“It's not what you like but what you are like that's important.” -- Nick Hornby, High Fidelity

Chapter 10653

She sprang into the house like a honed hurricane, catching me couch-side with Raja the dog, living room television silent, off. Dishes in the sink. Nothing doing, just a lazy ape and his canine pal huddled in the elongated rectangle of evening sundown, across from an open, unblocked window. Startled and blank we blinked as Nik hurriedly talked. She'd entered and dropped her bags. Neither I nor the hound could think, yet shot up as the glass door crashed against the front porch loud as breaking billiard balls.

A breeze blustered through the five rooms and hall that composed our abode, out the study windows and kitchen side door, building an abrupt but agreeable momentum. Had us all moving. Test tubes in a centrifuge, filled with bubbling chemicals -- we got busy, crisscrossing paths back and forth at a growing pace. Straightening this and that. Messed up the bed.

Raja wandered from room to room; wagging as she followed Nik, then me; snuffling in the kitchen for treats; and periodically sitting adjacent, raising a paw for shakes. In general, loafing about gladly obedient.

My default setting accepts direction when lacking decision-making energy, especially at the hanging slumps of seasonally agitated depression, aching for daylight savings to end. And for Easter to come.

"You got home early," I finally mentioned, passing Nik in the hall. She to the kitchen with a stack of cups. Me lost with a vacuum, plugged in but not on.

"I wanna spend time with you before you leave," she tossed over her shoulder, flashing a wide-eyed and arched-brows, open mouth smile. On her way back she added with more of a curl to the edges of that Cheshire grin, "And we got stuff to do!" Her sharpest biters gleamed.

The goddess of summer had arrived early, vengeful and certain. Steaming and fervent, the initial aura of the hot season lit a fire already beneath my idle seat. The warmth loosening my entrenched momentum, unfurling my tight-held hidings and hangups, had me moving. Dancing and comfortable with the rhythm of give and take we managed to segue into after only a short time living together. Balanced exchange of time, talent, and treasure doesn't come naturally for long. The internal experience of another person is unknowable. Need and want relatively relative, sometimes. Luckily, the unshown or unshowable can often be spoken. If only it didn't take so many words.

"Everything alright?" Nik asked.

"Yeah," I told her. Unsure how I'd gotten onto the tangent, or how to express it.

The jagged edges of our cookie-cutter language -- which has anywhere from slight to gaping differences in definition from word to word -- often aids and eggs-on disagreements. A plan of life, especially when intertwined, may need a glossary of terms to be understood. Hense, the effectiveness of labels, I guess. Or language at all, for that matter. Verbal Communication being the quickest telepathy.

Unfortunately.

"Can we put on The Late Show instead?" I asked. "I know we're about to leave, but..."

"Is that what's bothering you? You hate Dr. Phil that much?"

"No, I was thinking about something else. I just don't like that lady." The large mother sitting across from Mr. McGraw hadn't answered his questions with a shred of honesty, her plump daughter sitting nearby ripe with accusations and prepared excuses. "Or the girl," I added. The mom ignored a shriek which emitted from her spawn, and the crowd booed.

"Nobody likes her," Nik assured me.

"Yeah," I agreed. "It's like unnecessary roughness."

She worked the controls until commercials came on, fast-forward, and then play as Stephen Colbert ran onto stage for a cheering crowd. He made predictable potshots at the president to much aplomb. Nik and I laughed as well, because our country had secured itself a self-satirizing, inept government.

"Why don't you like Dr. Phil?" she pressed. Her selection had been a newly recorded episode, while my choice had sat too long and had interviews neither of us cared to watch. But, also, it was something she liked that I expressly avoided and admonished.

"He's fine," I decided while lacing my shoes, done with the tellie anyway. "He's not a doctor, though."

"He's not a medical doctor or whatever, but he has, like, a doctorate in Psychology." She used the internet to confirm this.

"But not a licensed Psychologist."

"So?"

"That's like having a law degree without the bar exam -- you can't practice. He's a hack!"

Too far. "No, he's not."

"I meant, 'quack.'"

She glared at me, gold turning to red, so I cracked. "Not really, actually. He's not a quack. I just said that to get a rise out of you. He's fine as long as he's helping people and not lying. That's ultimately what's important to me about trash TV; that it's entertaining without taking advantage."

Her rancor slid into puzzlement, so I added, "Don't let Dr. Phil use you, babe."

"How would he be using me?" she demanded.

