Monday, June 23, 2014

los angeles, my home

I arrived in Los Angeles in the dark at night. I waited at the baggage claim wondering how I'd recognize the people picking me up, hoping my description of myself (tall, with a green hooded sweatshirt) would be enough for them to identify me. Somehow we found each other, and I found my luggage, and we hopped in a car. I wondered what role these strangers would play in my summer, my life. They asked if I was hungry and wanted to stop at a taco truck. I wasn't hungry, I said, unsure of what I was saying no to. They explained to me what a taco truck was. At that point I didn't know that even the tacos themselves - something I previously thought universal, unchanging - would be unfamiliar to me: flat, and without cheese and lettuce, and you could get them with tongue.

The next morning I saw LA by the light of its warm, constant sun. Above the porch I sat on were Morning Glory blooms. Their deep indigo flowers climbed on their vines, and, desperate to like my new home, I declared them my new favorite.

The next few days and weeks are a blur to me now. All I remember is how different everything felt and looked and sounded to me. The tacos, and also poverty and Spanish and the rhythm of summer and the heat, the sun. It didn't rain for the first five months I lived here - the longest I'd ever lived without it. I realized I didn't really know what I was saying yes to, and what I'd left behind.

This was 10 years ago, and sometimes my home still feels as foreign and unknowable as it did in those first few weeks. It's still not in my blood, and I don't know if it ever will be completely. But I've learned that love doesn't always have to be entire and exclusive. There are many things here I've learned to love. Including those flat tacos. Including the brown hills and mountains, the cloudless, unending skies, including the Spanish and all of the other languages you hear like music in your head. The jacaranda trees (a different, lighter purple than those Morning Glories, and perhaps my real favorite, now that I've had a chance to really decide). And the palm trees that line the freeway to LAX, reminding me where I am and hastening me to return from whereever I might be going. And 10 years in, I've listened to them every time.

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