They say earthquake weather is a myth, but lots of Los Angeles writers have used it as a metaphor for that feeling that maybe the hot wind is trying to tell you something or that the earth, at a particular moment, feels shifty. I think it’s nothing to do with tectonic plates. Just an electricity in the air and a longing, on behalf of more people than usual, to live inside someone else’s skin. Shake things up. A generalized sense of being keyed up and vulnerable. Or maybe that’s just me. But there was a four point four in Yorba Linda last night, and we felt it rattle in our walls.
On 2nd and Alameda, city worker are winding a steel cord around a wheel. The cord stretches down into the ground. The wheel winds and winds. They watch it in poses of studied ease, but when I look closely, I can see that the tension in their shoulders mirrors the tension in the cord. I half expect a great thrashing leviathan, covered in mud, to get pulled up out of the ground. I would like to work for the city winding steel cords.
A man carrying a bag full of empty cans and bottles fishes a clear plastic cup out of a trash can on the corner. He holds the dregs of someone else’s iced coffee up to the light and squints. Will he drink it? Will he empty it out into the gutter?
He looks out at the stopped cars at the traffic light. With great care, he shakes the cup, once, in the direction of each motionless driver. I think he was blessing us. I would like to be blessed.
An unmarked white van—unmarked, but decorated, on the front grill, with a dirty, plush moustache covered in the stars and stripes. I would like to be a man, at least for a day, with a man’s body parts and body hairs, and so that I could know more about testosterone.
A pristine white Prius with a single bumper sticker: Don’t Abandon Your Baby. I would like to save an abandoned baby.
The man in front of me at the coffee shop has a black vest with strategic sections ripped out. His hair is longer and wilder and blacker and thicker than mine. He wears a black cap that reminds me of Che. His tattoos are intricate line drawings in black and white and I can’t stop looking at them, but I’m behind him, so he can’t see me staring and writing about him. The large type on his screen reads “Your Work As A Witness” until he logs onto Facebook. I would like to know about his work as a witness, and then I would like for him to give me one of those tattoos, on my left forearm.
I would like to be the kind of person in a coffee shop who is never distracted by the inside of her own eyelids and who never stops working to try on other people’s tattoos. I would like to be a vision of efficiency, without desire, without longing, pure. No, that’s a lie. Fascination nation. Earthquake weather. Whatever small things I have witnessed. That’s all I got.