The point of acupuncture is to take your issues, your ailment, whatever it is, and poke it, just stab the problem to death, I told her. I had no idea if that was the point of acupuncture or if her question was about acupuncture. Was I just talking about acupuncture for no reason? I had completely forgotten. She looked at me like it didn’t matter and we kept walking. That’s what I love about her.
She’s fearlessly ambivalent. About everything.
It was the fifth of July. We were halfway around the world.
We found a little trail through the trees down to the lake. We followed it without talking, giving in to the lulling sounds of nature as bats emerged from the nearby hillside caves to feast on insects while golden sun rays flooded the lake to paint it copper, the air tropical and loud. In the distance a bald mountaintop poked thrown a crown of luscious trees. Dusk wore a magical coat making even a dragonfly transcendent and unreal, helicopter wings beating back time.
I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else right now.
“Do you know what they’re serving at the lodge later?” She asked.
I didn’t know.
We had been dating for a year now. Her dog has toys at my house.
We were supposed to fly back tomorrow, cross the International Date Line.
I thought about time-space and those old Einstein theories. “People cross paths with each other at a time when it’s impossible for them not to meet,” I told her. “Like, we’re these different planets that were slowly brought together by each others gravity. And Bali was created just for us and was always here waiting.”
There was a mongoose in the bushes that had caught her attention. I stopped and watched it with her. She never answered me.
We’re alone until we can’t stand it. Then we’re together until we can’t stand it.
This was painted in black on a wall in an alley in Oslo, Norway. It was a snowy day. It stood out from all the white around it. I don’t think the neighborhood cared that it was there. It looked old. There were trash cans next to it. Politely set to the side. I have no idea why this piece of graffiti sticks out in my mind. This was last April.
I’m different now.
There was a piece of chewing gum sitting on the table. It was still in its wrapper. I hate gum. Can’t stand gum. Never eat it.
But if this was going to be my last meal…
I looked at the man blocking the door and then at the chewing gum, then back to the man and back to the chewing gum, as if to say, ‘Is it cool?’
He nodded, as if to say, ‘It’s cool.’
That’s how I knew it was poisoned…
I looked at it closer and didn’t recognize the brand. Then I looked at the man blocking the door and I knew that he knew that I knew it was poisoned. So we just kinda looked at each other for a minute.
Do you like chewing gum? He asked, but in a dickheadish way, the kind of way somebody who is holding you hostage and offering you poisoned chewing gum would ask.
No, I don’t, I told him.
So, should I start crying now? I asked at the end of her rant.
She stared past me like watching somebody leave the room.
I’m not trying to be a dickhead, I just don’t know what to do. You always tell me I do the wrong thing, I explained.
You can’t win with her.
You know what’s the wrong thing, she started to say.
Never mind. It’s just not worth it.
She got up and closed herself in the bedroom.
I wondered if this was about the damn dog again.
There was a red shoe on the floor. I didn’t know whose red shoe it was. It made no sense. Was it already here? Should I notify somebody of the red shoe? Should I send an email?
What do you think? I asked him.
Does it matter right now? Sven yelled. He was wearing his Vans with the palm trees on them, the sirens screaming now. Let’s not debate this. Let’s go! He jumped up and down like he had to pee.
The sun streamed through the shutters, throwing bars of light across the floor. I walked over to the window and looked out one last time. There was a couple in the park. The girl walking ahead of the guy. I closed the shutters and the room became beige and lumpy, a light like porridge. We were on the third floor and would have to take the stairs to avoid the lobby.
You’re right, I told him. I grabbed the red shoe just to be safe and put it in my bag. Then I quietly shut the door behind us. I don’t think we’re going to get the deposit.
If you could be an animal on a totem pole, which animal would you be?
I wouldn’t want to be an animal on a totem pole.
I know. But if you were, say, the tribe forced you. They told you, ‘Pick! Either raccoon, trout, or eagle or we kill your whole family.’
They’re going to kill my whole family?
