Ron Riekki

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.


Smith who?

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.

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