A Natural Disaster Declared on the Day You Were Born

The fires raged and raged until it was almost as though you couldn’t look at anything in your vision without reflecting back the flames in your eyes. I tried not to stare too long at anything during that period, lest you further accuse me of being a devil woman. The source of all your pain. The clip to your wings, and all that sort of thing. But you could have left at any time, I just didn’t expect you to do it during the wildfires. Then again, it was always in your nature to engage in such high-risk theatrics. And though I would have liked to simply believe that you disappeared into the fire, allowed it to consume you as you did me, I knew that you were free. Had survived the fanned flames without incident as you headed to Catalina to celebrate your birthday with some friends who lived there. Of course, I had never been introduced to them. You never took it upon yourself to make the ferry trip with me, constantly talking shit about deigning to go to Long Beach for anything, even the port. So I stayed within the confines of the Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Koreatown nexus that you carved out not for us, but for yourself. It was where all your best clients resided. The ones who kept you furnished up to your neck in all the latest first edition novels you pretentiously collected. Not because you were particularly literary but because you wanted to prove to anyone who came over that you were more than just a drug dealer. You had depth.

Even I was duped into believing as much from the moment I met you. You had been summoned by a friend (and roommate) of mine who had gotten your number for another friend. She needed a fix of Adderall to finish editing a short movie that was due for her film production class. Despite being a screenwriting major, her school insisted that, no matter what avenue of the film industry being pursued, every student must take film production. Edie hated this requirement, spewing, “If I wanted to make the shit, I wouldn’t be a fucking writer.”

I countered, “You seem to have a very limited view of the collaborative process of moviemaking.”

“Oh shut up Jamie,” she snapped as she texted you of her emergency, along with her address. By the time you showed up, two hours later, Edie and I had watched four episodes of The Mighty Boosh, which she claimed would serve as a source of inspiration for the aesthetic she was going for in her short film. I tend to think she just had a strange obsession with Noel Fielding in his pre-ballooned The Great British Bake Off days.

Upon your arrival, she invited you in, offering you a seat as she took out the cash and promptly started crushing the Adderall so that she could snort it.

“You’re really in a hurry to focus, eh?”

“Oh, I’m sorry–was I paying you for your judgments as well?” she hissed as she retreated to her room, muttering under her breath, “Fucking asshole.”

It left the two of us more than somewhat awkwardly alone together, and though you could have left, you lingered deliberately, hoping that I would keep the conversation going, which I did–prompting you, in turn, to invoke your weed supply for us to share. Getting high with you from the outset should have made me wise to my initial impressions about you. Your smooth-talking, con artist aura. Instead, all I could concentrate on was how good I felt in your presence. Although I should have just chalked it up to the weed, I attributed it to you. To the “vibes” you gave off. It was a feeling that had me hooked instantaneously, and I wanted to be around you all the time. So I got your number under the pretense of myself needing a new dealer. Totally believable considering the heightened flightiness of not just an L.A. resident, but a drug-slinging L.A. resident. Three hours after you had arrived, you were gone. Edie had never reemerged and in your absence I experienced a palpable lack that jarred me, made me aware of how fucked I was going to be when things inevitably escalated between us.

***

It was all sugary sweet like a Samoa confection from California Donuts at the outset. And I let the sticky ooze of your charm (and cum) wash all over me. It was only when I began to be less “new” to you that you started to show me a different side. The side that didn’t come home at night, or return in the morning. The side that made excuses about being gone for days at a time. It wasn’t just the thought that you were cheating on me that rent me in two. It was the idea that after getting to know me well enough, you found that I wasn’t engaging in a fashion worth sticking around “full-time” for. Rather, I seemed to be your occasional concubine in the months that followed our honeymoon period. Gone were the donut days, replaced instead by syringe season, dubbed by me as such for its dark and dirty pall. Again, I don’t know why I bothered to stay. Maybe because in the foolish haze of crazed passion, I moved out of Edie’s apartment and into yours. It wasn’t as though I had a concrete life path of my own to follow at the moment, having just finished school and not wanting to intern at some thankless Lelaina Pierce-type job in order to carve a place out in the realm of production. No, I wasn’t ready to surrender to that trajectory yet, using you as my substitute for a plan. That’s right, you would become my mid-twenties “project”–something to channel all of my efforts and affections into. But, clearly, you didn’t want to be smothered by my glaze.

As opposed to just giving up on you–us–as I should have, I worked even harder at trying to allure, to get you to want to be with me again as you did in our more fructose concentrated beginning. I dressed in red, I baked cakes (of the marijuana-infused variety, of course), I bought you more first editions for your faux intellectual projections. Nothing could get you to come back to me–not just your body, but your mind.

When the fires started raging in August, you happened to come back to your place, having ill-timed your return so as to need to be with me for longer than you wanted to, what with bedlam erupting and roads being closed off. And despite the fact that this was a time when your clients needed drugs most of all, they couldn’t access you. It gave you the opportunity to do exactly what you didn’t want: confront me. Among other truths you were finally able to confess to me–apart from the certainty that you didn’t love me and never had during any point in our banal romance–was that it was your birthday the next day. It hadn’t even occurred to me that I had never asked you when you were born, and vice versa. In the earlier phase of our relationship, I would have been maudlin in my poeticism about that, saying some bullshit about how we weren’t really born until we met each other. And this is why I probably belong to Shakespeare’s time. Not Kylie Jenner’s.

At first, I was misty-eyed about the revelation, but then I rambled and raged at you worse than the fires outside. Likely the reason you chose to brave the elements in the middle of the night as opposed to spending the commencement of your twenty-fifth year with me. I awoke with a start, immediately intuiting that you had disappeared. A news notification on my phone informed me that a state of emergency had been declared, seeming to mirror the one that was taking place inside my heart at that very moment.

After about thirty minutes of sobbing, followed by a searing hot shower, I put on my cutoff shorts, some wedges and an oversized The Virgin Tour shirt to leave the apartment. I didn’t bother locking the door. There was nothing inside there that mattered, certainly not love. It could burn along with the rest of Los Angeles as far as I was concerned. So, too, could I. I had always identified with witches anyway. Why not go out like one?

Driving through the wreckage of the once great California, Escape From L.A. flashed through my mind. Not knowing where you were, of your departure for Catalina, I pulled over in state of panic. I calmed myself by getting a donut. As I sat in my car staring at its mesmeric pink sheen, I removed my lighter from my purse and set it ablaze. I blew it out just as it was about to burn my hand, making a wish that California would never have to endure a natural disaster of such epic proportions again, nor would I.

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