My roommate in Toluca Lake was an actor who'd never been in anything.
He'd never been in a play in high school; he'd never been an extra on a
TV show; he'd never starred in a Martin Scorsese picture. He told me
he'd just been cast as a transvestite Goth cheerleader. He said he
needed to prep for the role. He was going to go method. He said from
now on I should call him Terese. He wanted to show his parents that he
wasn't going to just be an actor, but that he'd pound clouds to
oblivion with his level of commitment.
He'd go to IKEA like that. He'd go to the authentic Mexican place in
Glendale that we both love like that. He'd go to the freaky triangular
church near our place like that. And he doesn't go to church. But he
said Terese would.
I asked the name of the film.
Doesn't matter, he said.
I asked the name of the director.
She doesn't like first names. She wants to be known as Smith.
Smith, I said.
Smith, he said.
He took me to a tiny gay bar. We fit in. We found ourselves on a piano
bench. The piano was spray-painted blue. It seemed sick with blue, an
influenza of ocean. He hit the keys and no sound came out. He banged
them again. The bartender came over and told us to calm down. He said
he liked Terese's skirt. Terese just stared at him until he left. She
turned and kissed me. Or he turned and kissed me. It wasn't a pleasant
kiss. It was like being booted in the face. He pushed me away and went
up to a midget on the other side of the bar. I saw Terese try to kiss
the midget. The midget kicked him in the Caspian Sea. He kicked him
where a good solid blow could create liquids. Terese walked out of the
bar. I followed. He walked into the alleys of L.A., their narrow paths
to various apocalypses. I thought of the girl in my past who'd raked my
heart against the countryside. I thought of how much our insides get
scraped until, once you're old enough, you don't feel anymore. I'd seen
my aunt recently, a factory worker, and she looked like she could
barely walk through her remaining days. It made me worry. It made me
realize I had to do something huge. I ran up to Terese and before I
could do anything, he said that there was no film. He said there was no
Smith, no director, no cheerleader, nothing. I told him there's never
anything. I told him there's just this.
We walked down the streets of stars. We didn't recognize most of the
names. Someone dressed as Jack Sparrow walked by. Terese asked where
he was going.
Home, he said.
Can we come with you?
Sure, Jack Sparrow said, but it's a long way.
We walked with Jack Sparrow who was from Marquette, Michigan, and
talked like a lumberjack and walked like he'd done a fair amount of
heroin in this lifetime and said that he had hypothyroidism so he
didn't have the energy to walk fast and so we slogged our way through
the night with the Los Angeles hills like breasts and the Los Angeles
soul-sky and the Los Angeles noise of wind and cars and fear and time
and when we got to Jack Sparrow's apartment we fell asleep on a bed and
when we woke up we decided to destroy the place before leaving so we
did it quietly, slowly turning over chairs and gently placing dishes on
the floor and carefully putting his cactus upside-down and when we were
done, panting and hurting from the precision of it all, we looked at
the room and we took all of our money from our pockets and threw it up
into the sky in the middle of the room and let it fall like snow and we
walked out with skirt crooked and the feel like we'd learned something
or done something or were something in a town where it's so hard to
feel like you're anyone ever.
Ron Riekki's most recent book is an edited volume, HERE: WOMEN WRITING ON MICHIGAN'S UPPER PENINSULA.
Read his postcard.
See more of his work in the archive.
Detail of art on main page courtesy
of J.J. Verhoef.
W i g l e a f