Today in Los Angeles…
The sun shone August bright, Cindy Langston strode into the Borders on Ventura Boulevard with her cotton dress flowing deceivingly free behind her, her frog shaped glasses hiding bloodshot eyes.
She was on a mission to elevate her library, the few shabby books that accounted for it at least; hopefully to find answers to questions she tries to avoid because the shape of them in her mind forms a dreary prospect of her future self.
But lately it’s been happening, the existential fog of endless sunny days and liquor-drenched masquerades.
What the fuck am I doing here?
The night before, after the show, the lead singer, sweat still on his brow, told her of this book he’d just read, his bashful eyes staring into her soul, she could have sworn, as she stirred her straw and watched the cranberry & vodka tidepool and listened to the clinking of the ice, that he was an angel of sorts, here to save her. An angel with whisky breath and a torn white t-shirt.
That’s when he put his hand on hers.
The bookstore reminded her of college, made her long for a time that was only a handful of years ago but might as well be separated by mountains, as indeed they are. They were. They are, they were. She thought of Boulder tenderly, those drunken care-free nights in the snow, bouncing bar to bar and seemingly having hundreds of conversations with a hundred close strangers.
Here; she goes out to the fancy places, with the fortunately beautiful and the paparazzi, and she is lucky to yell into a couple of ears, luckier to steal a moment or two of talk by the bathrooms. You never really meet people in this town, she was thinking, you just introduce yourself and hope to remember their name.
Cindy found the book the musician had insisted she buy. She picked it up and the blue cover with the boy in the boat with a tiger gave her an unsettling feeling. The price was an even fourteen bucks and just today she noted it had been 14 months since she moved to L.A. She probably had a dollar saved from each month, just enough to buy this book.
Where the fuck has it gone?
The money? The money. Money. Money. Money.
Cindy read the back cover, feeling her hangover worsen under the bookstore lights, amid the dust and the quiet, roaming people, and with the struggle of reading the text. A pang in her temples, nausea, the need to get out of there and get some fresh air. She felt like she had one second to make a decision.
Put the book back down and continue to flirt and fake it all the way through until the looks fade; or buy it and change her life into something meaningful, something her parents would beam at?
What was it that he had said about the book again? Fun and enlightening? Was he a musician or a book critic? And what was his name again?
She felt a chill blast her side like a walk-in freezer door opened nearby and turned to catch a fussy, bedraggled twit of an old man with exploding ear hair staring at her lasciviously and gumming his lower lip.
Eech, this fucking town!
She returned the book to the shelf and pirouetted out of the Borders into the flash of the afternoon sun shrieking into the San Fernando Valley. Cindy now had fourteen dollars to spend. If she was going to be stared at like that it might as well be by struggling, handsome rock stars and B-list TV actors.
It will take more than a book to change this girl, she thought to herself with surprising pride. She was already making plans for the night, had an urge to dance. Her hangover cleared with her decision and flight.
Conversations and books are overrated, anyway.