Sunday, September 13, 2009

In case of 2007: The Very End

They stretched out, stomachs full of warm coffee.

And this, she realized, this was how it would happen. How he would finally drop anchor, cutting those telephone wire lines that connected him to Hannah. Because of this, he would call her tonight and tell her, voice breaking, that he would not be coming back to New York.

She expected this knowledge to come to her with a jolt of vicious joy, but it didn’t. She felt only relief, relief that it would all be over and that he could join himself together again. His continents would drift back together, glaciers cracking, tectonic plates rumbling in reverse, molten lava bubbling back into the earth. This was a prehistoric morning, as he rolled onto one shoulder, sand sugaring half his face. This was Pangea.

“It’s the bluest thing I’ve ever seen.” She said, nodding to the sky.

He smiled, but didn’t reach for her.

A gull squawked nearby. They listened to it and to the thunder of the Pacific and the starting-up morning sounds of the pier.

She noticed a wild-looking man, shirt off, panting as he jogged down the shore.

“Crazy man dead ahead.”

He only smiled again.

The relief began to ebb as he rolled back onto his back. She felt the rush of time come sweeping up through history, yanking landmasses apart at their seams.

He sat up and it was going.

He grabbed his phone, checked the time, said, “We need to move your car.”

And it was gone.

They stood, brushing sand off their bodies, and turned their backs on the Pacific. Their shadows stretched behind them.

And by the time he finally reached for her, she took his hand in full awareness that there was no Pangea. Not for her anyway. His hand, clasping hers tightly to help her over the dunes, was no more than an apology.

Monday, September 7, 2009

In case of 2007: Fall, Exercises

When I was seven, Jurassic Park was released into the world. Of course we weren’t allowed to watch such things. My sister was nine and even she didn’t see it until two years later. For some reason, though, the stories I’d heard about the movie haunted me. I saw clips, little clips about it on TV. I drew pictures of dinosaurs, and my older cousins terrorized us by hunting us down as raptors.

I don’t know if it was this way for everyone, but that craze seemed to last forever. It was four years later by the time I actually saw it. 1997. We were in the basement. I’d long since gotten a minute-by-minute retelling of the movie from my sister. And, even so, the film surpassed what four years of an overactive imagination could create. I don’t remember if this is true, if I said something about it right then, or if I could pinpoint that moment as being when I decided to make movies. I was already a writer. But Jurassic Park set me to fire.


On Christmas Day – I was probably about 14 – my mother told my grandparents that my sister was a better writer than me. I don’t know if, even then, my dreams of writing had solidified. But I know now that writing has always been so entangled in every part of my soul. It was the way she said it, a slight incline of her head at my own false assertions. I was trying to impress upon my grandparents just how talented Lisa was. But when I said she was better, I didn’t mean it.

My mother meant it. I don’t know if I so much cared about being worse than Lisa – she was older, of course, and she was Lisa. It was just an assessment of me, by my mother, that declared me unfit to pursue my deepest longing.


Three swings, all about a foot from the ground and then one baby swing, dangling by wound up rusted chains. They’re framed in yellow, garish, bright, rectangular. Someone built this playground, but they forgot the grass. Instead they’ve tried to keep the city out with chain-linked fences, drab brick, and dry mulch.

Spider-vein cracks in the greentop suggest earthquakes, past and future. In the inescapable angles of a Los Angeles sunset, towels sway on the clothesline.

No one but me knows this family has a baby. What a thing, what a beautiful chore, to roll up that last swing, raise up the baby so she can fly, suspended, tiny fists waving, all almond eyes and black bean little toes. She can sway, dancing, to the tumble of sirens.

I want that. I want this – four swings, a slide, four walls, and a city to keep at bay. And the breath of a baby in October. And a pumpkin.

I demand that, if I can never have the grass.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

In case of 2007: Midnight, August

I once said that God must be a city built on the shore. I still believe that’s true. He must be cliffs, so strong and solid. He must be a roll of dark mountains, ferny and alive with unseen vegetation, the sound of crickets and the damp smell of fog.

He said a city set on a hill cannot be hidden. I still believe that, too – now more than ever in the murk of this particular Malibu evening. He is light, stronger than neon and fluorescent pollution, the clear ring of a bell against a low urban and suburban buzz.

And the Franciscans must have known, to have so well followed His example. To fortify themselves here, surrounded by the ocean – the blue and thick gray, a vast and melting nebula. At night, it’s not alive, not moving and certainly not audible above the Pacific Coast Highway. It’s inanimate, a dead thing, swirls of anesthetic and comfortless sleep.

This. Here. This is where we make our stand, toes at the edge of this. Not conceding anything but in plain sight, in piercing gold, a hiccup in the droning ocean flatline.

God’s hand will reach down from His city and plunge into the water and fish out buildings and SUVs and great fistfuls of humanity, wrench them, dripping mire, out of the abyss. He will invite them, longingly, with a searchlight beam in high, clear soprano notes, undulating, rapturous. He will speak in his booming voice and it will resonate in the chests of men and they will drag themselves up from the sucking tide and begin the climb to his city.

God is a beacon.

And it's for us to walk along the shore, pointing and saying, "Look, look!"