At 6 p.m. on a Tuesday evening at a bar on Sunset Boulevard, I was drinking a pint and reading Lone Wolf and Cub.
S. walked in and sat down next to me, he was meeting a woman in a bit.
I asked, How are you?
Well, he said. All my belongings are in my car.
He was about to tell me more and I said, As are mine.
Why are all your things in your car?
The usual reasons.
What are the usual reasons?
Oh. You know.
Why aren’t you answering my question straight? he asked finally.
I don’t like answering questions that I have no interest in answering, I said. It’s nothing personal.
Most days, I house sit in Los Angeles. I water plants that aren’t mine, feed pets that aren’t mine, pick up mail not addressed to me. Most days, I live out of a suitcase. I find it comforting.
After we had sex, she said, We have to switch places. Because this is my side of the bed and that is your side of the bed.
I said nothing.
And everyone knows it, she added.
We switched places and she laid down on her side in a fetal position. I put my right arm around her tiny waist, kissed her bare shoulders. I felt her long brown hair against my cheek and fell asleep.
In the morning, I drove her to the airport. She was leaving Los Angeles for a few days and when she returned, my things would be gone.
J. let me stay at his apartment and I slept on the couch for two nights. On the third day, after we watched The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, I decided it was time to leave.
I grabbed my large, gray backpack and a plastic bag filled with travel size toiletries.
I looked at the bag and found myself saying, I have such an orphan complex.
That’s funny, J. replied. Just today I told my mom I fear abandonment.
Right now I am house sitting in Echo Park. There is a writing studio and the writing desk faces a floor-to-ceiling window. As I sit at the desk, I see the succulents in the ground and the lemons hanging on the branches. I see palm fronds and eucalyptus leaves that glitter in the sunlight.
Today I can’t stop staring at the red leaves in the garden. In the light, the little leaves look bright like blood, and I think, The beauty is distracting. I think, I have to focus, I have to edit.
Then I remember the place, the one place I won’t walk away from. The place is a concept. It’s a commitment to myself. I promised always to do what brings me happiness. Like stare at the blood red leaves or edit an interview for my favorite magazine.
Just this morning, I watched a hummingbird hover in the air. The beauty startled me and I began almost to cry. I became aware of the moment, small, tiny. I became aware of how fleeting it was. How fleeting life is, my life.
When she returned to Los Angeles, we had dinner at my favorite Thai restaurant. After she paid for dinner, we got up from the table and she said, I thought I did something wrong.
No, I said. I couldn’t look her in the eye.
I said, I just have trouble staying.