I went back today. 11800 Kittridge. It is becoming a ritual, this search for her.
I stopped at the Jack in the Box and sat in front of her apartment. My old apartment. I am stalking her. I am stalking me.
I can barely see in for the bars that now surround the building. There is a sign posted advising that this is not a public building. It is that unsafe these days. I want to go and take her from there. Make a getaway.
Or do I want to sit one more time on the scratchy naugahyde and breathe. Breathe in her freedom, her bravado, her youth.
I am happy. I am fulfilled. I am blessed. What is it that I want from her? There is something she has that I want. Something I left behind there on Kittridge.
Peering in, I can feel the air and how it felt to walk up those stairs in the summertime. I can just about hear Bowie’s Panic in Detroit playing inside her apartment.
I no longer remember the apartment number. How could I not know? But I remember where it was. I can find the window on the side of the building. It was my little son’s bedroom.
Maybe if I stand outside, she will eventually pass by. Look outside and see me. Slide the window aside and yell to me through the screen. Invite me up for some Sarah Lee cheesecake.
That is what she always kept in the otherwise empty refrigerator . Mostly she ate out. Mostly I eat out. Mostly she prefers salty, starchy, spicy. Mostly I prefer salty, starchy, spicy.
I am looking for clues. Where did I last see her? This lost girl?
She was confident in her own way. Bold. I want to look in her closet for clues. Jeans and more jeans. Rhinestone bellbottoms. Short sassy tops. Clogs. A black Hawaiian shirt with a white men’s tank top underneath, a large red flower pinned smack in the center. Good for dancing.
And there in my closet are jeans and more jeans. Sassy tops. Baby clothes. Platform shoes. Boots. It could be her closet.
Where is she? I miss her. I want to study her every move. Hear her voice. Is it my voice? I want to ask her how the world looks through her young eyes. Compare notes.
I want to lay on the carpet and share a pepperoni pizza. Thick crust. I want to give her advice. She laughs. Life is a cabaret, she reminds me. And so much more, I whisper. She pretends not to hear.
I want to tell her about God. She is already in His hand.
I want to walk with her down to the corner, to the Bob’s on Lankershim. Order breakfast. Ham and eggs. Look at the want ads. She is looking for a part time job teaching nursery school.
She is planning what to wear to the club next weekend. Figuring out what she will do if Meridee is not available. That is when the helpless feeling sets in. The terror of Saturday night.
Eventually, she realizes that she can go to the club alone. What’s the difference? As soon as she walks in with a girlfriend, they are off on their own anyway. It is just the initial moment of walking in the door. Alone.
She toughs it out. Stands by the band, swaying. And then she is dancing. All night. With everyone and anyone. She collects phone numbers rather than giving out her own. That way she can choose later on. That way she feels in control.
After the clubs close at 1:30 am, she picks up her son from her parents’ house in Burbank and walks down the street to her apartment, carrying him asleep in her arms. She is bold that way.
And she was protected all along. Never out of His sight and she didn’t even know it. He carried her like a child asleep in His arms. Safe and loved.
She was so innocent for all her bravado. So naïve for all her glam jeans. So nice for all her debauchery. I miss her.
The way she tried to cook her Rice-a-Roni Thai-style. The way she took her phone off the hook for the night. The privacy she demanded in spite of it all. The freedom.
The risks she took. Her gypsy dreams. She couldn’t be bought ‘cuz she needed so little. She preferred to give it away just to prove it was really hers.
Little Ondine living in her small sand castle. Daring the waves. Surviving it all.
I am hot on her trail. One of these days, she will turn around and look straight at me. Will she recognize me? Will she like me? Who I’ve become? Somehow I need to know. To retrieve her and get her opinion. I need her blessing.
The girl in the clogs. Sister golden hair surprise. With the big red flower between her breasts. And the rhinestone jeans. Carrying a worn collection of e.e. cummings. Toddler on her arm.
Eating five skinny tacos and a milk shake. Owning two albums, Bowie and Alice Cooper.
Petting the goldfish, Kittah and Momo. Dreaming on the Noah’s ark sheets.
Does she know I’m just outside? Waiting on the sidewalk for her to awaken. I long to know her that I know so well. To coax her into the present. To tell her I love her. To hear her say, “No regrets”.