"He's costing you precious attention... and if it's all a sham you'll get no return on investment."

"I watch the parts I like and skip commercials. So, I'm using him."

She shrugged. I shook my head, scrunched my mouth to the left side of my face, but nodded in the end and knotted my shoes.

"Ready?"

"Yeah."

"I'm driving," she explained.

I grabbed our bags.

Expectations should not be inferred, nor implied. Or applied at all, if possible, because modules become so repeatable as to become habit. A sensuous and warm woman can consume me without even touching. The game of appeasement bringing each of us spiraling to keep up with the resentment that builds adversely, through aversion and resistance.

Mere smiles and winks get my tail swinging, the urge to be subservient toward and protect some imagined goddess somehow ingrained in my subconscious since ever I became aware of the difference between the sexes. Sometimes I overcorrect this by being too abrasive.

Unsure how exactly to be too much of anything when I've only known the amounts I've so far exhibited -- which seem reasonable to me, since I chose the levels.

Human identity has such a wide spectrum of possible incarnations that comparison of a small sample yields no real gauge. To be a lone representative of vibrations not recognized by the status quo means is inherently an aberration, but different doesn't mean wrong. Seems like self would be waylaid by the simple fact that the complexity of our parts, multiplied by the chaos of the universe, extantiated by time, equates to infinite iterations even in the life of one person. Nobody is the same when they die as they were when they were born unless they died the same day or before. Hating others is the same as hating your future or past self.

Conversely, loving yourself would be the only way to possibly love others -- because everyone is either you in the future, or you in the past.

"Whatcha thinkin?" Nik cooed from the passenger seat.

"What?" I asked, a clear deflection. "Nothing..."

"Mhm," she nodded. "You're eyes have that look again!"

I sighed. "Like they're searching the bottom of a box?"

"I guess."

"It means I'm trying to think of what I need to be thinking about. Like a buffering wheel."

"Exactly," she leaned in and added, "It's like I can see your little panda eyes spinning behind your glasses."

Grinned big because someone inspected the veneer, went around and peered upon a blinking spirit and bothered to knock on the front door. Ask what was up. What's with the static strobe lights out your front windows, neighbor?

Beamed at her for the natural, effortless way she managed to love others. Used a few words to tell her some semblance. Reached out and touch the tense parts of burdened and neglected shoulders. Nobody gives themselves a massage like another person can, and the body hides it's pain from itself.

Eyes on the road, automatic shifting allowing us to hold close in the low seats. Swerve in and out of the slow vehicles, going west on 24 Highway. Eventually making our haphazard way beyond KC, North Kansas City, and into Riverside.

We abducted a long-ago purchased flatscreen and Wii from my previous apartment. "We need them," I decided. She concurred, "and why not, it's your stuff --." "Well, sure. I just thought it'd be a nice thing to do. To leave it for everyone else in the common area." "Yeah," she still agreed, "too nice, though."

A thirty minute drive there and back to retrieve two dated electronics which probably retained less than half their value, and dropping. I'd transported both from Mississippi to Missouri to California to Kansas and back to Missouri, and spent hours of my life sitting with each, gesturing, yelling, and laughing at hunks of plastic filled with whirring metal. An overall investment is incalculable.

Nik's blue dart-shaped vehicle transported hers and my physical vessels -- the shells we use to interface with different aspects of humanity -- along with the requisitioned bots of similar purpose and personification toward home, music loud no talking. The screen of the TV a giant face in the back seat, one that could play toward my own front-facing projection plate the sights and sounds I'd wish to see and hear. The much smaller game console had been scraped into a box with it's wires and limbs. Although faceless, it's controllers resembled appendages, set with digits, to enable cooperative play between people and the little black computer.

Sometimes my failure to get along with humans stems quite logically from the ease of understanding machines and robots. A computer follows a simple set of rules and does not deviate, while the social constructs implemented and upheld by people aren't as straightforward.

We stopped for a tenderloin from Tom's Fried Chicken and at Hiboy for a pineapple upside-down cake shake and Jr. Hiboy Burger. Ate this dinner in front of the blurry and burbling living room TV. Plugged some mice holes. Half packed my bag. Then fumbled around plugging in and setting up the procured television in our bedroom to keep her company while I was away the next few weeks.

"Sorry it took so long," Nik whispered to me when it was done, but for the length of my imminent leave it'd be worth it, I said, to hold her there. Kissed her as she switched me for the shower, but ran outta time for much else because as I checked my departure details for the first time since purchasing the flight -- no surprise, found out it left MCI at eight the next morning, not later that night. Broke the news to Nik and perhaps the one, two punch of hers and my needs and wants both being met right after work cushioned the annoyance.

