Breakdown at the Arclight Parking Lot

Even seeing a movie had become a task herculean in the implications of emotional exertion. Laurel had ironically come to L.A. to seek the benefits of Vitamin D as some sort of panacea to her depression, and yet, in the ten months she had been in town, it seemed as though her condition had only worsened. It was getting harder to leave the apartment now that she had been given the “privilege” of working from home. In her position as a “social media manager,” showing up to the office, her bosses informed her, wasn’t quite necessary. That they told her this around the same time she had dipped into a particularly low point of the bell jar and had therefore started to show up looking slightly greasier and more unkempt than usual was not lost on her. A few days after she had showed up with what looked like vomit stains all over her white tank top, Greg and Dan (names telling of standard-issue white male blandness), “pulled her aside” to inform her of this “exciting new work situation.” Laurel was in no mood to argue, and though she knew that at least having someplace to be at a certain time was the sort of structure she needed to stave off excessive amounts of depression, she also truly despised being around these people. They with their muesli and vegan coffee drinks. It was utterly foul.

She drove home that day with a sense of relief. Now she could really wallow in her own filth without even bothering to pretend “cleaning herself up” a bit before leaving the cush confines of her “efficiency” studio. Like so many people who came to L.A. hoping to get a slice of “the life”–the one falsely paraded on 90s shows like Baywatch and Beverly Hills 90210–Laurel ended up settling for North Hollywood, where affordable beige apartments abounded. It was rather antithetical to her plan for so-called “surf and sun” (not that she surfed, but hey, she could still appreciate the sport, and maybe even fuck a surfer). She was beginning to think that staying in Seattle might have been preferable, if not cost exactly the same. Plus, at least she had some almost as equally manic friends there. Well, just one friend really. June. They had met at a SLAA meeting, both of them horrified by the clientele and seeking to cleanse themselves of the experience by getting a much needed drink afterward. The bar was called, appropriately, The Disgrace. When the two learned they both lived in Fremont, they figured it was the best option.

Unlike most other women Laurel had met, June did not make her want to bristle with every expectedly vacuous statement, and, best of all, she “got” the nature of obsession as no one else she had ever met could. She was, in short, “not like the other girls.” That she also understood just how fucked up fucked up could be in terms of unhealthy behavior also warmed Laurel’s Grinch-sized heart to her. Soon after they were meeting about three times a week at The Disgrace to have their own anti-SLAA meetings. When Laurel told June she was moving to L.A. about two years after the striking up of their friendship, it was met with sheer and unbridled contempt. “What the fuck for?” June countered.

“I don’t know. To start over. Yet again…or something,” Laurel feebly offered.

“You’re running away. This is all because of Glen.”

Glen was the impossibly married man Laurel had just been slapped with a restraining order by after months of stalking him. Stalking that only occurred after he in one instant promised to leave his wife and, in the next, broke it off cold turkey, declaring he never wanted to see her again. The emotional sucker punch was more than Laurel had been able to bear, and June was the only one who could fathom her objectively psychotic behavior as she listened to Laurel’s most recent tale of breaking in through his bedroom window while his wife slept, he being the only one to rise during the commotion of the break-in thanks to his wife’s dependency on sleeping pills to knock her out. And as she spoke at an above-whisper, begging him to take her back, he put his hand over her mouth and told her to shut the fuck up or she would wake up his teenage son and daughter, and ruin his entire life forever, and was that really what she wanted if she claimed to love him so much?

Allowing herself to be “reasoned with” (a.k.a. manipulated) in this way, Laurel was cajoled back out of the house. The next morning, she was served with the restraining order. And now two days later, here she was informing June of her intent to flee. Although June was understandably upset over losing her only confidante, she could also empathize with Laurel’s need to abscond, herself having ended up in Seattle after running away from her own, shall we say, stalking-related fallout. So she was hardly one to judge Laurel for her desire to retreat with such haste. Embarrassment could be quite a motivator to change one’s life abruptly. It’s partially what led to Anna Delvey to leave Germany and pose as a socialite. She surely must have humiliated herself in her comportment with a man. There can be no other explanation, despite what her inevitable biopic starring Jennifer Lawrence might suggest.

So it was that these ten months after arriving in L.A., she called in the friend favor of summoning June, though she knew it likely meant she could not ask such a thing of her for quite some time after, SLAA women being clingy as they were to the milieu where their current obsession resided.

