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lax_night_from_a_plane

I’m in an airplane. I look past two strangers, out the window of my southwest flight. Dense tribes of light–red, yellow, orange, green–flicker like billions of fireflies. Welcome to L.A. Welcome home.

I’m in my father’s car. The familiar smell of leather. It creaks as we shift positions. The same car, the 1985 Mercedes, the one I grew up in, the one I went to AYSO soccer in, to pee-wee basketball, to piano recital, to drum lessons, to the hospital. Nothing has changed.

I’m in my old room. This is the window I used to blow cool smoke out of. This is the closet, where my mother cleaned up empty liquor bottles, stuffed them into trash bags. These are the steps, the steps where she would carry the bottles loudly down to the kitchen. These are the sounds of my house. Those are my shelves. You could still see all the papers, stacks upon stacks of poems, drawings, my screaming youth. And these, these are the floors, the hardwood floors, spilt wax, burned incense, my shedding skin. This is where my heart broke. These are the walls, the walls I grew up with. They whisper to me at night when I’m sleeping. This is your home. This is your home. This is the bathroom, the cold white tiled floor, the shower rack where I hung the IV bags, where I used to stand myself up gingerly, quietly, carefully.

I’m outside now, staring at the sky through the trees, on the cold pavement where I used to lay down, look up, and breathe. And this is my family, a dancer, a piano-player, a runner. That’s where we sat during Christmas. That’s where I poured out my stockings. That’s where I rollerbladed, back and forth, back and forth. Here, here’s where I sat at dinner. Yep, right there, staring down at my plate, watching it become empty. And there, right there is where I shot baskets, hour after hour, til there were blisters on my hands and on my feet. Oh, and that’s where I swam, where I dumped pennies in the deep end and tried to collect all of them in one… giant…. breath…. And there, that alley right there, that’s where I lit fires, smoked cigarette butts that I would find on the street, drank my parents’ liquor. And that’s where my Grandma lived, that’s where I would bring a tray of dinner, to a woman sitting alone at a table, knitting, singing, waiting for me. And here, at the top of the steps, here’s where we sat, when I would call her over, when mom and dad were out late, and she would read me my dinosaur book, the same one, over and over again, until mom and dad came home. There’s where we used to play gin rummy, and when I cursed she would wash my mouth out with soap. That’s where we would watch Magnum P.I., and I would ask her during every scene, “What’s that mean Gram?” And she would tell me, every time. And that’s where she sat, in her wheelchair, one of the last times I saw her, listening to my father play the piano.  A calm and peaceful smile on her face.  Here’s where I stood, watching.  And here’s where I walked over to her, bent over, kissed her on her forehead, and inhaled deeply through my nose so I wouldn’t ever forget her smell.. This is my father’s office. The fluorescent light, the picture of my mother when she was young, Harry Chapin, Mark Twain, two guitars, a kazoo, Radiology journals, a magnifying glass, measuring tape, two cardboard boxes of pens and pencils, a record player, Nat King Cole, Bonnie Raitt, Tracy Chapman. Here’s the downstairs bathroom, where I used to douse toilet paper rolls with lighter fluid and cast them ablaze. Here’s the hallway closet where I got into the Amaretto and Drambouie. Here’s the TV room, where I watched Van Damme movies, and kicked the shit out of the couch pillows, and played basketball with a small rubber ball. I was Van Damme.  I was Magic Johnson. And here’s where the piano was, where I would sit and listen to my father play, Chopin, Mozart, Beethoven, with my bright blue pajamas and little padded socks, so I wouldn’t slip on the hardwood floors when I walked. And my parents’ room, where my sister and I made a spaceship out of a rocking chair. The closet where I would steal pills, Ambien, Vicodin. And my parents’ bathroom, where I sat with a good friend, and begged my father not to shave his mustache. This is my house. This is Los Angeles. This is what I call home, this now liminal space, in-between where I was and where I am going.

Now I’m back in Berkeley, where I’m greeted with a colony of fucking ants in my kitchen, and a forty-eight degree living room. I get a call from a close friend. “How was your flight? Are you home?”

“Yeah, I’m home, well, I should say, I’m back in Berkeley.” Remembering the liminal space.

Now I’m in a new place, this place that I also call home sometimes. Text books, text books, text books, notebooks, highlighters, pencils, pens. This is where I sit. This is where I read. This is where I write. This is where I dream. Home is now a phone call. Home is a computer screen, a network, a dynamic and fluid space. The rug has been pulled out from underneath me. I’m falling again. I’m grasping again. I’m empty again. This is my new home. This is the home that she built for us, with beige area rugs and beautiful cherry blossoms; only, without her, and not really home.

Time is a burnt wick.

Somebody turned over the hourglass,

without asking me if it was alright.

But I like it here.

I like who I am.

I’ve got new rolls of toilet paper to set on fire.

I’ve got new skin to shed.

I’ve got a new heart,

that breaks just as easily

as the old one.

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One Comment

  1. “I was Van Damme.” Classic…Dope shit man, I really like it.


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