Tuesday, November 20, 2012

People talk to me in California

"You want to hear something neat?" the woman sitting across from me in the Planned Parenthood waiting room asked. She was blonde and pretty, in her early 40s, with a luminous Californian grin.

"Sure," I said.

Why people trust me, I don't know. I look ridiculous.
"I got pregnant when I was sixteen years old," she said. "I didn't know what to do, so I went to the clinic for an abortion, but they said it was too late, four months. I would've had to go to a hospital and have an overnight stay. So instead I found a nice couple and they adopted her. She just texted me on Friday." She smiled brightly. "You want to see a picture?"

Her daughter, nineteen, looked just like her. She told me some more of the story: the younger daughter, from a relationship that was already on the way out. That they would be going to see her eldest at Christmas, that this was the first contact they'd had in ten years. That she never would have gotten the text if she had, as originally planned, been out on a date with a new boyfriend on Friday -- instead, he had told her that morning that he wasn't sure he saw a future with her, and so she was at home drinking wine when the text from her daughter came through. That he had called her the day before and said he wanted to be her boyfriend, that they were in it for the long haul. "So now I'm in here getting birth control," she said. "I think God brought my daughter back to me at exactly the right time."
Everyone could use a little gratitude du jour, right?

Then they called her name and she went to the back rooms and I was still sitting there.

People talk to me. They always talk to me. I don't know if it's because I look non-threatening (or ridiculous, as my current sartorial style could best be described as either "deranged vagrant" or "muppet") or because people are so full of stories and nobody to listen to them, that they just spill out all over the place.

I loved this woman's style.

I'm back in California. I made a bad lifestyle choice, in that I became a vegetarian in Perth about a year and a half ago, and now that I am in California for an extended period of time -- California, where the cheap tacos are a dollar and the carnitas melts on your tongue and the gorgeous smoky carne asada would make you kill a man -- I have to stare mournfully at the taco trucks and pass them by. I wish I wasn't so ethically congruent. I would be chowing down on slow-cooked ribs within a second and then lying about it. Instead, I have to eat quinoa burgers with the rest of the health-obsessed. Of course, when Ray took me to Trader Joe's for my first trip in over a year, after I finished doing a happy dance, I loaded our cart up with miniature peanut butter cups, lemon and ginger snap ice cream, and pita chips. So maybe I should revise that "health" assessment.
826 Brooklyn and superhero supplies.

Fortunately, since I am in San Luis Obispo, there aren't that many Mexican restaurants. Or Mexicans. Or anyone who isn't white. SLO is the whitest Californian town I have ever spent any time in; I thought San Francisco was pretty white, but SLO takes the cake. Cal Poly, the top notch engineering school in California, serenely presides on the hill over the town, and the ocean is only ten miles away; this is simultaneously a student town and a retiree town, so the vast majority of people are either under twenty or over fifty. I've been spending all my social time with Ray's Burning Man friends, though, and they definitely don't fit this demographic so at least I'm bucking the trend wherever I am.

The funny thing to me about being back in California is that although I have the attitude of a Californian (or an Australian: laid back, easygoing, prefer being barefoot and eating quinoa burgers), I walk like a New Yorker. Brisk, weaving efficiently through crowds, I know exactly where I'm going and how to get there, and god help anyone who gets in my way. Fortunately, nobody ever walks in California, so I usually have the sidewalks to myself.

Are you a villain? I was.
I'm here in SLO until the beginning of December, with a side trip down to LA-ish over Thanksgiving, and then up to the Bay Area, and then I fly back to Canada to collect everything and finally, thankfully, settle. I have an apartment and a hydro bill waiting for me in Montreal, and despite the cold, I am so looking forward to having everything of mine in one place once again. Now all I'll be missing is my suitcase in Australia that has all my good jeans in it, but I'll at last have my books, my art, my kitchen supplies. I wish I still had my large cast-iron frying pan, but that got lost to the depths of Justin's house, along with my dance sword and my dignity. As it is, I have most of everything I own, and it will once again be in the same place, and that makes me so happy, you have no idea. I didn't realize how much I missed a sense of permanence until I set up my life to not have it for about five years.

1 comment:

Transcendancing said...

Permanence and wandering-ness are funny things. I have a sense of permanence in Perth, but also a non-fixedness as I spend so much time between other places, though still, in Perth. But also, Melbourne. I wonder at whether I'd enjoy more nomadic adventures or whether I'd prefer some kind of permanence, I expect actually I won't ever lose the permanence given the partners I have, but I could well take up the nomadic in future if I wanted.

I'm looking forward to hearing more of your tales. I think of you often and miss you. *lovelovelove*