Friday morning. No sleep. Have to get to the airport. My bones ache and I’m sure I haven’t packed everything I need. I don’t have the strength to think. I make it to the shuttle. I turn on the iPod, loud. Shuffle plays cruel tricks.
I make it to the airport and I’m so exhausted and distracted that I keep looking up, expecting to see someone I know. I can’t focus on my computer. I can’t focus. Last night was long. I can’t believe I’m on my way to a wedding reception while everyone else is still here.
The women seated behind me during the flight are so obnoxious, they bring out the worst in me. The only way I can keep from asking them to shut up is to write down the ridiculousness coming out of their mouths. The three of them — a mother, daughter and young friend, are poring over gossip magazines.
Did you hear they wanted Sela Ward for Desperate Housewives but they went with Teri Hatcher?
I think it’s good that they’re going to change up the cast. She’ll be on it next year, then? Will they replace everybody?
No, I think they meant Sela Ward was going to have the part before the show started.
How could she be on it before the show? Did it used to be on before it was on?
Like in London?
That’s a good question. Maybe. I must have read it wrong.
Oh, God. Kill yourselves. Please kill yourselves.
Did you know Ben Affleck is 32? So’s Jennifer. Isn’t that perfect?
Isn’t Sienna Miller so skinny you want to die?
No wonder Jude Law keeps going back to her. With all their babies.
How did we find out about the nanny?
That nanny told.
So she made some money?
Yeah. And ruined two lives.
I want to put my music on to drown them, but I cannot. My Kid A ritual must wait for another ten minutes. Hurry up, take off.
I love Coco Cox. Super cute baby.
Are you going to see The Dukes of Hazzard? I might, to see that one girl.
My brain is screaming, “That one girl is on every single page of that magazine you call the news! Read! Don’t just look at pictures!”
Mom? Can I read that Jennifer Aniston article when you’re done?
Isn’t that sad, how she has to hear about Brad Pitt?
She’s so brave.
Finally, finally, finally I can put my music on. Kid A washes over me. I breathe. The song changes to “How To Disappear Completely.” The lyrics go past my head and into my body. I hear them everywhere.
That’s not me
I try to get some sleep, my head smashed against the plane, using the hood of my hoodie for the world’s saddest pillow.
Where I please
We are landing way too soon. I have a cup of much-needed coffee and an even more needed scone. “You look exhausted,” stee says. His mother asks about last night’s episode taping. I try to explain it without it sounding like a fake job.
I walk through walls
I float down the liffey
We drive to lunch. Something pops in the hood. Smoke everywhere. The car is unhappy.
I’m not here
This isn’t happening
I get out of the car and lie on the street, staring at the sky. I’m dizzy. I look like a Berkeley bum.
I’m not here
I’m not here
After lunch I fall into a near coma sleep. It is brief. Time to get pretty for a wedding reception.
In a little while
I’ll be gone
There are children everywhere. Pictures and stories and one house with four children under four. The eldest does everything he can to get a moment’s attention from somebody. I compliment his toy. He follows me out the front door.
“Will you be staying for dinner?” he asks.
“No, I have to go to this thing,” I say.
“Oh. That’s too bad.”
“It must be hard work, taking care of all these kids,” I say to him.
“I hate being the oldest. I hate it.”
He sits on the ground. I crouch down with him. “Because you have to take care of everybody?”
“Because I’m always the one who gets in trouble for everything. Jacob hits me, and I try to be good, but then I have to hit him back, and then I get in trouble. I hate it.”
“I wish I could tell you that won’t always be the case. But it gets easier.”
“I have to go. See ya, Ethan.”
A woman I’ve never met before drives us to a street corner. I have no idea why she did, or who she was. When I’m in Berkeley, other people are literally behind the wheel.
The moment’s already passed.
Yeah, it’s gone.
This is the place where everybody calls us LA. stee wore sunglasses while we were outside. “You can take the boy out of Hollywood,” one says. My dress? Hollywood. The shoes? Hollywood. The mojito? So fucking Hollywood. Berkeley boys love to mock. Old friends are reuniting. The “hellas” are flying.
There’s no wedding at this wedding. No ceremony. No cake. No familiar rituals outside of a couple nice speeches. I give Skylar my digital camera. His pictures are impressive, for a five-year old. He takes terrible pictures of me, but great pictures of feet.
And I’m not here
This isn’t happening.
I’m not here.
I’m not here.
We claim the bad kids corner early on. “The Berkeley Wives.” This is the only group where I tend to sit with the women.
Everybody has a baby; I have shingles.
I find the bathroom. While waiting for my friend to return, I’m asked to dance. I’m salsa dancing with strangers. How did this happen?
