I sit on the bus and look out the window. I am going to the office. This is vile. I got a job working for a man named Larry. There is him in his private office, me outside his office at a desk and Roxanne, the receptionist, who sits near the door and answers the phone. She’s older than me, not pretty, not anything. A woman with long painted nails who talks about what’s on sale.
Larry sells advertising in the Yellow Pages. I got the job by answering an ad. I have worked in lots of offices, mostly as a temp. This is my first full-time job, the first time I have not been going to school.
I am the only person in Los Angeles who doesn’t have a car. Jeffrey has one. He has a Mercedes Of course. That’s what Jeffrey would have. It’s an old Mercedes with four doors and we just drove across the country in it, with Golem, his black tail-less cat.
We live now in a small white cottage surrounded by big-leafed plants and shaded by unfamiliar trees even though it’s March. There is a lime-green-and-white shag carpet wall-to-wall on the floor of the living room, the bedroom and the bathroom. I keep all my stuff in a long green army duffle bag in the large corner closet in the bedroom. There’s nowhere else to put it.
I take the bus to my job. I sit at the desk. Sometimes I type a letter for Larry. He wears wide ties clipped in place. I hate this.
Jeffrey stays home. He has come to LA because he wants to direct movies. He sleeps in the queen-sized bed long after I leave, because he has always stayed up late the night before watching television on the couch, smoking pot from the long blue ceramic pipe he bought when we went through San Francisco. The pipe is in the shape of a wizard’s face with a long beard. Jeffrey bought it the moment he saw it.
I did not buy anything. I do not have any money and besides I didn’t fall in love with anything the way Jeffrey fell in love with that wizard.
I did see a large round purple candle with real flowers baked into its sides. I thought it was beautiful and Jeffrey bought it for me. This hardly ever happens. And I have the candle there on a shelf but somehow I don’t think I love and delight in it the way Jeffrey does the pipe, or the show he is watching or the songs he is stringing together on a tape or the fish in the salt-water aquarium he just started. Jeffrey finds things that make him happy and I keep hoping things like that will happen for me, and once in a little while I feel that way – light and witty – but mostly not. The things I like I don’t like enough.
I read one book after another, lost between covers, but at night, when Jeffrey watches TV, sitting alone on the couch, laughing out loud at Mork and Mindy, and I sit on the bed, leaning up against the wall with my book, I cannot stay awake. It is as if I have been drugged, weights pulling my eyelids down, and Jeffrey passes through to the bathroom and sneers, “You’re not reading, you’re sleeping.” “No, I’m not,” I say.
And on Saturday morning I leave the apartment, feeling like I could walk from one end of the earth to the other, and I walk through fresh empty early-morning West Hollywood, passing one little house after another, I walk, stride and stride, until I come back, and Jeffrey is still sleeping and if I were anyone at all I would now sit down and write, because look, I have all this time.
I do write at the office, at my desk, on a yellow legal pad because that’s what Jeffrey uses and I love the look of those yellow pages of ballpoint scrawl. No one sees. I write a story about a man who tapes pictures of women to the walls of his room. The women whisper and wink at him, they torture him. That’s as far as I get. I know this man. I made him up, but I know his lonely self, his craziness. I know how he feels. But I don’t know what happens next.
One morning Larry calls me into his office and says he has to fire me. Tears come to my eyes, tears he must not see.
Jeffrey will be home in the afternoon. Unless he is out shopping for used records. Or maybe Lenny, our black actor neighbor, has invited him to go play tennis. Or maybe he’s scribbling on a legal pad with his left hand, putting down words fast in that awkward stick-form writing he has, all angles, no curves, while he chews the pen cap to pieces. Or maybe he is typing the screenplay already at his self-correcting Selectric that sits on the broad wooden desk near the bed. He always likes what he has written and always, every time, I do not like it, not really, but I can twist it so that I do. It’s just hard to like his people who are not like me at all. They are good-looking, they talk easily, they have affairs, and nothing feels bleak to them, harsh or empty. They don't even think about things like that.