Thought Catalog

Our Strip Mall Romance

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Nathan Dumlao

I told myself I’d write about the time we parked your station wagon at the top of the Hollywood Hills by the bird streets and sat and talked during Thanksgiving break. I don’t even remember if we kissed.

We probably did though. I’d hope. Unlike today, when you didn’t kiss me after dropping me off and I texted you and asked you why. Apparently that isn’t something you just ask at 5pm on a Monday. It was a holiday though, so it felt like Sunday.

I want to love you in tiny Thai restaurants in strip malls east of Hollywood and in line for taco trucks south of downtown. I want to wait until the second hour of traffic before I nervously make the move and hold your hand as we drive on the 10 at rush hour after work.

I brought it up in your car when we parked outside my apartment in New York the night my hair was done like an old movie star. The smaller car, but still a Mercedes and white. My feet were on the dashboard, legs resting in a way where you couldn’t tell I had tattoos and I almost wished I never did. And then as I started wondering how my life would be different if I didn’t have a giant SF logo or the word YOLO on the back of my ankle, you said we never drove together on the bird streets.

Sometimes when it’s too hot in New York (and it’s never a dry heat), I think about getting lost at the Rose Bowl flea market with you as we zig zag and make our way from art deco to Hollywood regency, through the eras you look like you were meant to live in. I wonder if you’d love me in LA more back then. In vintage dresses like the one I was wearing when you first kissed me. When my waist was small enough that your hands almost fit around it when I sat on you. Do you remember when you asked me if I remembered the first time we kissed? It took a while but I finally do.

I want you to love me from Abbot Kinney to Blue Jay Way. I want to kiss you parked outside the house you grew up in before your parents got divorced and stare up at you on the Venice boardwalk so my eyes don’t see the ugly parts filled with new condos and chain restaurants and Snapchat offices.

We can stay up late at night on the phone and keep our 310 numbers forever. You can call me when it’s late from the living room of your two bedroom apartment in adult Brooklyn. We can talk about hanging out in LA and all the things we’d do, how we’d drive on PCH and I’d hope it wouldn’t remind you of your ex, the one from Malibu who worked at that American Apparel. We can make plans for when I’m in New York and keep maybe ten percent of them. Talking about them is half the fun anyways. They can remain perfect in my mind, not ruined by the rain or by me or by the fact that this is all a fantasy like that day in November in 2011 in your car on the bird streets.

I’ve never felt at home east or west of the 405. On Sunset in cars or on Speedway on foot. I’ve never felt safe in the alley of my family’s house in Venice Beach, whether I have a key or know the gate code, 0075.

But I think I could feel at home with you parked on the bird streets, drunk enough to kiss but not too drunk to drive. You said it didn’t happen, and that at the most, maybe it was Mullholland. I want you to feel at home when I’m around, the way I always wanted to feel at home when I used my knuckles, not my fake nails, to punch in the door code to get back into my parents house, or as I picked up Chinese restaurant menus from the pebbled entryway to my West Hollywood apartment or fumbled fearlessly on my Williamsburg stoop for the right key. And in this version, you start missing me before the gate opens, or the door unlocks, or I find the key. And we kiss. And we both remember and aren’t scared to admit it. TC mark

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