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Adventure and Travel / Art and Poetry

CALIFORNIA WON’T BURN THE ATLANTIC OUT OF YOU

california

Everything was falling apart but I didn’t care because the flowers were beautiful.

I’d never been to California. The sun was giving my upper-east-coast alabaster skin a heat rash. I was covered in these raised, red splotches, but then, the sparkles on the surface of the ocean seemed infinitely more important.

Why here? Why a desolate stretch of sidewalk in southern California?

I knew the answer when I left home, but the texture of life changed from one coast to the other.

Now, I just want to chat with the friendly faces in line at a Malibu Starbucks, watch the alleyway photoshoots and flirt with cute Mexican boys on the bus. But this wasn’t supposed to be a vacation.

It’s fun to jump into a life that’s not yours and look around. Sticking the landing has always been my problem.

It’s the summer of my second year at university. My downtown campus forces me to walk through crowds of “adults” everyday – the ID-tagged people, the 9-to-5ers going into grey towers for another daily bump to the bank balance.

That was coming for me. I had to escape. I needed to keep being alive, free, authentic.

I convinced myself I’d get a job as a nanny, or something, and live a happy, carefree, sun-kissed existence. I was going to meet cool people, live day-to-day and be a nomad. Except.

Except that’s never been me, so why did I think it would be when I got here?

Why did I think parts of my personality would stay home like a bag I could just forget in the living room?

The classified ads on the walls of the Hollywood Hostel’s kitchen made me shudder! Nanny wanted? I hate cleaning, and don’t like kids.

“I’m no one’s slave!” I thought, taking angry bites of the free pancake breakfast.

I’d been here for a week and in a moment’s slow, syrupy clarity, my big plans dripped off me.

A Fresh Prince of Bel Air rerun tried to comfort me from the corner TV but it was no use.

It’s a shame personalities can’t change as quickly as zip codes.

That’s okay. I always keep moving.

The love of your life lets you down? Stop pining and just date funboys. Job is hella boring? Take on a bunch of extra-curriculars so you don’t have the mental space to get hung up on it. Keep on, keeping on.

I end up in a beach community further south, Hermosa.

Some new path will open up, I tell myself. I stroll the boardwalk chatting with new friends.

Soon enough, I meet random people who are driving to Vegas.

“I’m going to make buckets of coins,” I say.

A station wagon will shuttle this group of strangers from the Hermosa Beach Hostel to Sin City. I track down the driver by yelling her name in every room. She says she can squeeze me in if they manage to rent the car they want.

But they don’t. They only manage to get a smaller one. So, as the last one in, I’m out.

What now, flowers?

You guys know what’s up. You’re hanging out, facing the beautiful ocean, smiling to the sun and always getting the fresh water you need. You’re so happy. It makes me happy. Everything will be okay.

If flowers in the desert, pressed up against a fence and falling precariously over it can be make it work, I can too.

My legs are tired from walking, my skin hurts, and I haven’t even gotten a dramatically impactful life-experience to add to my collection. I’m bored, and this rash becomes my only souvenir from the whole jaunt.

I’ll head back to the airport I guess. No one needs to know I wasn’t ever planning on coming home.

“Oh, California?” I’ll say to the guy I meet in a few months at some poetry reading.

“California’s great,” I’ll say. “The people are so nice. And you’ll love the flowers.”

 

Author: Lysha Del

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