I’m lying on a makeshift bed on the floor with one ear trying to tune out the ladysnores of Girlfriend 1, and the other ear trying to tune in to signs of life from Girlfriend 2, who sleeps disconcertingly like she’s dead. Outside I can hear the sky being unzipped by the trails of planes; the mumblings of a metropolis stretching wake.
It’s Los Angeles, 5am, & though I should be slumbering in readiness for a day full of adventure, I am awake and prodding out my column onto my phone because if I don’t do this I’ll probably lie staring at the ceiling, pretending my plait is my moustache or something.
In the strange lonely privilege of being the only one awake I think of the city outside, a place as unreal as it is real, as legendary as Atlantis, as fictitious as Oz, as normal and real and grubby in places as anywhere.
I was last here half my life ago, a freshly-baked sixteen, brain boggling at the ludicrous fact that I was there at all.The trip was surreal; a nerdy checklist of the fantastical. Hollywood sign: check, Marilyn’s tiny handprints in concrete: check, the stars on an ever-expanding walk of fame: check. Everything came with a mental brochure of where you’d seen it before; which movie, which iconic photo, which tale from the book of American glamour lore. Moreover, I was staying with friends – seeing the real LA and the insides of its real people’s rooms. I sat and watched as real Californians prepared their food and laughed with friends and played their guitars; went about their ordinary lives and pursued their dreams.
I had such a blast that while I was having it I was already glazing it in sepia & double-dipping it in amber, prematurely casting everything into posterity.
Now I’m back here, in a Spanish-ish villa in Silverlake, staying with new friends, thinking of the sixteen years that have passed since I last dipped my toes in the pacific. I realise with a quiet belly shock that I am not a girl anymore, I’m a woman. My toes are the same toes, but they’re not the same toes. They’ve been through a lot these toes. They’ve been driven over by a car and didn’t break, they’ve been painted different colours, they’ve been in some very bad shoes but some excellent boots, they’ve been the first things to have touched down wherever I’ve gone. Toes are quite valiant on our journey through life, really. Like tiny cavalry men testing the ground. If I were to come back to Los Angeles in another sixteen years they, I, will have seen a lot more, and i will have changed a little more. Maybe a lot.
Going away is a great time to take stock of all that’s important. All the irrelevance gets sifted out and you are left with what matters. What matters to me now, a 32 year old woman who finds herself returned to a faraway place she thought was just a trip of a lifetime you took only once? I should take this time to check.
My clock is out of whack, my girlfriends are snoring/potentially dead, and I’m waiting for the day to start. I’ll lie here and think of what matters. Which, in the short term, might just be bacon and maple syrup for breakfast…