The intense light pollution doesn’t allow for any stars to be seen in this section of the Los Angeles sky, but it still demands attention from our eyes here on the ground. Thus, my head is justified when it tilts upward, afraid to descend to the same level as his. If it did, I’d be forced to speak, and I can’t think of any words right now.
A man-made jungle of white households scatters the roads devoid of broken white paint ahead of us; they’re far too narrow to allow for any decoration, even the convenient kind. The houses’ edges come together incorrectly, like an amateur artist or toddler sketched them, scribbling outside of the lines. The houses gradually go upwards in a constant circular manner, curving around the roads like uncultivated vines until one finally finds herself at the very top. There is the look-out spot where natives bring their tourist friends from irrelevant states, from hometown cities with thousand-person populations, to come and gawk at the Hollywood sign, like they have finally reached the center of the world, like they finally belong to something that matters.
There is a cacophony of small, intimate gatherings between friends and large parties thrown by the successful, where the currently unsuccessful--yet hopeful--congregate, substituting their night of social fun for one of business. Each party springs to life with the diversity of people there: up-and-coming musicians, producers, models, photographers, and those who “self-identify” as photographers just in order to exist in the same orbit as the beautiful girls they dream of dating.
Each house consists of five or six friends, none older than the age of 26. “Friends” initially only because of the need to split rent in expensive Southern California. But that relationship inevitably blossoms into something greater: one becomes his videographer for a new music video, another his photographer for album artwork, and the other his guitarist for a new hit single. I used to romanticize this kind of camaraderie, probably because of my inability to ever really solidify a best friend, but I now view it with pity, this lack of self-sufficiency; they all seem to feed off one another to the point where it broaches a codependency that’s fatal to break.
We’re both sitting on the roof of his car. On my side, there’s a slight bend, so I can’t sit down comfortably, afraid I might slide off at any moment. As I firmly press onto the roof for balance, I feel dirt powder mark my fingertips, turning their convex centers dark brown and black. I now understand what he meant when he said that he wasn’t good at “taking care of things”; though, that trend, he made a point of assuring with a laugh, did not apply to girls.
In this pause of conversation, I finally have time to analyze his outfit. Out of my peripheries I can see the West Coast clothes—an oversized sweatshirt with a faded image of a surfboard at the center and black and blue Vans shoes he’s taken off and put to his left, away from me--and I mourn his past East Coast self—the perfectly cut J-Crew sweaters and Ralph Lauren belts, material items that initially seemed meaningless.
He inches closer to me, and I make a point to stay as still as possible—a futile endeavor because it only makes me tense up more, carry all of my stress in my shoulders as they stay, raised, almost right up to the right and left of my ears. I assume this permanent position so that I don’t have to be the one to decide the future, so that we can just stay suspended in this moment here and never leave it.
I often sit in coffee shops and write. Often foreign ones run by managers with accents, with rigid walls decorated by French, Italian, and Spanish paintings that I regard when I look up from my computer screen every now and then to finally taste the iced latte that’s been untouched these past five minutes. I write and then stop. Add personal details. Then delete the details because I’m embarrassed. Add a conclusion. Then think it’s too dramatic and take it out. And then two hours pass and a Pole finally brings me the check. But I’m still not finished. I’ve got to make it perfect.
I used to think that words came naturally to me, but I can’t be eloquent in my rejection when he sits right there, receptive to every word that might be thrown from my lips. I would be disappointed in such an incoherent, crude speech, so I decide not to give one. Instead, I choose to hum awkwardly, allow melodies to be my escape because they don’t consist of lyrics: they are incomprehensible.
I focus on the setting in front of me—the houses that don’t match, the Hollywood sign’s unevenly-spaced lettering and off-white coloring, the lamplights whose bulbs have long gone out, the dry and dead vegetation prone to all those California fires. And yet here we are, like so many others, taking time out of our day to just look at it all.