Non-Fiction, Travel

AMERICA | Los Angeles

The crescendo pokes its head around the corner and as its shyness fades you feel the beat of the drums running up your legs and the guitar crawling through your body. Your heart gets thrown off beat and sometimes the drums pierce the air so forcefully that you can feel it in your brain. In your eyes. At some point you start paying more attention to the guy next to you than the band. He’s younger and more attractive than you. The beat moves him, and he and the music melt. Indistinguishable. Everything begins to multiply because of the way he moves, shoulders crashing into shoulders. Elbows in the chest. No one movement matches the next—no longer in his control. You gravitate to him as he moves away, deeper, only to return, pushed out by the pulsing crowd. You envy him because, although you may be nodding and even swaying a little to the beat, he has given himself up entirely. He runs his hand through his hair and stretches is long, young neck. It’s too perfect, so you decide not to look at him anymore, even though his body is jolting through the crowd. But the new life demands your attention, birthed from the sound. You hum along because, although you can already feel the vibrations running up your body, to feel that in the innermost part of your throat and chest lifts you.

Feet pound the floor and tendons tighten as you too begin to bounce through the crowd, emerging from within yourself, into that place and time, rhythmically, like all of your memories returned.

Normally the roof is my quiet place. Where I can smoke as many cigarettes as I want to and make confessional phone calls. It is my escape from the apartment of five. It is where I go to isolate myself, as well as to feel, in some odd way, connected. The windows of my neighboring towers are always open and at night, one can see anything. I find myself paying more attention to these windows than I do to my friends, who I occasionally invite up for drinks or a smoke; red wine from a coffee mug after a night of hailing cabs from whichever club to whichever club. I bring them to this place to share with them whatever it is that I’ve found. But maybe it’s something that can’t be shared. Maybe I bring them here because the briskness twelve floors up and the calm that can be felt over the city is the best way to stop.

Closing up shop starts in the kitchen. Finishing off the wine while I pick at the leftover Kung Pao with my fingers, trying not to bite into any peppers; sweet, yummy chicken and water chestnuts. I lean against the aluminum counters. Looking out the window at Hauser and Burnside, I can’t imagine leaving this place. Leaving this street corner for no street corner. Leaving this kitchen for another kitchen and then yet another. I’ve shared this space with four roommates, shared a bedroom, and yet I’ve never had a place that felt so entirely my own.

I fill the glasses with water, set them aside for someone else to put in the dishwasher, and walk to the trash shoot down the hall to throw out the takeout cartons.

I slip quietly into the dark bedroom, careful not to wake my roommate. Sitting on the floor, I take off the shoes  I wear with pride, one by one. Rubbing each foot as it emerges from its leather sheath. And as I put the shoes back in their box, I try not to think about how much I spent on them—or the fact that as I walked to our cab, my loud steps woke the men whose tents are pitched on the streets downtown.


photo Brent Clouse