My uber driver looks nice enough and is nice enough to let me sit here for a second on my phone without the burden of having to converse with her—a stranger whose car, to be perfectly honest, smells like beer—and I am hungry, not for a Dodger dog at Dodger Stadium, which is what will be on offer at my destination, but for the same thing so many Angelino's seek: fame, glory, some goddamn respect and a little bit of cash-money with which I can feed my baby: Oliver, brewing in his mama's belly.
We saw him on the screen for the first time the other day, at the obstetrician's office, and heard his little heart thumping like a freight train blowing down the tracks on its way toward what? What's he going to be like when he's my age? Will he be likable? Am I likable? Does it matter? Who the fuck am I trying to impress?
My poor uber driver looks like she's been driving all day, starting and stopping in this dense rush hour traffic, her foot heavy on the brake, my back lifting off the padded seat each time we come to a stop. Crazy how we all grew up with our parents telling us not to take rides or candy from strangers, and now the only way any of us get anywhere is by taking rides with strangers who offer us water bottles and mints. What will I tell Ollie about staying safe? How can he stay safe in a city like this?—a city both me and his mother love, deeply, as we know, deeply, that this city is no place to raise a child...
All I know is that I don't want my kid to grow up and become another L.A. asshole wading through traffic with a sour face and a self-righteous belief that he owes no one thanks, no one gratitude, and no one appreciation. Someone honks at us as I'm writing this—no joke, as if to prove my point, like a period at the end of a sentence—and the uber driver's GPS is saying, "Turn Left on Sunset Boulevard in 1000 feet," then we are turning left, past the Bank of America, and for a moment, this moment, I feel so lonely inside, despite the abundance that surrounds me. I feel so sad, my throat tight and body tired from a long day in front of the screen. But think: Maybe I'm just hungry. Maybe I should count my fucking blessings. Maybe I've turned into another L.A. asshole. Maybe my child is doomed.
On the bumper of the Toyota Camry in front of us is a sticker: 'Trump sucks.' The turn signal ticks and tocks. The sun breaks through the branches of a dusty tree as we creep forward in traffic. And I know that everything is glowing orange across all of California at this precise moment in time: the fruit trees in my hometown, the beaches of Big Sur. I remember when I moved here, to Los Angeles, and when it occurred to me, for the first time, that Sunset Boulevard is named Sunset Boulevard because it runs east to west, like the sun, and because the sun sets on Sunset Boulevard, casting long shadows over the gray cement with its yellow lines. And that seems so obvious now, but it was a revelation, then, as one day this moment, these words, will feel so naive, and I will feel, perhaps, as I look down at Oliver, as though I have achieved something truly great.
Or perhaps I will think the opposite. Perhaps this child is me shooting myself in the foot. Perhaps this world, not just this city, is no place to raise a son. Or perhaps I'm thinking too much, as usual.
All I know is that we will arrive soon, me and her, he and I, this car, that child, and by then, everything will have changed again, and I will be writing another story altogether.