It's been raining for five hours in Los Angeles. Our bedroom window is leaking. The building's carpeted corridors squelch. Our local intersection is a lake, and Escalades joyeously hypraplane over it like fat Canada geese.
This evening I spend thirty-five minutes standing in the dark, outside a gas station near Sony Studios, waiting for the 12. My umbrella is rusted and crippled from inactivity, and looks like an old bicycle that's collided with a derelict's tent. Due to the weather, I'm wearing an extremely laughable beret, purchased in Germany, and have tucked my jeans into my boots; I look like I've wandered in from a European pantomime. An elderly Korean lady waits under the garage's forecourt, periodically darting out to look up the long line of red and white lights that is Palms Boulevard.
- You waiting for this bus?
she asks me. I say yes.
- SEVEN BUSES GO: OTHER DIRECTION,
she tells me.
- I COUNTED. SEVEN.
I counted too, so I agree with her.
- It's crazy time god damn it,
she says, retreating to cover. My umbrella blows up into a tangle again, and a man my age, filling up a silver car, gives me what seems to be a sympathetic look. More of a pitying look. Or maybe he's a serial killer. Then someone backs their Camry into a bollard, and the Korean lady rolls her eyes at me in a way that clearly states: why does this fool have a car and we're still waiting for the god damn bus?
The rain doesn't stop. The bus comes. Unfortunately, the Big Blue Bus was not built for this weather, and it's leaking worse than our apartment; I sit on a boggy seat and fail to dodge drops.
Arriving at the supermarket near my house, I feel that some wine is in order. As I'm choosing, a man in a black tracksuit approaches me.
he says, and I tentatively remove an iPod headphone.
I say, noticing that 'Guard' is embroidered on his pocket; I fear that I'm about to be evicted from the alcohol aisle under suspicion of being underage or foreign or both.
- How arya?
- I'm sorry?
- Oh I'm sorry, see, I only just asked howrya doing?
- I'm fine, thank you. And you?
(This is truly how I speak with strangers -- somewhere between Princess Anne at a fete and the Japanese kids I've taught to chant 'Howuryoamfinethanyoseeyoladeralligader'.)
- It sure is raining,
he remarks. I smile and nod, edging closer to the imported wine. He is youngish and well-scrubbed, but there's an inauspicious air of missionary zeal.
- I'm Jerry, by the way.
- Oh. I'm Ped Xing,
I say -- I'm not really Ped Xing, of course -- and he suddenly becomes anxious, flustered and blushing, as if we're in a job interview.
- I'm sorry -- Zed Ping?
- Ped Xing.
He shakes my hand vigorously, eyes bright. I begin to realize he's not a security guard.
- I think you're pretty,
he says, which is generally a sure sign of derangement.
- Oh. Thank you.
- I wanted to talk to you,
- I -- have to go. But it was nice to meet you,
I say, still nodding and smiling like a foreign grandmother, whilst grabbing a cheap bottle of Pinot off the shelf. I feel bad, but later on, in the cheese section -- nothing like pairing a discount wine with some violently orange Monterey Jack -- I see him shaking some other girl's hand. I give him a sympathetic look. More of a pitying one. Or maybe he's a serial killer.