I walked into a pizza parlor last night. In the twelve seconds it took for me to ask for a slice of pizza with artichoke hearts I received two or three impatient looks from the cashier. The man behind me, when it was his turn, was bold enough to ask about the “now hiring” sign out front, interrupting himself halfway through to ask if she, the cashier, minded if he asked about it.
She said it so quickly I barely saw her lips move. He stammered and finished asking his initial question; which position were they hiring for? She told him, in a tone I found presumptuously apologetic, that they were only hiring people to make pizza. Knowing that he wasn’t qualified to make pizza, or at least thinking it now, he moved on and placed his order.
“Hi Ron” I said to him as he sat down.
“Do I know you?” he asked me with a face so devoid of hostility or amiability that it was impossible to tell if he was bothered or even surprised by my knowing his name. I told him I was Jacob’s little brother, and his face lit up, he called me by my name without hesitation. He asked me about my siblings and my mother with genuine interest. I was reminded that men can in fact possess bottomless wells of kindness. It was impossible to tell that he was autistic as he asked me about my plans for school. I loathed the woman behind the counter for being incapable of sparing him half a smile, for not knowing, as I knew, that he was one of the most kindhearted people in this city.
Maybe it’s our culture, but maybe it’s our species that is bad at falling in love. Everywhere I look I see people consistently failing at it. We approach love backwards, we’re trying to light the filters of our cigarettes, trying to hang paintings on smooth walls.
You or I will walk into a party or a bookstore and inevitably someone will catch our eye like a hook catches a fish lip; this is usually the first of many erroneous falling dominoes. You’ve met a stranger and you’ve imagined wearing them around town, and you’re beginning to hope that they won’t be a stranger for long. You can be cautious, if you’re wary of the other party discovering your lusting, if you’re wary of their knowing that you don’t know them at all. But with luck you’ll find that their looks aren’t their only appealing characteristics, with a little luck you’ll find parallels between the things you both appreciate. Perhaps you’ll discover that they’ve been to all the places you’ve been, and that they want to go to all the places you want to go. Perhaps you’ll make unbiased observations, in spite of your wanting to seduce the unknowing individual. Perhaps, after a few months of cautious prodding you’ll convince yourself that you’ve found the one, perhaps you’re ready to find out if the feeling is mutual.
And it is.
You’ve exchanged words in line for coffee and you went on dates and you’re in love, everything fell into place, everything is perfect.
It’s a reality, love at first sight exists outside of Hollywood.
But I think you’re building a house out of sheetrock, trying to save money on lumber. I think love hides in the old world, the world you knew as a child. Love rests on the branches of the friendships you had before you had the capacity to care too much. Love runs through the sprinklers, and you lay it down on the sidewalk. Love comes first, you love first and lust after. It’s far too easy to pursue the love of those you’re attracted to. The brave seduce the people they know they love.
Wealth is a simple matter of not locking your keys in your car. It is a matter of the words coming out of your mouth sounding like the words inside your head, and seeing beauty without looking straight through it. Wealth is a simple matter of lucidity, and I would pick up trash off the street to have it back. But the world is at my door and I know that it is here to collect. I pay for it and let it pass me by, wishing I had the good sense to look closely at it. And I know that the rent is too high, that my income is too low, for this exchange to keep taking place. But lucidity eludes me, slipping behind the furniture, and I’ve misplaced my keys and forgotten to feed the fish and the world is at the door again.
The first time I came here was the first time I realized how much I adored the girl shuffling to the hidden button that would open the gates. I don’t think it would have ever occurred to me that within a few years this would be the location where I would announce to her family that I’d asked her to marry me and that she had said yes. No, at the time I was too busy turning the soil, plucking the sprouts of an oak tree, singing to myself. I wanted to come back, sit on the patio and write or play my guitar. That was the first impression this place ever had on me.
My hands shook as I raced into my boots, eager to join the crowd of people fleeing their vehicles. But people have all fled and the tunnel now is quiet, and nearly calm in the narrow aisles between lumber trucks and gravel trucks. The light is dark and yellow, already thick with smoke. An abandoned Caltrans truck silently flashes red and yellow light on the walls and in the windows and mirrors of other abandoned vehicles. Paint and engine oil are burning, I’m the last idiot in the tunnel breathing in their fumes. But their selling point is in their cinematic appeal. And although I am not terrified, and the owners of these abandoned vehicles are safe, there is just enough fear mingling with this smoke for me to close my eyes and imagine terror, open them as a spectator in a nightmare. And the novelty of that feeling is keeping me here.