LOS ANGELES Road maps and vinyl letters on paper. 2017. 18 x 24".
LOS ANGELES (detail)
So here's where it began. We had been crashing at her friend’s in the Valley before finding an apartment. Two or so weeks in a converted garage. We drive to Van Nuys. The U-Haul pickup truck is only $19.95, plus insurance, gas, late fees. The reception room is stifling. As she fills out the paper work I check my phone and step onto the lot. Faded solid lines, the glint of white metal bodies and windshields. Everything we didn’t ship or throw away is in her Dodge. 2006 Stratus, blue. That I drove through Grants Pass with a Rockstar in my crotch while she sobbed in the passenger seat. Our life together. She has the key now. She tells me it’s time to go and slams the door on a day laborer. I’m supposed to follow but she keeps blowing the yellows.
The warehouse is in Inglewood, up a nondescript driveway with an airline company sign. I make a u-turn. In the office a large man with a lifting back brace is hunched at the counter on the landline. “How ‘bout you Moffett it up the hill” he says. A pause. “I know, but why can’t you just Moffett it up the hill?” They’ll bring our moving pod to the loading dock. Across a concrete expanse we observe the forklift wheezing toward our cars, exposed to September’s naked glare. A horizontal roof defines the azure.
405 to the 10. Even with our things in the truck bed I’m still trailing a few cars behind. I grip the directions printout against the steering wheel. Take the 110 to the 101. Exit north at the interchange. East: where is north. She’s one lane left going eastbound. My lane is forking. There is no north. I’m merging right. And as I pull away I can make out her face through the truck passenger window. She simpers. Like when her friends change plans last minute by text. Or her mother embarrasses her. The mask of her anxiety. The window shimmers and casts off the sun.
Traffic disperses. The city below is forgotten. A serenity descends, borne of rubber skipping over asphalt and pavement. Green sign for Long Beach. My flip phone starts ringing in the cup holder. Cancel. Cancel. Fuck where am I. The off-ramp becomes a block with single stories, chain link fences and concrete pillars. I park and call her back. “It said take the north exit.” She’s already there, the panic in her voice in my stomach. Late fee. I shuffle wrappers and receipts, a water bottle on the floorboard and tear the crumpled atlas from the door pocket. California. Los Angeles. The colors saturate in pervasive light. A glisten of sweat runs down my forearm. I’m in South Central. Southbound.
When I pull up on N. Normandie the truck is double-parked. We don’t hug. We have to move. Up four flights of wooden stairs and an elevator covered in scraps of carpet: our mattress, bikes, boxes. I’ll unload the Dodge myself. I should expect her friends soon for the housewarming. And get some beer at the corner store. She leaves to return the U-Haul. For a moment I stand at the arched westward windows for a nascent breeze. An unobstructed view save a row of palms. The horizon succumbs to red-orange. Rectangles of office buildings are lost in haze.