You think to yourself that today is a day when it’d be fine to be homeless. Seventy-five degrees and sunny, no humidity, the park full of happy people leaving food scraps and $5 bills on the benches, by accident and on purpose. The birds chirp, the cars drive by with windows down and throwback music softly reaching your ears.
Everyone seems so casual, wearing gym clothes and sunglasses, not trying to impress anyone. It’s perfect out here, you think. No one has even taken a selfie.
You consider getting ice cream, but that’s more of a commitment than you’re willing to make. You’d rather just sit here, reclining in a fold-up beach chair with your notebook, picking up your head too often to peoplewatch.
It was supposed to be a poem, but it’s not possible to get into that snarky, snippy, Seuss-y, indignant, preachy omniscient narrator voice right now. You’re far too relaxed, too peaceful, to write a piece with that much skill and meaning.
Time passes neither slowly nor quickly, which feels rare these days. It makes you realize how much you enjoy the feeling of being alone and unbothered in the city. You’re married to your idiot best friend, and you two spend so much time talking and making jokes that you almost forget how good it feels to just be quiet sometimes, alone in the park where no one cares about you.
He seems harmless enough for daylight hours, but he does have that dissociating, distant gaze, like he doesn’t realize he’s staring at a person and not a tree or a sunset or a ham hock. Lucky for you, he’s wearing two different shoes, and one is open-toed, so you feel confident that you could outrun him or crush his little piggies if he made a violent approach. Being a woman alone, you assess these things regularly. Just in case.
You sip from the bottle of home-brewed iced tea that you brought with you, thinking of all the friends you decided not to reach out to today. The ones who never call you anymore, who barely leave their living rooms since they decided that the only thing they want to do is have, protect, and photograph their newborn babies.
You scoff at how none of those anxious, terrified parents would dare to just sit here in a quiet, creepy détente with a homeless guy in such close proximity. You think to yourself, what kind of life is that? Give me Liberty or give me death. Live free or die. Remember when people were fearless and bold?
Either you won in this unspoken battle for Logan Circle squatter’s rights, or he has some primal, animalistic weather sense. Because you’re kind of a monster, you anxiously hope that if something happens, it’s something bigger than a thunderstorm. Some kind of unexpected natural disaster. Maybe a tornado. Maybe a volcano. Wouldn’t it be kind of cool if D.C. had stories like Pompeii?
You chew on your pen cap and read back pages from the novel you wrote. The pages are good. You’re shocked how much you enjoy them, especially because you don’t even remember when you wrote them. This was back when you changed the setting from D.C. to L.A. so no one would think the main character was some narcissistic depiction of you as its author. As if a mere location change could conceal that kind of a thing. You’re embarrassed how obvious it all seems, and how it puts more of you on the page than is real.
Besides, these pages have a big problem. Because while you love the characters you created and how you can feel truth in how their relationships play out in small moments, you have no idea what happens to them. It’s all so ordinary.
A young Latinx couple walk into the park with a photographer, and you stare for a good 3 minutes to assess whether it’s a quinceañera or a wedding, determining with only a 70 percent confidence interval that it’s a wedding. You base this on your uncertainty whether quinceañeras have something akin to bridesmaides, like the five little doting ladies in crimson knee-length dresses. They all look so young that you switch your vote to quinceañera. Final answer.
It’s happened before in this very park. It’s an impossible question because you never know what you’re writing about. What is anything anyway? How should you know what you’re writing about while you’re still writing? You were supposed to be writing rhymed couplets about climate change, and look how that turned out.
There’s no ultrasound in this notebook, doc. Besides, you love surprises. Sure, you’re holding the pen, but that doesn’t mean you know anything more than the schmo who just interrupted your creativity. Nothing means anything, to be honest. We’re all just waiting for our Vesuvius to blow its lid.
Some unhappy drivers honk for too long, using their horn as a punishment. It’s a public shaming, as if to say you are an idiot and this is my judgment of thee, as if that was the intended purpose of a car horn. You pause to think of other inventions that, in practice, have strayed so far from their intent.
Breasts are the first thing that come to mind, and you smile because you’re so clever and no one in the whole park will ever know it. Some things are just for you.
You close your notebook, satisfied, and decide that climate change isn’t important enough to write about. Not today, when you’re expecting an eruption to burn your pages to smithereens.