Had to use up the last of our time packing and cleaning. That's why you order desert first. Never know when you're leaving.

Chapter 10654

The lady bade and eventually brought reluctant me to bed by two a.m. -- and although tried my pathetic male best to press the envelope, she intuited better and shushed a frustrated bloke into the deep blue seas of sleep. Her actions allowed me a complete REM cycle by accident before rousing me again. My automated and ungrateful morning machinery mashed together the rest of my luggage, quite maniacally. A scrambling and tripping body of limbs bounced round the house as Nik calmly took care of any unturned rocks left in my wide and zig-zagging wake.

"You're lucky I love you," she revealed as we got into her unnamed, black and blue Dodge Dart. The drive to MCI from Independence would double her already forty-five minute commute to work.

"Or you wouldn't take me?" I asked.

"No, I still would."

"Just in general, then." Nodded. "I agree."

"I'd be mean about it, I mean." She clarified.

"Be mean," I pleaded.

She shook her head slowly, then refused in a raised voice and it felt close enough.

We jumped a curb backing out and sped toward the city avoiding puddles, Sunday drivers, and construction zones as if they were pop-up obstacles. Suggested mildly that she take interstate 435 as a roundabout -- but quick and uncrowded -- route to our destination, which she accepted despite unfamiliarity.

"I haven't gone this way in years," I told her. I smiled at the environment. Then at her, and finally thanked her. Verbally first, followed by feeble physical attempts at caressing her neck and shoulders sideways from the passenger seat before forfeiting the cause and organizing my bag. Had to get everything inside situated so the pack could be cinched down to it's slimmest -- Spirit Airlines requires dimensions of 18 by 24 by 20 for personal items. Once finished, I resumed petting and pressing at the top of the girl's back and along her spine with an even and full pressure of my fingertips, almost pushing her forward to imprint and impress a lingering presence. Making circles in the dimples of her back that might comfort her later via sensory memory.

I don't need much outside of clothing, electronics, and hygiene products for any trip. One bag brought all my crap. Got out at Terminal C and said a forgotten goodbye. Didn't and don't know the right ways to leave. It wouldn't be long this time, but it always feels the same in the beginning. Separation anxiety.

Found my gate and sat there super early like a lonely idiot, surrounded by strangers and with my phone plugged into a dead socket for many minutes until I realized and just shut it off. Sat there avoiding plan or worry anyway, with a book in my hands that I sometimes read.

...

Drifted to tens of thousands of feet in the air for a nap over Colorado and didn't wake fully until Lake Tahoe peeked through clouds below, peaks of white and gray surrounding it. A frosty crag in a matte crust with a harsh and dusty tan and a sandstone desert coming in from stage left, and bringing us gradually to the green mountains outside San Bernadino. Nodded along while my headphones sung in my ears. Until the bumps of wheels and burst of slow. A garbled announcement. Then the tidy extension of a bridge for unloading. Eventually, everyone poured out starting from the front, row by row, to the back -- yet people stood throughout the whole ordeal.

In the terminal a man declared, "Welcome to San Francisco!" and the round woman next to me hoped he had made a joke or mistake. Although I assured her this was LAX -- something strange already saturated the aura of the town. As if a certain power had been lost or diminished. A veil lifted while I'd been out. The apocalypse had visited.

Skipped baggage claim with a grin.

It smelled of concrete and tourists on the street.

Decided without much deliberation to walk a hard-learned path to Venice Beach. It's about a six mile hike, mostly cement sidewalks. Fellow pedestrians would be few and far between.

The trail-head is at the eastern end of LAX, where the sidewalks lead to a square and spill in one narrow path to traffic-laden streets beyond. Hills on either side of that dark exit rise to the overpasses above, and the sidewalk along Sepulveda always cast in darkness.

...

Found an unfinished pack of Lowell Smokes in the grass outside In-N-Out, the one right outside the airport. A plane flew over as I inspected the slim box. On the side and the broken silver seal it said: Sativa. The invigorating sativa, it said, on the front. Gifted to me accidentally by the universe and some sad, but connoisseurial soul. Each brown pack of Lowell's has either an eighth or a quarter herb rolled into half gram joints. Like an elaborate pack of cigarettes filled with celebration and creativity instead of cynicism.

