I knew where I would go when I slammed the door. I had seen the sign a few days ago – Furnished Apartments – on a building on a street sloping up to the Hollywood sign.
I drove my orange and white Pinto there. It wasn’t far, but it was 3 in the morning. I parked, set the seat back as far as it would go, and slept.
I had gotten out. I was alone. And Jeffrey, the boyfriend, didn’t know where I was . I’d gotten this far before. I knew this sweet ecstatic feeling of finally being alone and able to move, speak, think freely. I knew too that he was lurking, not just over in the Fountain Avenue cottage, but in my brain. He was there, wanting to come back in. He always had before, but I had the door chained right now, there wasn’t the slightest chink he could look through. I was all alone.
I slept, parked on the street, the front of my car higher than the back, until early morning – 7am or so – when I rang the bell.
A small old woman in a dressing gown with dyed red hair and a burning cigarette came to the door and walked me up the stairs on bare, thin carpet, down a dark corridor to the second door on the right. It was a long sunny room with two windows at the end, a couch, coffee table, a long low bureau. I liked the small bathroom painted a robin’s egg blue, and I liked the built-in wooden table and benches in the kitchen, painted the same bright blue. The bed pulled out of the wall. It was fine. It was my place.
I bought a white bedspread from Pier One to cover the couch. I lived here.
There was a black and white TV on the floor. It was a pleasure not to have it on the way the color TV had always been on at Fountain Avenue. I watched it just enough to find out that Reagan had been re-elected, which took me by surprise. I had assumed a bad thing like that would not happen.
I liked the oversized black pullover I had with the V-neck. I liked its artsy look and on a day when my hair was long and dark and wavy I took photos of myself in this sweater in a mirror that was also in the main room.
It was hard to fill my life now that Jeffrey was not there, taking up all the space.
I wanted this to be a place where friends came. I didn’t really have any, but I worked with what I had.
I baked granola on cookie sheets in the oven, this wonderful new concoction that Muf, Jeffrey’s sister, my age, had learned with me, both of us happy to find something that the new health food books said was good for us that was also addictive.
In some ways, Muf was my friend. “But you probably wouldn’t be friends with me if I wasn’t Jeffrey’s sister,” she said sometimes, as if trying to pry the lid off of me and get to some buried secret that would be the truth, a good painful truth that would hurt her and hurt me.
But I did know her better than anyone else in L.A., and although she had the hardness that Jeffrey had, it was softer than his and I was usually ready for it, and I bought her a chef’s hat for Christmas and we bought our first Nikes together and tried this new thing called jogging, did it on Sunset Boulevard where it starts to get grassy.
And I invited another woman over, a woman with strawberry blonde hair who was a few years older than me. She had a house and a husband and there was something serious about her that made me feel that maybe we might be real friends. She came to my Hollwood-sign place and as we sat on my couch she told me about how her baby had died. From something she called crib death. I listened as best I could, but a baby and a baby dying seemed something out of my reach.
And Michelle came over to smoke pot and she said, “I can tell you don’t smoke cigarettes by the way you hold the match. Any smoker knows to hold it upright. See? It doesn’t burn so fast this way.”
And my father visited me here, after I wrote him that letter, the letter that wanted to break and break through all that had come before, the letter that told him how I really felt.
Jeffrey had pushed me to write the letter. Not directly. But in the five years with Jeffrey I had found out what it was like to be with someone close up, to have to say things sometimes, to be with someone who noticed you and asked you questions and put you on the spot. And it made me want to say some real things to my father, to say things that were different from all the make-believe things we usually said. “I’m going to be in Texas on business,” was his response. “How about I come to L.A. and visit you afterwards.”
He came to my place on a Friday night. He said he had already driven around and found the place he wanted to have dinner, a Japanese place, he said, with a beautiful view over the city.
“Do you mind if I get high?” I asked because this was who I was and this was the point of this meeting. Jeffrey got high with his various forms of parents, while mine didn’t know that pot was as close to them as it was.
My father wrinkled his nose, and said in some kind of cartoon voice, “Oh, no, I don’t think that would be very nice.” I deferred.
And as the dinner progressed – all lovely and to my father’s taste – I asked, “Well, Dad, do you want to talk about my letter?”
“Oh, let’s not do that now,” he said, leaning back and sipping his Scotch and soda. “We can do that tomorrow.”