I’m on the 405, northbound. Where I’m heading — is not really my kinda town, but it’s pretty enough.
Along the 405, such towns don’t seem to exist. But I could always jump onto the 101 — and go home.
It’s one hell of a hubris to assume that I could ever even have a home. I’ve given it up, years ago, right around the time when most children cling to theirs. They reach out for a sliver of Life in college, taste it, then scurry home to regurgitate it inside their childhood bedrooms still decorated with high school plaques and the faces of their expired heros.
And they whine:
“I’v changed my mind: I am not hungry anymore. I’d rather stay home.”
In spoonfuls, I ate mine up.
And then, I asked for seconds.
How Life flooded in! And it continues to do so if I keep admitting to myself that I possess more hunger in me than most grown-up children I know.
Sometimes, my eyes are bigger than my stomach, but the ego doesn’t admit it: It just stands there, a scarecrow in the path of a hurricane.
“I can handle it!” it boasts — and when I withstand; soon enough, I ask for seconds.
The things is: You have got to keep raising the stakes! Other people won’t do it for you. You — only you! — know how much you can handle; and even if you don’t, there will be a growl in the pit of your stomach that tells you: You can! You know you want it! C’mon!
And if you don’t do it, Life will flood in on its own, without asking, but this time it will break down all the levees to shit. Then, you’ll be hustling around, trying to catch up; trying to pick up the pieces:
“But I wasn’t hungry,” you’ll whine again. “This is too much! Why does this always happen — to me?!”
I pull off the road to fill up the tank. At the service station nearby, I watch two heavyset mechanics trying to decipher something on their computer. They mirror each other in the way they jam their bent wrists into the non-existent waistlines. And all this could be idilic, except this is not really my kinda town.
And then, one of the mechanic whines:
“Is it time for lunch yet? I’m not even hungry but bored outta my mind here, today!”
I keep on driving. The sunlight bounces off the gas station signs and it blinds with something called V-Power.
I jump onto the 101 after all.
But by god, it is so beautiful around here! After all of these years, I still haven’t gotten used to the sight of palm trees. They stick out, like gentle, goofy giraffes, and they make me chuckle with an awareness of Here: However odd or unimaginable, my Here — is very specific.
The rest of my Here sprawls out for miles. It winds up, then drops down into the valleys colored with that deep green of my former home — so deep, it seems purple — it’s breathtaking. When the roads narrow, I’m likely to slip in between two peaks.
I pass the burnt out hills: It’s the end of summer, and the drought is yet to come. So are the fires. Yet, I have never seen such a shade of orange before: It announces the proximity of possible disaster. How thrilling!
There is an occasional greenery around planned communities where all the houses look alike with their pastel colors and idilic laziness: They are — other children’s homes.
Except that these are not really my kinda towns:
My towns must be rougher around the edges.
So, these are not my kinda homes.
The PCH greets me with a marine layer that I’ve been taking for granted since leaving my home: At home, that layer is perpetual. Over there, they stumble through fog. Over there, they cope. Life floods in daily, over there; yet, still the days pass in a perpetual state of denial, unreadiness and self-pity.
But I never wanted to cope. I wanted to live.
So, I’ve given up my home, years ago.
Besides, there was nothing left over there to cling to. Life has flooded in so much, it has taken all the levees out completely; and many have given up on picking up the piece. Instead, they choose to live in ruins, until Life floods in again. And then, they cope.
But Here: Here — is where I live! And by god, it is so beautiful — around Here!
The fog is burning out quicker than I can burn the miles. The smell of the Ocean slips inside my car. I roll down the windows. Take the hair down. The Ocean is stretching until the horizon, and right past it, I think, is where my home used to be. Not anymore.
HOME. HOME. HOME.
I speed up, homebound.
These towns are all very pretty. But they are not really my kinda towns:
My town must be rougher around the edges.
It’s a two-lane road, from Here. I see the arrows, pointing onward: