Saturday, October 31, 2009

Mixed tape

I'm sitting near the back of the bus, a group of college-age kids across the aisle.

"Oh that was a long time ago."

"Did you know that Sheila's dad's car has a tape deck? A tape deck!"

"When was the last time they made cars with tape decks?"

"Come on over and listen to my mix tape!"

They laugh uproariously.

But I'm snapped back in time - one instant on the bus, groceries at my feet - the next I'm the car with my brother. He's wired a CD player to the speakers, but it's delicate. On bumpy roads the CD skips. The technology is still new, and I wonder if they'll ever make them stable enough that cars will some day come with CD players built in.

"Oh, sure," says my brother, his arm resting on the sill of the driver's side window. We listen to Elvis Costello, hurtling through the dark.

My brother and I are escaping. It's New Year's, but we didn't spend Christmas home with family. We're in L.A., or rather, leaving L.A. We've each been on our separate trips this week, but tonight we're both staying at my former boyfriend's mother's house in Topanga Canyon.

The mother is away; it's just former boyfriend (now friend), brother and me. There's nothing but bags of wheat germ in the fridge, so the three of us take off down the other side of the canyon looking for food. We're almost ready to settle for a convenience store burrito when we find a bar that's open. The fifty-something waitress has high blond hair and blue eyeshadow. Bar patrons sing Auld Lang Syne and she brings us a vegetarian pizza. All the vegetables are grown in the garden out back, she says.

It seems to be the best pizza I've ever had.

All this I've told again and again. The pizza and how we learned we'd stumbled into San Fernando Valley when a girl exclaimed, "Oh, miga-aawd!"

But I've never told about the three of us in that mid-century modern house hidden in the trees. About the tall windows and the mirrored wall, reflecting our selves back, perched on three mismatched chairs. My brother with his long legs stretched out in front of him. About the deep quiet surrounding us, how I dream of a movie with this image: three people in a white room, trees outside whispering secrets to one another in the dark.

About the furtive kiss with the former boyfriend when my brother is in another room, the relationship over but our bodies unconcerned.

It's one of those rare moments when we're aware - my brother and I - that we're on the verge of something new. My brother will marry soon, become a father. It's the last time we'll be together like this, and I think we know it.

I'm on the bus on my way home from work, groceries between my feet, and I'm missing my brother sharply. Late night talks after a date. Riding to school with him in the '65 Mustang he'd fixed up, rolling in a cloud of music. Staring in shared terror at the black widow on the wall of his basement room, the red hourglass on her abdomen winking out. An early morning drive home from our brother's wedding, windows rolled down and music blasting to keep us awake. Lying on my stomach in his room, reading lyrics from his album covers.

That last drive in the living dark, music rolling over us, as I lean out the window to breathe in the green of the trees.


LittleMud said...

A tape deck? I'd like to see how they'd react to an 8-track!

I still remember that pizza like it was yesterday - best pizza I ever had. Maybe it was just the time and the company, one of those spur-of-the-moment accidental vacations that turned memorable.

Boy could I use one of those right now. I wonder if the wife and kids would object...

Chemical Billy said...

Me too. The boss wouldn't mind, either.

Just a little road trip with no particular aim.

Evan said...

pizza + prose = my favorite things

Geo said...

Do you know what you make me want to do right now? Retreat to a lighthouse and write and think and cry and drink herbs and sleep. And then write.

Shuriu said...

This is some of your best writing, ma belle.