Chapter 13: From Los Angeles

“I’m driving along Sunset Boulevard, past CBS News and…lots of other buildings. The Metropolitan Hotel and Plaza. This is Los Angeles, there are lots of things here. Lots of coffee shops and fast food chains, TV stations. “What if we don’t want the Hollywood Freeway?” is my question. What if? Is it possible not to take it? I don’t know. Gas is expensive in California, $2.70. My God.”

Ah, the illustrious, phantasmal paragon that is Molly. On my first night in Los Angeles she called between 9:30 and 10:00pm to say that her engagement was running late. We would not be meeting. In spite of my initial nervousness and anxiety, I was still disappointed. I had hoped to spend as much time with her as possible while in town. All these months, years even, of knowing a person but not knowing them. Last summer, in Tucson, I thought I had caught a glimpse. And ever since then I have been yearning to fully experience her. Saddened by the news, I filled a glass with Jack Daniels and stirred in a shot of Coke. We four (my hosts Corey, Laura, Kevin and I) played a board game. The whole time I wanted out. I wanted to talk with her, to greet and hug her. I went to sleep late, and made plans to keep myself busy the next day. Echo Park. Silver Lake. Neighborhoods I’d heard about from my friend Ilya where I could explore for hours. I’d have to stay busy to keep my mind from wandering. What does she look like now? How tall is she? How thin? Questions flooded my thoughts. I awoke the next morning with a firm kick to the air mattress.
“Wake up, Asshole!” It was Kevin.

I was sweating, nervous, light-headed and panicked. I tried talking myself down from that terrifying state. As if a meeting with the auspicious angel with whom I had been enamored of for quite some time didn’t matter at all. I’m surprised that I didn’t run the Volvo off Laurel Canyon my hands were so slick on the steering wheel. Her directions were perfect. Studio City looked wild from a passing car. An endless series of strip malls, stores, hotels and apartments. Not quite neighborhood, not quite a bustling little city. I parked on the far end of her street, pretty much as distant as could be—the last spot available on the street. I straightened up as I closed in. With numb legs I tried to find my stride. I buzzed her apartment and she answered with, “Herro?” before buzzing me in. I opened the door and heard her voice singing, “Evan,” from around the corner. I looked, and there she was.

Molly is stands tall and fair and preternaturally thin. Those were the characteristics I first noticed. We hugged and greeted one another. I took a first look at her blazing green eyes, thin, pink lips, and long, stick-straight blonde hair. She was beautiful. She showed me inside her place, where her kitten greeted me. Molly went to the kitchen, to finish rinsing dishes. I made a quip about LA being kind of cool, like a smaller New Jersey. She sat and asked if I wanted to get high, but I told her about my no drugs rule on this trip. After all, if I am a traveler recording everything he sees and hears, it is best not to be impaired. Alcohol, on the other hand, improves my memory. It also eases my inhibitions when I need to write with brutal honesty. Like right now.

I asked if she was hungry and I suggested In-N-Out. She appeared excited to be taking me for my first meal there. We walked through the apartment complex’s garage to her SUV and talked about her roommate and her job. At some point, she told me Studio City was cheaper than the other side of the canyon, and she boasted about her central air-conditioning unit. Corey’s apartment in West L.A. had no A/C. We got to In-N-Out with the Beatles playing on her car stereo, circled around the lot a few times, and eventually found a spot. As we walked inside the burger joint, she told me her favorite item was a Number 2 (cheeseburger, fries, and a soft drink), so that’s what I ordered. I asked for it without grilled onions and she berated me for getting it “Animal Style.” I wasn’t sure how it would alter my reaction, but she was adamant about the onions making a huge difference in taste. She stood and got our order when it was ready and when she returned she wanted to hear crazy road stories. I talked about Douglas in Saint Louis, the girl at the cigar shop in Austin and Ben Michael’s in Albuquerque. She thought it incredible how I’ll have all these great stories tied to distinct places for the rest of my life. I was drawn to her eyes. The conversation continued out to the car and back to her place.

She took a few hits from a small glass bowl and put on an episode of Gilmore Girls. Within a matter of moments we were up off the couches and I got the full tour of her place. Her room was great. Very minimalist. I picked up her guitar. She asked me to play a song but didn’t know how to without seeming vain. What would I have played? A song inspired by a late night conversation between us? Between Allentown and Tucson? Or maybe I would bust out an obscure, funny cover? Like Chris Isaak or Candlebox. Nothing, is what I’ll remember having decided. I saw her roommate’s room and then we moved downstairs. Back on the couches I received a call from Emma that I ignored. Molly wanted the story. I followed her to the landing at the foot of her staircase. We sat facing one another in the cramped space, knees bent, she toeing the base of the carpeted stairwell and I toeing the wall against which she reclined. I told her the sagas of Emma and Beth. She asked questions. I tried answer. We played with her cat as we talked, taking turns throwing little balls of tin foil up the stairs for the kitten to chase. We laughed and talked. We traveled back in time to high school and college for stories. She told me my voice was endearing. What does endearing mean? I always thought that word was pejorative.

She ran over to her pocketbook for some lip-balm. I watched her as we spoke. The kitten clawed at my finger, its nail became stuck, and drew blood. Molly got a wet tissue for me and commented about leaving a part of myself on her floor. I wanted to kiss her right there. Pathetic. Nothing like a perverse pun to kick my sex drive into gear. She left the landing and plopped down again on her couch. I sat on the adjacent couch. She watched an episode of Gilmore Girls and I watched her. She had this goofy look on her face and her lips glistened. Maybe she was transfixed on the show. Maybe she knew I was watching her. Maybe she was tired of my company. She cracked a smile and I wanted to lunge for it. Forget other girls, this mythical woman—Molly—was here now. And then the clock struck midnight. Not literally midnight, I just mean that in the way it’s used in fairy tales. She had a friend’s mother’s birthday party to attend. It was time for me to leave. We stood together in her living room and hugged, harder than before, before slowly disconnecting. It easily could have been only me hugging harder. I held the skinny girl and kissed her forehead. She might have blown a kiss as the door slid shut behind me, but it could also have been my imagination.

A few hours, and then the whole thing comes to an unsatisfying end. How do you say goodbye to someone like this and move on to the next city? How do you teach yourself to hide, diminish, or slay feelings for someone that will not go away?

The things I have seen and the people I have encountered on this trip will not be forgotten. The beauty in every moment is unfathomable. My life right now is so close to perfection. I’m just never ready to say goodbye. I could see myself forever living in any of these cities. Louisville, Los Angeles or Tucson. Austin, Chicago, or Saint Louis. Maybe not Tulsa. Maybe not Abilene or Lubbock. I am in love with the road. Until tonight there has been no fear. There have been no problems. I am at peace with myself while I am soaking in the earth. For the first time in all my years of adulthood I fear nothing. Well, maybe one thing…

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