Strobe lights and blown speakers
Fireworks and hurricanes
There are drinks. Catching up. They have stories about schools and vaccinations. I have stories about Dave Chappelle. stee sees an old girlfriend. I see the bottom of my fourth mojito.
Jeff tells me he now thinks of his life as potential entries for my website.
Rebecca, Darcie and I talk about old clothes, the kind we coveted when we were kids.
“I loved my Esprit denim jacket so much.”
“Yes. And Benetton.”
“Benetton. The place that makes you scream, ‘Why can’t I be Asian!?”
Darcie spills a full glass of wine into my lap.
I’m not here
This isn’t happening
I quickly follow the wine with a glass of ice water. I am now sober, wet, and cold. Ha-ha. It’s a real party now that someone’s got a shoe filled with red wine.
By the time I get back from the bathroom, everybody’s wasted. A heavy-set, red-faced human heart attack is talking to my friend. All I know about him is that he’s got a gun on him right now. He looks at me and says, “Take that girl. Red Sweater Girl. You see her? Now, I don’t know if she’s married.”
I hold up my hand. My friend tells him my husband’s name. They went to school together.
“Well, clearly she has issues.”
At first I think he’s capping on my husband, but then I see he’s not joking at all.
He stumbles from his position on the stairs, like a cliche. “Look at her. You can tell she has issues. Because she’s a woman. And you never, ever, ever trust a woman.”
I open my mouth. Take a deep breath. My newest friend, Pilar, shakes her head. “You don’t want to do that,” she says.
She’s right. I know she’s right. I grab my cell phone and put my head down.
I’m not here
“Look who’s so LA with her cell phone.”
Ben gets encouraged. “When this girl tells you off, you will never talk again, my brother. I don’t know what Pam’s gonna say to you, but it’s gonna be perfect. Do it, Pam. Tell him. Tell him what you want to say.”
Heart Attack’s got his hands up. “Let’s hear it, girlie. What you got?”
Eyes on the phone, willing it to make a sound. It does. I leap for it.
It’s Chito, with a text message from San Antonio. He’s listening to Rilo Kiley’s “Portions for Foxes.”
I’m not here
I text him an R Kelly lyric about someone spilling wine on my dress and how I need some club soooodaaaa!
Ben is upset I haven’t told off Heart Attack Gunman, who stumbled away. “Come on, Pam. Go over there and tell him off. I really want to see you do it. It’ll be hilarious.”
“I can’t, Ben.”
“Because I’ll tell him what’s wrong with him, and I’ll be right, and then he’ll fall in love with me.”
Ben thinks for a second. “Holy shit, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. You’re right. Don’t do it. Go back to your space phone, Hollywood.”
stee shows up seconds later. “Hey, [Heart Attack Gunman] wants to say hi to you. He loves you. What happened?”
Heart Attack gunman spits dip into the restaurant fountain. Last call was almost an hour ago. The bride has handed out more wine. I’m still wet and cold. I test my phone’s email feature. Turns out I can send, but not receive. It’s useless.
I check messages. My coworker catches me up on what I missed.
Chito texts that while I’m at a Berkeley wedding, I should be careful not to have sex with a lesbian pastor.
Chito has won the text message game.
“How Hollywood is this girl with her phone?”
I don’t know how to tell them I’m texting R Kelly-esque lyrics with a man in a dive bar in San Antonio. That’s not LA. That’s as close to Texas as you can get.
“Where is Ben?” I ask Darcie.
“All I know is that the last time I saw him, he was getting into a fight with a man on crutches.”
Best line of the night.
Have I mentioned that this is actually fun? There hasn’t been enough food, and I am one of the few who appears to be sober, and everybody’s laughing and then —
We’re kicked out. There are no cabs. Everybody’s staying with their parents. There’s nothing open to eat. We are screwed. Then Heart Attack Gunman begins shouting in the street, screaming at everybody and nobody, and I know we’re soon fucked.
We put the bride and groom into the first cab. There is discussion of walking home. I think about walking for thirty minutes, uphill, in four-inch heels, and know there’s just no way.
They give us the next cab. Sweet, wonderful people. I tip the driver fifty percent of the fare.
Triscuits for dinner. I drop into the bed. There is nothing more inside of me. I must rest.
I paid ten bucks for an internet connection today. I’m at a Starbucks in front of an open window. Recently someone drove a jeep through the front doors, because Starbucks is evil. Berkeley violence.
I have to write a few pages for AB because the redesign is almost finished. I’m almost done with the manuscript. But right now I really have to pee, and I don’t know if I can ask total strangers to watch my stuff while I’m gone. Why did I just tell you that? My head isn’t in the game. I’m not here. This isn’t happening.