Sunday, May 29, 2011

the jacarandas are in full bloom, a frenzy of purple pushing up against the living room window. sun-splattered petals line the sidewalk, some still fleshy, slick to the touch while others, just husks, lack any identifiable color. there is spring in southern california, if you squint: a shock of pink in an otherwise green bush; great big blossoms, with their faces turned towards the sky, as if waiting for a princess with stained red lips and braided hair to trot down the boulevard on her silver shetland. today i will not write about tornadoes, dpi technology, or the knot of exhaustion at the top of my neck, but the unmatched pleasure of canvas sandals smacking the bleached concrete as i walk, at noon, to the korner kart for a spicy fajita burrito and beer with lime and salt. i sprawl out on the patch of grass between two parking lots and the freeway on-ramp to chat with a vagabond iraq vet about habeneros, spider solitaire, and sex. we eat our burritos slow as possible, sauce running down our wrists, grease splotches on my skirt. we split a spliff in the shade. his whole face falls slack as he leans back against the chain-link fence, kicks his legs out shit man. the sun a small triangle of heat on my back. that nothing is anything but itself is sometimes enough.

on the walk home, i stop by the overgrown lot where charlotte perkins gilman lived after divorcing her husband in 1888. in her autobiography, she refers to this period of her life as "my first years of freedom." in a rented wood-n-paper cottage, during a week of sweltering heat, she finished the first draft of the yellow wallpaper. the restorative effects of the city seem to have been the same for her as for me. “I have lived much here. I love the place—Pasadena, and mean earnestly to return, build, and live,” she wrote on her last night in town. when she was diagnosed with breast cancer many years later, she returned from the east coast to pasadena where she took a lethal dose of chloroform in 1935. her suicide note read: “human life consists of mutual service." i snap pictures of the swath of air where her house once stood, then walk on, up the street.