November 9, 2010

The Hollywood Hills And The Boulevard

We rolled down the windows and rode across Mulholland Drive as though we had the top down. The wind keeping the hair from our faces, and the sun pouring in with the rush of a southern California lifestyle that Hollywood made famous. We drove the curvy rode as anyone would a famous California road, in a red convertible, with the top down, on a sunny day. I rode shotgun next to her ipod, and we danced *shake it like a Polaroid picture* so fiercely that we forgot we were driving a rented Kia that fell closer to pea green than candy apple red.

The sky turned an even more glorious shade of blue as we turned into the church parking lot, and I almost suggested that we skip Easter mass and keep driving. Curiosity for the new and cravings for the old parked the Kia next to the row of Jaguars, Escalades, and Bentleys. She spotted an actor in the parking lot that I couldn’t identify by name or face. Months earlier we would have (did) squeal at celebratory sightings, but parts of L.A. had lost their luster. Now proximity to a famous actor (or not so famous, because I had no idea who he was) held the same thrill as spotting a crush at the college bar. Challenging but attainable. I actually uttered, “We can find him after mass,” and dragged her to the door. I didn’t want to be late. I wanted something normal, old, comforting. The fact that I was seeking this at a Sunday Easter mass seemed absurd to me, but I thought it was worth a shot.

We were steps from the door when I spotted “Kelly Taylor’s” mother, “Jackie”, walking in our direction. Despite the hours of 90210 I watched in middle school and my soul crushing love for Brian Austin Green, I couldn’t place her face at first. When she sat down a few rows in front of us and turned around to look for someone, I finally remembered her as “Jackie Taylor”. “Kelly’s” mother. A “familiar” face from my past. I don’t remember a word from the mass, or the details of the inside of the church, but I do know that my homesickness melted away for that hour. Three hours ahead, my friends and family sat down to Easter dinner, or Sunday afternoon homework, or a midday trip to the campus cafe.

We spent Easter the year before with his family. He grandparents drove the three hours, and we fell asleep in the backseat to the Broadway tunes of Mama Mia. His mom cooked a Saturday dinner, and I inhaled it and asked for seconds. A delicious preview of meals to come, but I collapsed that night into a bed I had already spent nights in and fell asleep between his sister’s stuffed animals.

We were everything and nothing. So I didn’t tell him that I wasn’t going home for Easter until the day before, while I traced the carvings in the table with my finger. In dim lighting I wanted to cup his face in my hand, but we sat with the table between us. So I only looked down and told him seven hours was too far to travel for two days at home. When he asked me to come home with him, I told him that it wasn’t enough notice for his parents. He said that they wouldn’t care. Five weeks before, we showed up at their doorstep at 4am, without notice, after driving all night. We stayed for three days. I knew they wouldn’t mind. Easter morning the Easter Bunny delivered a decorated bag of candy for me. His mom sent me back with left-overs in one hand and her son’s hand in my other.

When the mass ended we filed out of the church into the bright Bel Air sunshine, and I decided not to say anything about “Jackie Taylor” or this Easter or that Easter. She missed also, I knew that. I convinced her that we would never find the actor-I-couldn’t-identify in the crowd, and we climbed back into the Kia. Windows down. Music soft. Until we turned down a canyon drive, and forgot again that we weren’t in a red convertible and how much we missed.

The L.A. sun causes amnesia. I know, because we both already had exchanged plane tickets to fly home early, but on that Sunday morning we forgot every reason that prompted us to end our semester days earlier than planned. She turned up the volume for Outkast and we danced *heeeeyy yyyaaaa* boldly enough to make a red convertible proud.

We turned onto Sunset in our sea foam green Kia, with our windows down and a rhythm to our front-seat dancing. A rhythm to our L.A. life. When I faced the sun and closed my eyes, I could taste the Easter dinner my mom prepared at home, see the faces of friends at school, and feel his hand on the curve of my back, the L.A. sun on my face. For a moment, sitting in that car, the sun healed wounds of time and place. I could be in all places for a solitary moment.

She turned the bass up, and we looked for parking outside Mel’s Diner with the radio blaring *go shawty, it's your birthday* too loudly for 11am on a Sunday morning. Too loudly for Easter brunch. But we were in L.A.! I saw my smile in the side-view mirror and the familiar sight of Mel’s Diner ahead of us. I cranked down my window as far as it could go and thanked the sun. For the next few hours, I stopped wanting to be in all places, and drank up the experience of being in L.A. on an Easter Sunday morning. Sunny and lovely and thrilling.

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