I sat on the lime-green-and-white wall-to-wall shag carpet in the large corner closet of the bedroom, here in this L.A. cottage. I sat in the closet not moving, not responding when Geoffrey spoke to me, urging me to get moving, to say something, anything.
I couldn’t move. I had folded into myself in some kind of hopelessness and dread. It must have been a weekend, one of those days that the work week promises: on Saturday you can be yourself, on Saturday everything will be all right, on Saturday you will write.
Outside the sky was probably blue again. When you looked up from the small terra cotta porch outside you saw palm fronds, big green leaves printed against that blue sky, leaves from trees that didn’t grow back east, trees not in the business of giving comfort.
We had come to L.A. together from New York. I came because he asked me to and it was delicious to be asked, to hear him say that he had been waiting to leave until I was done with school. I had not known this. It had not seemed that way.
We had gotten into his car, an old boxy four-door Mercedes, passed on from an uncle, in the snowy depths of February, the car filled with his records in red plastic milk cartons, his cat, two travelling cases of mixed tapes, a supply of joints rolled by his sister. I threw my new Army Navy duffle bag into the trunk.
Now in the corner closet the green duffle bag stands nearby. It’s still where I keep everything.
Other people in the city are moving through their day, doing all the right things I think of our neighbors, Lenny and Nancy. I am sure they are breezing along – Lenny swinging a tennis racket, Nancy smoking a cigarette. They would not know what to make of me right now. No one would.
But I am here, doing all I can to be dead without actually killing anything. But I cannot bear any of it, this being that is me. Nothing is right – this secretary life, the pathetic writing dream, the days that just rotate: coming home every evening to dinner, pot and TV – though Geoffrey assures me nothing is wrong and I watch him being happy: checking off everything in the TV Guide a week in advance that he wants to watch, running out in the afternoons to flip through bins of used records, or to the aquarium store to pick out a new fish for the salt-water tanks that he just set up, or typing up a screenplay at his IBM Selectric, or staying up all night to get the segue between two songs micro-perfect on the tape he’s making.
While I wonder what to do.
Having to be at work at 9 and stay til 5 answers so many questions, but only the dullest person would work like this and not have weekends that burst with the kind of writing I am sometimes sure is inside me, but it’s gone when I sit down with a pen.
I sit on the lime-green-and-white shag carpet, frozen, maybe hoping I can make everything stop forever this way.
Finally, Geoffrey gets up. I hear him walk to the kitchen with its mustard-yellow linoleum. He stands by me now, holding the jug of oil he uses in the electric fryer. He is laughing. “If you don’t get up, I am going to pour this over you.” It is old oil. It’s been used at least a couple of times to fry chicken. I don’t move. I don’t care. I don’t want anything.
The oil pours down over me, over my hair and shoulders. I get up.