Do you remember me? We met in Venice.
I had been up and down the West Coast, driving our Chevy from Los Angeles to St. Helens, Washington. Sitting in the ashes of the volcano, I wondered: “What now?”. And, sheepishly, I drove back to LA.
We had been surprised to like it. Everybody had told us to love SF (and we did) but to despise LA. Like a little sister who’d never win a beauty prize. The one you’d indulge to visit but who would be, as she may, a disappointment.
Did you drive up the coast too? Or did you drive from some other place all the way to Venice, sat, and wondered: “What now?”.
What’s up Abraham? You look exhausted.
I like Venice. The beach. The peculiar houses. The casualness. The colors. The attitudes and the freak shows. And everything attached to it. The frappuccinos in West Hollywood. The takeaways of UCLA. And the tacos. What about us getting tacos and hanging out tonight?
Do you like Venice? Did you get to live in one of those peculiar houses? What’s your favorite coffee place in LA?
What’s up Abraham? You are shaking.
It was much colder in Oregon. Did you get to see Eugene? I studied there. Did you notice how Eugene feels out of place sometimes? There is something artificial to it, but honest artificial. Tacky, but heartfelt tacky. Like it is what it really wishes it were, not what it should appear to be. Eugene stripped me of my artificiality and, somehow, ate it.
I think people pour themselves into Eugene and come out of it lighter, while the town, somehow, wears everything they poured (all of it, at the same time). I don’t mean it in a bad way: in the end they are, both people and town, revealed.
What’s up Abraham? Your hands are swollen.
Do you remember me? Probably not. We met in Venice. I liked your eyes. The landscape in it: you seemed far away. You seemed to be travelling, browsing people’s faces. I never forgot about you. Probably because of that picture I took of you, five years ago. Earlier this week, I looked at that picture, hanging on my living room’s wall. I thought: I want to invent the life you had.
You asked me for ten bucks. There was no way I could just take your picture for free, you said. I liked the way you said it: you were thereby declaring your humanity. The fact that you were not just a good shot. A peculiarity of Venice. A member of the freak show. I felt suddenly very small. Something insignificant in the landscape of your eyes. I saw myself in them: a faraway speck.
Sheepishly, I took that shot of you, in front of your peculiar van. You took my hand. Your hand was shaking and swollen. I tried to press it very hard. To tell you in advance that you’d be with me the next year, from Vancouver, BC, to Watson Lake, Yukon. To Norway. To Japan and to Iceland. All the way until right now in this café in Paris, visiting friends, next door to the Louvre, where of all things and people possible, Da Vinci, the Venus de Milo, Delacroix and the Italian Renaissance, I am thinking about you. I’m hoping you’re ok. I’m sad I can’t find the words to tell your story. The one that, obviously, never happened.
I wanted to give you that. But I can’t. I think it’s fucked up.
Please take good care of yourself Abraham. At least I know your name.
Thanks to the writing contest "Letter To A Stranger" in Human Parts on Medium, Abraham was notified of this article and honored it with his comment below. I felt blessed. Thank you Abraham! Read my response here.
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