A Brushfire at Sunset, Queensland (1883) by Marianne North
Driving in a straight line away from this sparkling ocean, I never bought and sold these hills, I never performed on a screen or stage, I never pitched jokes in a writer’s room or confessed my sins in rehab. I ate some of the food but not all of it, I went to some museums but not that often, I drank at clubs but mostly sat at home, wondering if the blue sky was spoiling me, forming me into a softer shape, a less resilient texture, juiciness evaporating, beliefs and desires falling off me and blowing away like dead blooms.
I stared at these mountains for hours, wishing for more clouds, more rain, less freeways, more friends, less wondering where everyone went. Where did you go? You had babies two freeways away, you had parties it took five freeways to get to, you had performances and jokes to pitch and rehab but I didn’t know until later, you had a new crisis every few weeks, you went dark, you were silent, you disappeared into the cracks in the pavement, you evaporated into the brilliant blue sky.
I tried to make fun happen, sunshine and cocktails, pulled pork sandwiches and cole slaw. Sometimes it worked. When I was younger it felt easier, cold bottles of beer and tall boots and green grass, less measuring, less wondering what went wrong. We raised kids and dogs and didn’t question it. We thought about leaving but then listed reasons to stay: I’ll sell something brilliant and buy this ocean. We’ll own everything we can see. We’ll taste every flavor and sleep on a bed of soft, cool clouds.
I loved these dry hills and hated them. We loved and hated everything together, elbow to elbow, walking our dogs across the hot pavement, sharp weeds growing through the cracks in the sidewalk, scratching their names into our shins, every living thing trying to live forever at the expense of everything else.
This sky grew heavier by the minute. He said he couldn’t do it anymore. So we took everything we owned and sealed it into boxes and gave everything else away and now we’re driving East, a straight path through the dust. Don’t think about it. Close your eyes and imagine something that doesn’t disappear.
But as five lanes narrow to four and then three and then two, I know I’ll miss your empty promises, your dry confessions of love, your busy invisible life across four freeways, tucked into those hills and those valleys. I’ll miss your excuses and your rainchecks and your ghosting, your disappearing and reappearing, your merging and reemerging, saying that you’ve missed me so much, wondering where the months and years went, telling me you can’t wait to see me again. I’ll miss imagining that we’ll all be together at last, no one shrugging off the invitation, no one refusing to reply at all, no one showing up late then slipping out the back without saying goodbye.
“We’re never going to visit you,” she said to me without smiling, after I fixed her a second drink. I’ll miss picturing a life that matches this shining sky.
I’m moving away from LA after 24 years here and I feel 193 ways about it — this is just one of them. Thanks for reading Ask Molly!