She picked her up right on time, knowing that if she didn’t it would be seen as an immediate affront, and she couldn’t have June be in a more fragile state than Laurel herself needed to be. She had to unload, and June was the only one who could receive that load, non-sexually speaking. Luckily, June was in good spirits thanks to being hit on (in her mind) on the plane by a “producer type.” She didn’t get his number, but knew enough about him to find him on Facebook. Laurel permitted her to have this little delusion of a flirtation as it meant she could then have June’s complete attention when lamenting to her of how she still thought incessantly of nothing other than Glen. That it was hindering her work (from home) abilities and that the sheen on her hair stemmed from depression grease as opposed to gel. By the time she had finished spilling all of this to June, they had decided upon going to the Arclight to see, in masochistic fashion, a romantic comedy. They both knew it was a bad idea, especially when considering that any rom-com released in the present was roughly scraping at the bottom of the barrel for ideas when it came to making the audience even remotely believe that something as far-fetched as “true love” and “happily ever after” could exist. At the same time, they needed the drug of false hope to keep them going in their own self-deceptions regarding the relationships they had essentially made up entirely in their heads (erotomania and SLAA membership can so often go hand in hand).

Before diving into this self-imposed cinematic torture, however, they decided to eat at the overpriced restaurant in the theater, arriving about an hour before the show was to start at 7:10, for what June was billing as the early bird special. “Goddamn, I haven’t eaten this early since I lived with my parents,” she mused, as Laurel ripped the ticket in annoyance from the machine and the giant arm raised itself (somewhat hesitantly Laurel noted) to permit the car’s entry into the garage. June’s “little comments” were already proving vexatious to Laurel, who suddenly realized that she had never spent more than two hours at a time with June back at The Disgrace, and maybe she hadn’t really thought this invitation through well enough. In her desperation for companionship, she took for granted the joys of solitude–though she had to admit it was rather pleasant to not have to go to the movies alone for once like a total loser. In all honesty, the only people who went to the movies by themselves were pervs and people like Cecilia in The Purple Rose of Cairo (so psychos that used the silver screen as their sole portal to an alternate reality). She was briefly glad to not have to be branded as one of those people before sitting down at the table with June to hear her prattle on about the guy she was so convinced she had a connection with on the plane. Is this what she sounded like to others as well? This pathetic, needy delusionoid with no clear grasp of objective reality? She needed to take stock of her life once June went back, which was starting to feel like years away at this rate. She cursed herself for her inane urgency for commiseration. It was costing her far more trouble than it was worth. Had she only convinced herself that she enjoyed the presence of June’s company in the past because alcohol had been constantly flowing? It seemed to be so, for once she got two glasses of wine in her, June was already starting to feel much more bearable.

The two even seemed to find the common ground of actually relishing in the frivolity of the rom-com without too much heckling involved. Maybe there was something worthwhile to this whole “having a friend” phenomenon that everyone was so fond of.

And yet, as though the universe felt inclined to immediately negate this thought, she was faced with the reminder that she had handed June the parking lot ticket before coming inside expressly because she was the one who had a handbag between the two of them, Laurel preferring to go out unburdened every now and again as an experiment in being a woman unharnessed (plus, June had offered to pay in a mood of generosity spurred by her “newfound love”). But as Laurel could see from her vantage point near the exit, as June went to validate the ticket at the counter after the movie, she fumbled through her purse and pockets to discover it was nowhere to be found. It must have fallen on the ground at some point between the lot and the theater. Panicking at the sight of June’s incompetence, Laurel remembered something on one of the signs before entering that warned of automatically charging sixty dollars should the “client” misplace his ticket (sexist language still abounded, most especially in L.A., despite what the illusion of “hippy-dippy” California might try to exude in terms of evolved tolerance).

This insignificant to most sign of incompetence set Laurel off in a way that even she couldn’t have predicted as she sniped at June all the way toward the car, insisting that she should be the one to pay for the consequences of her mental languor. June, in turn, pointed out, that it showed endless ingratitude on Laurel’s part that she should be so penny-pinching toward her when she had been the one to pay for the entire outing. Well, Laurel offered, wasn’t June at least getting a free place to stay out of the entire deal? June balked, saying she’d rather spend the last of her money on a room at the Chateau Marmont than continue to stay with someone as awful as Laurel, delivering the coup de grâce, “Jesus, no wonder Glen wants nothing to do with you.”

It was this final caustic statement that propelled Laurel (and, by default, June) over the edge as she drove the car off the top floor of the garage, where she had led them in her distractedness during the fight that had ensued since getting inside the vehicle. The scene conjured the image of Thelma and Louise, of course, except, here, there was no female camaraderie at play. Just a combination of rage and sadness that spurred an already rash woman to make an accordingly irrevocable decision. The undercurrent of resentment based on unwanted yet somehow necessary codependency that had been bubbling palpably between them finally boiling to the top by bringing them to the bottom…of the Arclight parking lot.





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