“What do you want to do now?” he asks as we stand in the parking lot of the foot massage spa somewhere in the Valley.
“I don’t care,” I respond. Because, really, I don’t. All that matters is that I am spending time with my friend in his home.
We stand there, in the early summer evening, wondering what to do. We’d already been biking in Santa Monica, wandered around the impressive Fairfax Flea Market …
“We could go on a drive and just get lost,” I suggest.
Getting lost, to me, is one of the most perfect things to do in any town. In any world. There is a wonder of getting lost, of exploring the world around us.
The two of us get into the car, and he begins to drive. We drive to Mulholland Highway.
We turn onto the street and wind into the canyon, dry brush encasing the car as we climb up, up, up.
The California drought is present and smacking us in the face; hills once lush are now dry and a crackling brown as we begin our journey. We have no set destination. It’s just a drive. To see where we end up.
Traffic soon begins to cease as we head high into the hills. Our route undetermined. Poetic in a sense. We’re adventurers, looking to see what the world has to offer. Even though this world has been explored, we have new eyes, and we’re plugging into it.
“That road looks cool,” he says, so we turn down it. For a moment, we are investigating the neighborhood, looking for a lost friend who used to live there.
But what we find is more than I could imagine
Sprawling ranches with gorgeous homes surround us as we move more into the untouched territory of the Los Angeles hills.
We weave through mountain roads, homes dotting the parched landscape, talking in intervals about lives we could image in ourselves having.
Then, we are back on Mulholland again, and continue to explore.
We head down Stunt Road, because he recognizes the name.
There, we are presented with another world. Huge homes, dry creek beds, brittle grass, dry trees, line the road. It’s an eerie landscape, mostly because I have seen this part of the world, previous to the drought and know how gorgeous it can be.
But, even in this moment, with the sun-caked land and brown landscape, it is beautiful.
We continue our drive, heading — we think — towards civilization — but not entirely sure.
“I could live here,” he says, as we pass by a house perched on a cliff. “But my kids would never be allowed outside.”
Me, I retreat into my mind. Trying to see if I could imagine myself in the hills of Los Angeles. If I could imagine myself in the USA. My eyes scan the homes, the ranches, as we move from bend to bend.
Can this ever be my life again?
I try to envision my world, in a home on Stunt Road. A gorgeous ranch, with plenty of rooms for company, with a large, grass area for kids I may have. It flickers behind my eyes and then disappears. And I struggle. Because all I want is some sense of normalcy. Some sense of consistency. And the States is the best place to gain all of that.
While he drives, I fight an inner battle with myself. One that maintains a sense of independence, yet longs for a life that is free from visa issues, from moving, from making new friends, from starting fresh.
This could have been my life. My world. But, I chose a different path which makes me daydream.
I envision going an alternate route, one laden in money and a full-time job, with a husband and children. Waking up in one of those ranch homes, brewing coffee, preparing breakfast and sitting outside on a wooden chair, just looking at the wilderness around me.
It is nowhere close to the life I have, which in Spain, is one of far more solitude. A wave of sadness rushes over me when I realize that life, in those hills, can’t be mine. I try to grasp the happiness of living abroad, but in that moment, I begin to question what my decisions have done, where I really stand in the world.
I close my eyes, radio coming in and out, as we move forward.
We hit the end of the road.
“Right or left?” he asks.
“Right,” I say, because I really have no clue.
We head right, and then, there it is. The Pacific Ocean. We’re high above and looking down, and the ocean meets the sky, and it’s so hard to differentiate the two. Blue fades into blue.
It’s a blending of worlds.
Asia is somewhere over there.
I look, longingly. Memories of my life in Thailand flooding my mind, even though I know Thailand isn’t anywhere in the same latitude as LA.
We continue on, maneuvering the sharp turns, coming across no one but stray bikers as we slowly decline. Soon, the landscape becomes more lush, larger neighborhoods pop up. It’s the decline back into reality. The movement from my mind into the present.
When we come back to the Valley, I’m kind of shell-shocked after being so remote. Here, it is a bustle. Strip malls, homes lining the streets, traffic. It is the needle in my balloon as we emerge back into real life.
But, it made me think. What is it I really want?