book of days serial #12

On the tenth day of October at quarter past six in the evening with a perfect cool sunset on the desertsky and an autumn wind blowing through the valley she found herself in Burbank. Not the Burbank of Disney or Bob Barker, but of megalithic anchors of retail, of stucco and of red plastic letters with tower lights behind them. The firmament was matting over with a back lit green. She had never meant to go as far as Burbank. She had started out that afternoon as many others, her only destination the freeway. But she had driven the Golden State and up to Silver Lake and instead of turning back when she found herself lost on the surface streets of Glendale she kept driving.

She had driven to the beach early that morning, but there was oil scum on the sand and a red tide in the flaccid surf and mounds of kelp at the waterline. The kelp hummed with flies. The water lapped fetid grey, forceless. She sat in the car, languishing, parched, salt chapped, as though she were in the cabin of a creaking ship on the doldrums of a ghost tropic. The sun beat down with the intensity of a dreamt summer and the windows were adrift with the dusts of age. She watched the ocean searching for an eddy to draw her out to the horizon. When she left the Westside she drove aimlessly down Sunset through Beverly Hills, pulled into a gas station at the corner of La Brea, and, briefly flushed into purposefulness by a Coke, walked barefoot across the hot asphalt to a store window. She watched her face wrinkle and dry in the reflection of noon on the strip. She had eaten dinner nearby the night before all flushed then by grilled vegetables and her thighs stuck to the rich leather arm chairs. The darkness so pure she could make out the path of each individual filament in each lamp. The sun blazed a low contrast film here today, bright and dusky like a million tiny moons, but never warm.

As she stood there, poised before her own reflection, her intensity made her seem almost graceful. Yet her body was frozen in such an awkward posture that clearly had not been meant to last more than a few seconds. An intermediate movement, that now seemed in danger of lasting forever, if she could not find a pretext for ending it. She studied her posture with the fascination of a beguiled sculptor. She had remained there for an appreciable length of time, when a car lurched to the curb and startled her away from the looking glass.

She walked back to the car and sat a long while in the parking lot, idling the engine and preparing to drift east down Beverly to the chasms of the unearthly city. In the aftermath of the winds the air was dry, burning nervelessly, so clear that she could see ploughed furrows of firebreaks on distant mountains. Not even the highest palm moved. The stillness and clarity of the air seemed to rob everything of its perspective, the tall buildings emerging over the hills of Koreatown were skins flattened on the afternoon and seemed to alter all perception of depth, and she drove as if she were reconnoitering her body in an atmosphere without gravity. Del Tacos appeared, oil rockers creaked ominously.

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