Pretty fantastic. And it made a previously harrowing walk quite enjoyable, breezy.

Los Angeles had been cast in clouds as I'd arrived and overhead scarcely came the sun. But the light wind and humidity had me gliding. At one point a lone man in the park, on a bench, had to turn and see who was signing at the top of his lungs running up Centinela. He did not return my wave.

At the next intersection or a dozen, had happy flash backs of the first time I'd tried this walk on a stashed piece of adderall and no mary jane to ease my mania. I'd gotten lost several times at night along the Marina Del Mar area.

The dark hadn't bothered me because of the frustration of being lost in the first place. Not many guiding lights south of the Marina. No neon. And a heavy fog had the sky below every building's ears. Made them look taller, the otherwise common neighborhood and surrounding commercial district appearing wondrous, topless.

I’d jogged soggy and swollen feet on a loose loop-de-loop around the block, getting sprinklered on the parkway, jumping ferns. Eventually and painfully returning to the street I now found myself on, in the daylight, months later.

Few roads connect through to the Marina, which itself only has a couple roads out and toward Venice. And walking LA means lots of solid paths under foot, shocking soles, and jarring metatarsals, ankles, shins, and knees. Maybe vibrating hips and spine bones, too. Not to mention the strain on calve muscles and hamstrings.

Epic walks elicit endurance, cull the scouts from the crowd. Lengthy hikes roadblock tourism since intensity isn't usually warranted for vacation. Besides that, public transit paired with pedestrian travel is cheaper, more conducive to reading and listening to music, audiobooks, and podcasts. Depending on the currency valued, it pays to rideshare or take the bus.

A walkabout is about the walk as much as it's about discovering what you're about, on about, or your souls whereabouts. Finding self while stretching the vessel to resolidify, balance, test bounds. Because humans are so much more capable than they permit themselves.

I turned at the gas station, sunshine and a hazy head had me stumbling for the shade of the overhang. Google maps before my phone died and carried on.

...

At the 3 am dispensary saw a sneaky cop in a side parking lot eyeing me -- so I kept walking without interest anyway. Had what I needed and knew the way already, sunlight fading behind overcast fog that seemed generated as much by the shoreline meeting the mountains as from metropolitan smog and energy pollution.

Every religion basically frames the same humanist theme of man being foremost, and aspiring to godliness. We shapeth our world. Mighty Morphing Power Rangers.

...

Hail to the therapuetic concoctions available at the Green Goddess Collective in Venice. They sell plant products so superior to alcohol-based medicine as to whip the humanity around it into a froth. Not before had I been there with a line, or the kerfuffle of disgruntled patrons.

"That's insane prices," a non-California resident, twenty-one year old boy muttered on his way out beside me.

Marijuana had recently become recreationally legal for those old enough to drink and holding a state ID to prove as much. Which is a clear capitolistic shot in the dark. All signs point to weed being not the best for those under the age of twenty-five. Brain's still developing and any alteration of consciousness is really more of a disruption, biologically. But laws aren't made by way of the scientific method, merely majority rules.

Took the change remaining to the 733 bus and downtown to Union Station, and train ride to South Pasadena for a movie. Annihilation on purple chocolate chips and Swedish Fish had facemelt all over the seats of the theater. An elderly woman's head had exploded in the recliner behind my own. The audience trundled out of that show silently. Then I walked again to the nearest bus station, just a few miles south on Huntington. An hour ride to El Sereno.

Thirty minutes uphill and hoping nobody was home.

No van or car in the drive or along either road worth parking, so hopped the fence as so many times before. Went round to the back deck and found a wrecked old folding chair for lounging flat on the concrete beside the stairs, dragged it round. Upright, it functioned as a ladder, which brought me to just below the solo side window of the basement level. A screen fit in the space outside the pane that slid open, so I slit it along the bottom edge and pulled the screen away, then pressed against the glass, held my breathe, and felt it slide easily aside.

Heavily I hoisted myself into the opening and over the top a chest of drawers, knocking off the papers and trinkets resting there and flopping to the floor soundly. Nobody home for certain, so I let the lock off the back sliding door and brought my bag inside to make a bed where my grandma had always slept -- in the billiard's room. She passed away a decade or so prior and her abysmal absence would not be relieved in this life. Prayed that she now found herself somewhere I'd later discover. Even to just be in a space she'd once occupied, finding clues to our trail through this existence, following those resounding footsteps.

So I collapsed on the ledge and slept like a cleft stone.

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