wasn't inside the Factory. I didn't recognize him right away. I was riding my bike down Hollywood Blvd, running errands, trying to get everything together before I left for Europe that Monday. I stopped to lock my bike somewhere between Hillhurst and Vermont when I heard my name spoken as a question: "Meghan?"

Standing on the sidewalk, waving at me, he knew that I didn't know who he was. "It's Chris! Tony's friend!" I took him in: the round face, light brown skin, receding hairline. I looked down and saw the belly hanging over the top of his pants. Finally, something clicked. Synapses fired, connections were made, and I saw that house in Highland Park. Early Fleetwood Mac on the TV screen (pre-Nicks and Buckingham). I heard Michelle's band in my head, I saw the 45 on our turntable. And then I was back in our old apartment - at a party we had. Was it a housewarming? Lewis took those black and white photos of us in the Herman Miller shell chair. I was sitting in your lap. Chris was there that night, and I still have those chairs though lately I've been thinking about selling them and upgrading to something more comfortable.

"Oh! Chris! Hey, it's been a while...."

We spent a couple of minutes catching up. He said he was headed to Barnsdall Art Park to fly a kite and would I like to come. He was with another guy, someone I'd never met before, but who looked exactly like the sort of dude who would hang with that crew from our past: crooked teeth, shaggy hair, ill-fitting thrift store clothes. I had promised myself that I was going to fly a kite this summer (this was actually an item on a "to do" list somewhere), but it hadn't happened yet, and here it was September. Summer had other places to be; you could feel it in the breeze. Besides, I was leaving for London in a couple of days. It was now or never.

"OK," I said. "I'm going to Rite-Aid first and then I'll meet you there."

At Rite-Aid, I bought the travel-sized toiletries I needed for my trip plus an ice cream cone. Then I made for the park.

At the base of the grass-covered hill, a Frank Lloyd Wright building perched at its summit, I locked my bike. I climbed to the crest, and when I got there, I turned around and looked. The sky was so blue it ached. I stared into into the face of Mount Hollywood, and the domes of Griffith Observatory twinkled at me. Do you remember that it was closed the entire time you lived in L.A.? It finally reopened after five years of renovation - enough time for us to come here and break up; for you to move to Seattle and then back to Tucson; for me to live through a whole relationship with someone else. I haven't been to the Observatory though this is also on a to-do list somewhere.

Just to the left of the domes was the Hollywood sign: Home, an unpacked suitcase waiting.

Chris hadn't designated a meeting spot. When I turned away from the mountains, I saw a diaphanous penguin hit the sky, sunlight pouring through it - a flightless bird, soaring! This was my signal, and so I followed it.

I found Chris unfurling his line, fishing in reverse, the two-dimensional bird flailing above. Beneath us, splayed out on the grass, his friend was taking pictures as if to prove this day really happened, that we did this thing: We went to the park and flew a kite. Chris handed me the line.

"You want to give it a shot?"

I held the line, felt the tug, watched the penguin twist and dart, slicing through the places where -- in some other city -- there might be clouds.

I read Shortcomings recently. I know you hate Adrian Tomine, but christ, if he isn't you. The Ben Tanaka character, I mean, who reads like a stand-in for the author. It's the constant mocking of everything and everyone; the impossible introversion; the fetishization of white women; the fear of change; the unrelenting negativity. These things make me think of you.

We passed the line back and forth and the friend took pictures. We didn't talk much. Chris told me that he and Alana had broken up. I had a hard time picturing her in my head. Long brown hair and crooked teeth? Seems about right.

I've never found another mouth like yours. Or met someone who makes me feel like you did during those first few months -- before I got pregnant and unpregnant; before we moved in together; before we came to L.A.

Sometimes I think we were always trying to get back to the beginning: You in Tucson, me in Tempe, the driving back and forth across the desert to see each other, and how the very first thing we did, always, was fuck. We'd walk through each other's doors and immediately shed our clothes. Molting snakes, we'd slide into each other's beds, and coil around each other. You were terrified of cars, but you learned to drive for me. Funny how you're back in Tucson, still driving after all those years on foot, and here I am in L.A. of all places without a car.

I never wanted to come here. The thought never crossed my mind until I met you. But look at me now: flying a kite over this city I've made my home. I was wrong about this place. I'm sorry I gave you such a hard time about it.

Soon, I will be riding my bicycle through Normandy on my way to Paris. Outside of Rouen, the rain will start. L.A. has spoiled me. Despite all of the preparations I've made for this trip -- the miniature containers and vials I've filled with my potions, the tiny loofah, the portable speakers so we can dance in our hotel rooms -- I did not pack appropriate rain gear or even a pair of contacts. As the chateaus and pastures and masticating cows blur past, above me the air is crashing. The clouds are too heavy, and so they release their burden onto the four of us, the bicyclists below. The water splatters across my glasses and soon I can barely make out the wheel spinning in front of me. This is why cars have windshield wipers. My companions saw this coming. They are wearing waterproof jackets while I grow heavy with the weight of so much water. I do not give the signal to stop because what's the point? The moment we do, I will be cold. I convince myself that I am moving so fast, the liquid is flying off me, incapable of sticking. It cannot penetrate the fortress of my cotton hoodie. It is a delusion, I know this, and meanwhile, my clothes are reshaping themselves, forming a wet cast around my body. I am being Plaster of Parised. I pretend not to notice.

In the middle of all this countryside, there is a store, a big gray box rising into the gray sky, an almost imperceptible break in the landscape. We stop. Inside this box, it's a bargain basement closeout kind of store, and they are selling Nutella and picture frames at heavily discounted prices. From behind the glass of these frames, of which there are dozens, the same attractive French couple smiles at me. Nearby, something catches my eye: the sheen of plastic packaging in my periphery. Beneath the plastic are a man and a woman in matching rain ponchos. Hers is red, his is blue, and between each of their legs is a bicycle. Their feet are planted on the ground as if they have reached the final destination on their journey - a white room. They are dry, and their ecstatic grins mirror my own. The ponchos fit over their handlebars, protecting their hands and thighs from the imaginary deluge they've escaped. They're practically tents, so we each buy one, and outside of the gray box, we slip into our new outfits, modeling for each other. We look like the Beatles on the cover of Help!, and we pose for pictures, the requisite documentation. Then we remount, pointing ourselves toward Paris. We depart the parking lot in a single file procession, floats sailing in a parade, red and red and blue and then red. Our ponchos are expanding, billowing: flags of victory.

In a few weeks when I return from London, I will step outside the airport and, as predicted, summer in Los Angeles is gone. Fall has arrived, but the palm trees don't notice. I will wear a cardigan, and come winter, a jacket. Maybe a scarf when I'm riding my bike near the Silver Lake Reservoir at night, past our old apartment. I prefer the summer, but if we're really being honest, the weather doesn't change much here.

2 comments:

Georgia said...

I know I've said it before...but I love that entry!

bryan said...

Thank you for posting this here. I think it's very well written. Moving, even.