What You Will Remember About Growing Up In Los Angeles

Brittani Lepley
Brittani Lepley

Driving through Topanga Canyon at night, hopelessly lost. Your friend is in the backseat with that boy and his hand is on her thigh. You turn the corner and gasp because your car is now inches from the ledge. The San Fernando Valley is bursting below and you are afraid of heights.

Falling asleep on the grass in her backyard while the moon waxes overhead and the fire burns in the pit beneath the pergola. You press your cheek to the ground and watch as she dances barefoot, twirling around in her white tennis skirt. It is August now and in some way you know you will never see her again. Two years from now you will see her on T.V. and her name will be on the tip of everyone’s tongue and saying it will feel like a mouthful of glass.

Sitting there at the stop light at the end of the freeway off-ramp in Glendora even though the streets are empty and you have never wanted anything as badly as you want to go home. You beg your mother to stop asking questions she doesn’t want to know the answers to and it is the last time you will ever threaten her with the truth.

Parking three blocks away from school because it is 8 a.m. and you are late to your first class. Across the street you see an Orthodox family on their way to temple. The sky is bright and taut and the shadows of the palm trees fall soundlessly on the candy-colored homes. The men wear wool coats and fur hats and you see one shake the sweat off his brown when he looks down at the sidewalk.

Going to lunch with your yogi-friend after you get back from vacation in Sedona and she asks you if you tapped into the feminine energy vortex at Cathedral Rock. You say no but that you did visit the only McDonald’s in the world with green arches. You two order salads called “I AM TRANSPARENT” and it costs more than you will make in three hours at work but that is also because you added chicken and a side of focaccia. You eat all your food and she doesn’t and when you leave you have to tell the waitress three things you are grateful for that day instead of leaving a tip.

Getting home after dawn and your parents have already left for work. You put on your mother’s old sweater, the one your father bought her when they were first dating, and you get under the covers on her side of the bed. You set an alarm for 3 p.m. so can make the bed, wipe the make up off your face, and pretend that you have been up for hours when they get home.

Staring up at the sky when you are floating on your back in the pool with the girl you used to pretend was your sister. You two are drunk of the smell of chlorine and the night-blooming cereus in her neighbor’s yard. Tomorrow she will get written up by the Home Owners Association because she lives in a gated community and quiet hours start at 11.

Leaning your head against the concrete wall in the back of the restaurant and the collar of your shirt smells like other people’s food and the smoke from your boss’s cigarette. He was raised on a farm outside of Wichita and he laughs at you when you tell him you didn’t apply to any schools on the West Coast.

Waiting on the side of the road, stranded in the Mojave Desert. All is dark and that is when you learn what stillness is. The car is off but your mother keeps the radio on and The Eagles are on singing about the golden state. You run your hands through the dirt so earth gets under your nails and you can hear your dad singing softly in the driver’s seat. Some dance to remember, some dance to forget. TC mark

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