And, really, those are the three choices? I asked her.
Yeah, she said.
The tribe you’re a part of, silly.
I hated when she played these games.
Okay, trout, I said.
That night after we made love she asked if I wanted to redo my answer, she also added chipmunk and moose to the equation. Are you sure you want to keep trout? She asked.
I told her yes.
Easy Street is a 2-way street; just because you’re going one direction doesn’t mean you won’t be coming back the other some day. He was good for sayings like that. My pops. The thing with crowds, he’d tell me, is nobody knows what’s going on and everybody is looking for somebody who does. He never told me what to do with this knowledge, but last I heard about him he was in jail for pick-pocketing, so there’s that.
I wonder if dogs know how nice it is they let us play catch with them.
When she hit orgasm she emitted a little yip, like the single pluck of a steel guitar. It was a very distinct sound. It had been some time since I thought about that little yip. Last night I heard it. It was unmistakable. A one-second vibration buried in an afro-jazz tune. I always waited for her to cum before I finished. It was my trigger. Always. Last night was no different.
I was with my boss Doug discussing next week’s sales campaign. We were eating Ethiopian food in the Fairfax District. Eating with our hands.
It was weird.
If you could invent Los Angeles again would you?
What do you mean? I asked her. How would I change it?
No. You leave it the same, she insisted. What I’m asking is: if you were given a choice, whether this Los Angeles exists or it returns to fields of whatever, what would you say? Would you say yes to Los Angeles or to fields of whatever?
Yes to Los Angeles, I told her without thinking.
She was satisfied with the answer and continued with her adult coloring book, but now I remembered merging onto freeway on-ramps into a blood-red sea of brake lights; and that awkward moment when you’re deciding if the person in line behind you at the ATM is a criminal; or how somebody has to pick up the rental chairs at the end of the party, also, usually it’s a family, little kids there, too, working while everybody else is drunk and babbling and dribbling drinks like broken lawn sprinklers; or how an alley of shattered glass can look pretty, but only if it’s a collection of differently colored bottles, not just the clear ones, but green Heineken and brown Pacifico too, all of them finely glinting like deposits of precious stones… you throw your bottle and I’ll throw mine, that’s the only way to make this place work, if we all fuck it up together, I think to myself and immediately realize what I’ve done: how hard it is to walk upwind when the Santa Ana’s are blowing and how it’s a bittersweet miracle that we’re all here, nobly persevering through night sweats and movie premieres, seven million of us, placed together in tenuous tether of infinite chance and grit and drive and tectonic woe and I’m responsible. I’m the mother of Los Angeles.
After that, I decide I won’t ever answer another one of her crazy questions.
I don’t get it! What is the Barometric Code? This dude asked.
I never heard of that, I told him.
Oh, probably why I don’t get it.
Do you mean barometric pressure? I asked.
Never mind. It’s in Nebraska anyway.
(I’ve seen him in the neighborhood a bunch. This dude. He had a funny way about him.There was a looseness in his limbs that would make you think he lacked actual bones. And he’d do strange shit; like confuse the color brown with the concept of dirt. If you said, ‘I like your brown shirt,’ he’d think you were calling his shirt dirty. He swears ketchup is mayonnaise¹ and mustard mixed together. That type of shit. But sometimes he’s right. He once warned me not to eat spinach he could smell something weird on it and a week later there was a salmonella recall on the news. Then again, he once warned me that dogs were an alien species and they were secretly brainwashing their owners. He told me playing catch was their way of getting us outside where their ships could hack into our minds. He’s a funny dude.)
Are you going to be there later? He shouted, walking diagonally across the lawn.
I was going to ask him where but he was already waving me off, as if I wouldn’t understand anyway.
- Mayonnaise does not look like it should be spelled the way it is. The way it’s spelled looks like it should be a planet in a horrible space movie, in the Galaxy Marmalade. I don’t trust it. And don’t put Mayo on the label. Mayo isn’t a real thing.