California – Two Years in Two Parts (Part Two)


Late last night as I read in bed I listened to the sound of a sad harmonica being played somewhere near and I felt pieces of myself, the ones that didn’t survive this adventure, rolling comfortably in their graves. The two oyster shells on the dining table remind me of us, washed up here at the edge of the world. The mould and damp have been rinsed off and we’re gleaming and white inside, waiting to be repurposed.

When we arrived I spent months gazing at ceilings, looking out of windows, waiting for all my dreams to become real. The dreams I’d had of California days and nights. I have forgotten them, whatever they were, but they didn’t come true. The truth was the eye-stinging sensation of looking out the window ready to go, and knowing that I had to go it alone. Letting all the hopes that brought me here go out like candles.

I was flailing and grabbing and it tired me out. I was lonely and empty and I thought I’d made a mistake and before I could pick myself up and start again I had to sink down, down, down into nothing. I had to shrink down, down into an empty space, ignoring everyone and everything just to listen to my own intestines gurgling and my brain flipping over until I was left with the burned out ashes of my old life, a life that looked so different now it was just a set of photographs; a file of papers. I wept heavy tears for the old life. And I cried just as hard for the new life that wasn’t here, where I had expected to find it. And I added my tears to the ashes of the burned-up fragments I was left with. The tears and the ashes melded together and I found that I had ink. I went to Walgreens to buy some paper that was 100% tree free (made from sugar cane) and with my tear-ash ink I started to write and write and write. And as I wrote a breeze was whipped up around me like an acid trip and I just had to ride it out until eventually I was reborn. And only when I had found that clarity, the clarity of the pen, could I see this place for what it really was to me. And I could see myself for what I really was to this place.

There are people looking up at the sky on the streets as they step over others who are trodden into the floor. They turning their noses towards the pacific breeze to overcome the shitty smell of broken people. The smell of excrement follows hordes of rotting bodies in tattered clothes, shuffling around the edges of this town like they’re staggering out from a bomb-exploded building. And here was I, crying into my pillow like a lost and lonely child, when really I was fattened prince in an ivory tower.

There will be no sad harmonicas to serenade me as I read books in bed in London late at night. There was a moment when San Francisco was was calling, when whispers in the fog were saying stay. But the California kool-aid is too sweet for me, and it seems there is not enough of it to go round. So I will leave it here and move on, and the pieces of me that I have buried in deep graves amid the roots of the redwood trees will stay.


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