It was her first fall in LA-LA.
“What is — this place, out here?” she thought, when she noticed that beauty wasn’t throwing itself, suicidally, into her face. Or, humanity, for that matter.
“May I, at least, have some humanity, around here?”
On those first mornings when she woke up in soaked sheets, she would slide open the windows to air-out her bedroom. But it made no difference. The heat would keep hanging at the ceiling of her top floor apartment — much more spacious than the one she dwelled in, back in New York. And by the end of the day, its molecules smelled of smog — and of her own sweat.
And the sweat was different here, too. In the heat of August that made New Yorkers flee the City, she loved to venture out into the streets, still just as crowded, but mostly with baffled tourists — not locals — who would jump out of her way, startled by her outraged footsteps. She would walk around for hours, feeling the unmistakable humidity that made the City smell like rotten garbage and, yes, human sweat. And while she stood on subway platforms, she could feel the drops of her own perspiration slide slowly from her ass cheeks to the back of her knees, under her long skirts. She felt the whiff of sex, hers and others’: And it promised — more life.
There seemed to be some unexpected romance in those days: For the first time, she finally felt like she was belonging. But how could she belong in a place she was leaving, so soon?
The one-way ticket already had been bought by her mother, who upon hearing the news of the divorce, put away her dramatics and got stoic, for a change:
“You’re coming to California,” motha said over the phone.
“You make me sound like a folk song,” she thought, in response. Yet, she obeyed.
It was the wisdom of the women of her motha’s clan — to never plead or grovel for a man to change his mind.
She was going to California.
There would be plenty of chaos upon her landing: Finding an apartment seemed easier; for there always seemed to be plenty of departing who packed up their shit into double-parked U-Halls, sweating and swearing at the city’s expense. But the city’s leasers seemed indecisive and slow.
“Everyone keeps acting as if they’ve got better choices, out here,” she told her best friend in New York. “Or, they just namedrop.”
Like the little man with glistening eyes who, despite being bound to a wheel-chair, managed to lurk over her when interviewing her for a roommate position. On his living-room wall, she could see a framed, autographed poster of a recently released indie flick that was pretty well reviewed in The Times, that summer.
“I produced that,” the little man said, reminding her of one those exotic birds on the Discovery Channel that puff themselves up into alien shapes — just to get some tail. From under the smeared lenses of his glasses, his narrow eyes were sliding up and down her body. His face was glistening with sweat. She got up, feeling like she needed a shower at the closest motel she could find, on Sunset Boulevard.
“Well, what do you think?” the little man wheeled after her, to the door, lurking. “I could make you a star!”
She walked out.
“Really?” her best friend said calmly. “Do they actually say things like that, out there?”
And then, there was the job search, in which every lobby looked like a waiting room for an audition or a cattle call. And no one else seemed to be breaking a sweat, after driving in the apocalyptic-degree heat.
“We aren’t making any decisions right now,” the interviewers kept saying. “But we’ll keep your resume on file.”
“Then, why did you waste my time?” she actually said to a group of young entrepreneurs who looked like the cast of Entourage and, after sliding their eyes up and down her body, asked her to tell them “something they couldn’t have known — by looking at her”. (She told them she was good at harakiri.)
She walked out, got back into her car and wasted more time. The heat outside was still insatiable! And in the midst of it, everyone was always up for a hike. Or “a coffee date, sometime”.
The rain would finally come by the end of October. And it wouldn’t stop.
The roads would get shiny at first, and for the first time, since landing, she would smell the nearing of another season — not of her own sweat. The nights would get cold, and she would insist on walking, to any outside cafe, on Sunset Boulevard, and getting soaked. It was the first time she would cry the tears worthy of the women of her motha’s clan: They weren’t filled with self-pity anymore, but with rage. And rage — was always better, for survival.
Finally, there would be a callback for a maitre d’ position at some pretentious overpriced restaurant, on the West Side, with a diva-chef in the kitchen. She would swim in her motha’s decade-old clunker to other side of the city. Driving in the middle lane seemed safer, but some maniac in a German car would always honk and zoom past her, on the right, and give her car a full rinse with the filthy water from the gutters.
“You’re terribly overqualified,” the general manager with a bulldog’s jaw would tell her, at the end, after the two-hour drive.
She got up and tried to make it to the door without breaking down into another outraged tear shed. Her scuffed shoes made a chomping sound: Her feet were soaked. So was her hair.
He would follow her, to the door:
“We’ll keep your resume on file though,” he’d say.
“Please, don’t!” she actually said.
Because it was the wisdom of the women of her motha’s clan to never plead for a man to change his mind.
She walked out.