We just rolled in from L.A. today--roughly a 14 hour drive. We left last night around 9:30/1030 p.m., L.A. time. My days have been morphing into one another. I can't even remember if today is Wednesday or Thursday.
I drove some of the way--four hours, maybe five--and it felt good, almost empowering. I felt like I was getting away from, or perhaps arriving to, some destination I had in mind, as fast as possible (85mph). Matt and Karli were asleep most of the time I drove, and not to say anything against their company, the loneliness of the moment or the intimacy between the road and me was endearing.
I got away this weekend, for a few hours at least. Maybe it wasn't in the ocean or the marinas, or in the Jasmine bushes, but in a fast drive on an abandoned road. The rest of the time I spent thinking.
We had a picnic on Sunday at Sunset beach and I looked for shells--rolling up my pant legs just high enough to welcome the foam of the incoming wave to my knees. I didn't find any whole shells. Only pieces. I even prayed that Heavenly Father would help me find just one whole shell; that's really the only thing I asked for on the trip (besides overall safety). It was that important to me. Maybe my intentions were greedy and that's why I only found pieces. Either that or I just don't deserve to have my prayers answered right now. I understood. So, I accepted the pieces I was given and almost linked them to my own fragmented nature right now. Whole people attract whole things, right? They are still beautiful, white shell pieces (that I accidentally left in Matt's car).
After the beach, Matt drove me to my old house: 2923 E. Featherhill Dr. It was dark by this time. We drove up the hill by the monastery and in the lighting, or lack thereof, I mistook it for the hill that Justin lost control of his skateboard and skinned himself on. Because I wasn't exactly sure where I was, I didn't know exactly where to look for my house. When I saw it, I wasn't sure if it was the one or not. We passed it and I had Matt drive by it again. Yes, it was that house. We had come up the back way. The hill we passed with the monastery was the one I rode down to get to Nohl Canyon Elementary every morning. The house has changed so much since my childhood. It was blue, not brown and the beautiful white sycamore tree, that I loved to sit under and pick at its' shedding, was gone. I had learned to ride my bicycle under that tree. I couldn't even see the front yard or front door, it was so highly vegetated. The thorn bushes that lined the walkway--the ones I pushed Jessica Johnson into when she pushed me to my limit--they were gone, too. There was blue cobblestone lining everything and when I took a picture with the flash on, some paranoid owner--some millionaire stranger, the man who took away my beautiful sycamore--came out and flashed his porch light at us. I wanted to cry, maybe? Or not. I don't know exactly what emotion it was, but it felt like the balloon that was my childhood--the beautiful, red balloon delicately tied to my wrist the way my father used to tie with his big fingers--was popped by this detached human figure I did not even know.
I missed my mother. I missed my cute, rambunctious brothers with their bowl cuts and skateboards. I missed Jessica Johnson, who lived next door, and eating tuna fish sandwiches with pickle slices (instead of celery like my mom always made) by her pool side. I missed spying on passersby from her tree house in the backyard. I missed swinging by the rope attached to the maroon oleander bushes. I missed my mom's homemade rolls. I missed when she'd braid my long, chlorine-green hair after a shower. I missed falling asleep with the news on and my head in her lap. I missed the big, red and white striped umbrella. What has happened to my childhood? Where did it go? Why do I never talk to my siblings anymore? Why does it feel like we are opposites and they've married people who cannot relate to this background or our traditions? Why can't we all just live on Featherhill? Just us. Sixteen years ago.
That's what it felt like. And I texted my mother to tell her I'd seen the house. She didn't reply.
I realized, while I was in California, that every time I saw the maroon Oleander, I thought of my mother and her soft, curly brown hair--not how it is now, but how it was then. And I remembered her young face. How when I was young and would fall asleep on her lap, I'd look up at it--up her nose, up at her eyes that would blink fast when she wanted to maker her point quickly and nervously, up at her mouth, moving in a funny upside down way. When I see those bushes, I think of her confidence--or maybe the confidence I put in her back then, before I realized all mankind is flawed. She was my world, a goddess, perfect. Everything she was, I wanted to be (and I am, for the most part, I see it now). I remember her silver/black teardrop earrings. I remember her smell. But I can't recall it on command. When I smell it, I know. Those bushes brought her to me for a moment, and I know I will cry at them when she is gone forever.
So, we went back to Matt's where he felt warm and at home, and I longed for my own family dynamic that no longer exists. I was cold and uncomfortable. Though his mother was accommodating and such a sweetheart, the crepes/waffles/fresh towels felt like a burlap sack on my naked body.
The next day we went to Balboa Island. We drove up the opposite way we'd come in my childhood and I recognized nothing at first. No feelings came back and for a moment it felt as though my childhood was a hoax. Like a staged event that happens one time only, in one place, with only a handful of people who might remember and know the same things I do and as time goes on, the props change, I am removed, the cast is new, and the set belongs to someone else. Balboa is not mine anymore. I can't claim it. What it is now is some other child's. In me, it is a memory. That's it. A breath of air, a cloud of smoke, a black fly in a room full of dark chairs. It will never come back. Never. And one day, my brain will die. What happens to Balboa then?
We ate Balboa bars. I remembered them better. And bigger. And slow. I remembered the one time we hired a pontoon boat and had a picnic in the bay with grapes and macaroni salad. Uncle John was there. Or was it Uncle Angelo? Maybe we went more than once.
We went to the Ruby's on the Pier. There were so many Mexicans and I thought to myself, "I had no idea ghetto, rapping Mexicans liked to fish." Then Matt said something like, "They are fishing to stay alive." Huh. These fish are their lifeline? Perhaps. Since when did Orange County become so poverty stricken? Did it begin with us? Were we the first to crumble and the rest followed? It's like when I ask myself sometimes if the reason why everyone likes an underground indie song is because of me? Because I shared it with so many people? Arrogant, I know. Naive, I know. But don't those things have to begin somewhere?
The next day we went to the Getty museum. I saw a real life Van Gogh, but it didn't hit me. Still hasn't. I almost think to myself: why is that such a big deal? Yeah, I love art. Yeah, Van Gogh is amazing. But he's just a person. He's dead. God's art is the only living art and I take it for granted every day. God's art is what we draw from. His art IS our art. I can paint a landscape, but that only shows a fragment of the creative ability of God. He actually made the landscape. I am a speck of sand. Not worthy of any compliment. My art is never mine. It is God's. Van Gogh's art is God's.
I don't know if it is because I was so overwhelmed by the beautiful artwork, if I was being cynical, or if I was just out of tune, but I was not impressed as much by this artwork as I have been in the past. I can just picture Van Gogh up in the spirit world saying something like, "What the heck are you guys gawking at? That piece isn't even finished. It's a piece of crap. Wait til you see what's up here." I actually pictured that while I looked at his Irises.
After that day, we began our drive, and I felt free for a few hours.