Today I got in my white, little, strong car. The remnants from a night of spaghetti, mochi, Cranium, and family were sitting in the passenger seat. It always smells like baked, old car upholstery when I first squat into its low, front seat. Immediately, I roll down my windows. One of them won’t go down today. Driving down my hill, dead leaves fly from the crevices of my windshield. The radio turned up, I forget the social anxiety that frequents my mind when it is silent. Driving on the 110 North, I realize my fear of freeways has dissolved into comfort. Driving is therapeutic for me these days. The beige cement, that surrounds me on the freeway, forces me to realize the beauty in the tall, glinting skyscrapers of downtown, when they finally erupt into my view. My one window still rolled down, and the radio louder so that I can hear it over the car noises from outside, I think about the fact that I am becoming all the parts that I admire in other people, of course, combined with all my mishaps as well. Isn’t it interesting how you learn from other people how you want to be? You pick their bits and mesh them with your bits and that’s how you become unique and the same.
I drive down Sunset Blvd, the less glamorous end. Public Parking is free today because it’s Sunday. I park next to a moving van covered in colorful graffiti. The door opened, I slip on my vibrant flats, that are barely surviving their life. They are fragile with scarcely any soul and to much use. My dad once told me to save them.
“Don’t ruin your shoes from Nepal.” He said.
But I wear them daily. They keep me grounded.
I walk, with my Nepal covered toes, to the Time Travel Mart. It was a store with nik naks from the future and past. Viking’s deodorant. Dinosaur eggs. Robot milk. These things would have very little significance if they were not associated with 826. However, they have become the kindling that starts the fire. I near the storefront window, gauging the crowd. Reading them, as I am sure they read me.
We all go past the kindling items, towards the back area, the tutoring area, a haven. It is a brick room that is dimly lit. Bossa Nova is humming as we find our seats, next to strangers, at the metallic chairs surrounding grand wooden tables. I chose an empty table. It soon filled and we introduced ourselves.
The woman sitting to my left was petite. She wore a red and white striped shirt and tight fitting jeans. Only the front of her shirt was tucked in. I have never understood this fashion choice. She wore flats as well. Hers were less worn, and her face was with her makeup and cat eyes. Her outfit was topped off by a floppy, trendy, black hat. She readily told us that her husband worked in the music industry, strategically leaving out in what context. This forced intrigue. As she worked in coffee shops and volunteered at literacy nonprofits, her husband was musical in some way. They were the ultimate Los Angeles Duo. Stylish and creative. Or at least that’s how they present. Presentation is everything.
The woman sitting across from me had a natural beauty. She had an olive complexion with deep brown eyes and dark hair. She wore s floral skirt, the kind you can twirl, and a denim vest. She spoke about a trendy bar she frequents with her friends. It has funk night every Saturday. The two women were sympathetic towards each other’s hangovers and I listened intently to the lifestyle I have intermittently in life, but one that I want to become more constant.
The training begins. The young intern spoke with passion about the organization. It was a kind of passion people are generally not open about. Caring for something can lead to hurt. I don’t like being hurt, but, generally speaking, I cannot contain the feelings I have for people and ideas and events. They blubber out of me with tears or laughter or rage.
I was transfixed by this young woman, who felt so close to the nonprofit she worked for. Creativity was in the air. The strangers, sitting in their metallic chairs, oozed it, with their tattoos, haircuts, and trendy outfits. The space where I would soon be working, promoted it. Book shelves to the ceiling, were filled with the works by students and works by authors who have changed the world.
The training ended to the soft music of Iron and Wine. I passed through the Time Travel Mart and walked out to Sunset Blvd. The sun was bright, reminding me I was in L.A, a sprawling city of extremes. One of the new volunteers was taking a picture of the storefront, wanting to flaunt his location of the day.
A Vegan restaurant sat on the corner. I decided to embody those who I just left and ordered a smoothie from the stark, white, modern establishment. The employees wore red lipstick and clothing that showed off their tattoos and thin, muscular bodies. The smoothie had kale and dates and avocado and vanilla extract. It was the waitress’s favorite. I watched her down the extra, before capping mine and handing it to me. I waited to take a sip until I was in private, where my reaction was not substantial. It was sweet and bitter and the date seeds got stuck in my teeth. I was thankful I only got a small. So I would not become a vegan.
I got back to my car, placing the smoothie on the roof as I searched for my keys. Again, sliding low into the front seat, I took off my Nepali shoes and drove towards the 101 South. I discovered the child lock button, and so both windows were down now, as I listened to the radio and thought about the day. My deteriorating flats sat at the feet of the invisible passenger and the seedy smoothie in between my legs. The car chugged and I breathed. It had gone well.