This Was A Terrible Idea, Part 1.

Gio at Sunset, Photo by Angelina Michael

[7 DAYS REMAIN]

“You know you’re running from something that’s just gonna follow you, right?” I think we have that in common. We put so much into a place that it has no choice but let us down. I did the same thing with Brazil.” Jane-Ronnie is speeding down PCH. She opens her glove compartment and gives me a cute and overpriced bottle of vodka, tells me to finish it before we get to Da Poetry Lounge. “You’re going to get there and it’s not going to be any easier to write, or do anything you’re trying to do,” I tell her I know and I look out the window at the black of the Pacific at night. This is the last time I’m going to see it.

Ronnie’s Hollywood. She’s a good girl but is almost always too busy for me. Leaves me on ‘read’ all the time. Until I told her I’m moving to the other side of the country. Now she seems to have all the time in the world. Not only that, but she curates these little dates all throughout LA, and they’re fucking perfect. She buys me dinner (always sushi) and takes me to places I’ve never been to before. Of course, as soon as I commit to leaving the state things like this start happening. But that’s the way things work I guess. She’s from the small town behind my small town, but I don’t think she likes to tell people that. She’s had a transformation.

I start to fall in Love with LA. The city I used to fear so much for the traffic and the smog and the pressure that always seems to be eating away at the people I know there all become part of its beauty. Now, in the car with Ronnie, hearing her tell me all the amazing things about LA, I’m having an existential crisis. The juices in my stomach feel like lurching. I keep telling myself this was a terrible idea, this was a terrible idea, on repeat as the lights of the city rush past me. Soon, we’re at Da Poetry Lounge.

Photo by Simone Scarano on Unsplash

“I can’t believe the writer has never been to Da Poetry Lounge,” she tells me. One of the things I love about Ronnie is how seriously she takes my writing. You know that scene in Between the World and Me where Coates grabs his elbow, looks at the floor and tells people he’s “trying to be a writer,” instead of “I am a writer”? That’s how I feel all the time. So to have someone around who believes in you like that is intoxicating. No matter how much you realize it won’t last until you start to believe in yourself.

Ronnie bought sushi so I pay for the tickets, but all the seats are full. They sit us and the rest of the overflowing crowd on stage, wrapped around the poets, elbow to elbow with intimate strangers.

I used to think I hated poetry. Maybe that’s because I only ever went to word churches in Santa Cruz, filled with students who had just learned about how fucked up the patriarchy and capitalism was. They needed a place to deal with those feelings. Hey, more power to them. But it wasn’t enjoyable. Almost everybody here at Da lounge knew what they were doing, though. One “Pokemon Poet” almost made me cry when he spoke with a hulk-like voice of Brick. A brick that went to Brick University and learned to support things, that had the dream of being part of an ice-cream shop because he loved children. But then a man said he needed Brick to make a wall. Now Brick is tortured by the cries of children and parents separated by him. Heartwrenching stuff.

Ronnie is sitting behind me, her arms wrapped around my shoulders. The girl sitting next to me keeps giggling at the very unfunny things I am saying to her in-between each poet. “That’s crazy,” Ronnie says as we leave the theatre, “for all that girl knew, I was your girlfriend but she was still flirting her fucking ass off.” The insecure nine-year-old inside of me is very impressed at how far I’ve come. The suicidal Incel fourteen-year-old inside of me is rolling his eyes.

Outside the theatre, a man in a white suit who flew from Israel is handing out roses to anybody who will post his hashtag #searchingforfireandice, which he hopes will bring him to his muse, who he met in an AOL chatroom ten years ago. I find that I’m very angry at this guy and I have to realize it’s because I’m still disappointed that I ever allowed myself to be as pathetic as he is. I have to forgive myself and brush that feeling off.

The girl I’d been looking at all night walks past us. Not the flirty one, but the one with the little turquoise earrings and afro. Any time I had the chance to stretch or twist my neck I would do so to steal another glance. It was like I was back in church again and my crush was four pews behind me. She has one of the roses and I say something about it to start a conversation with her. I make a joke about how pathetic that guy was. She laughs, but she says I’m wrong. That he’s romantic. She turns to Ronnie and gives her the rose. “I don’t need this,” she says and walks away. Ronnie takes it and I make a face to let her know how turned on I am.

“Go ask for her number!” she tells me, and I sort of freeze up and say nothing. I’m swallowed up by fear again. I’m putting people on pedestals again. I look down at myself and I’m wearing a white tux and handing out roses. The fourteen-year-old me is laughing now. He finds it hilarious that I thought I could escape his self-loathing.

Photo by Annie on Unsplash

Ronnie takes me to this coffee shop that looks like a normal coffee shop until you get to the back. There is a large dark room with trees and bushes, a huge fake moon and a little tree fort. We share a coffee and read through her Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows together. I ask her what this place is called and she tells me it’s the “Borganeeze Pig” and I make fun of her for not knowing how to say “bourgeoisie.”

We end the night on the Santa Monica Pier. I’m wearing a beanie she gave me and she has the rose in her hair and we’re leaning against the rails, staring at the water. A seal swims right up to us, tilts its head, and then disappears again.

As I’m looking at Ronnie I can’t help but think about how impressed I am with her. She’s so much younger than I am and already doing a hell of a lot more. She didn’t go to college but she’s paying the bills, living on her own, and far from starving. She’s wearing this flowery dress, a jean jacket, and some expensive smelling perfume.

And I think about where she came from, a place that even in my home town we describe as the middle of nowhere, and my town IS the middle of nowhere. I try to picture her now on those fields of yellow grass we would sit on and debate the existence of God almost ten years ago. The ones by the burned up school buss with the mysterious Chinese plates. The ones by her boat and the aqueduct and the dried up lake. Where the people wear cowboy boots and have lamas in their back yard. If you were to put her there now she would look entirely out of place.

She’s done what I’ve been trying to do my whole life with all this traveling. To remove herself from her origin. To transform. I’m embarrassed at myself for not being as fearless as her. And as we’re laughing on the pier and the Ferris wheel lights inject a green glow into the black water, I feel real shame.

We take some photos in the picture booth. We start to kiss and we make love right there, with only the curtain to hide us. She takes off the beanie she let me borrow and uses it to clean herself with. “We’ll just leave this here, it was my ex’s anyway.”

In the morning I leave her room for the last time. I leave the room that overlooks the Pacific from a hilltop. I leave the tarot deck and the essential oil humidifier, the books, the record player and the old typewriter. Before I make my hour drive back to my parent’s house in the desert, I jump in the freezing ocean and go for a run along the beach. This is my way of saying goodbye. I keep thinking about the last thing she said before we went to bed. “Maybe you do need to leave. So that you can come back.”

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The Writer for the Non-Readers.

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Giovan J. Michael

Giovan J. Michael

The Writer for the Non-Readers.

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