I graduated from college and moved back to Los Angeles. I moved into my childhood bedroom and started hanging out with my friends from high school at S.'s parents' house, a charming little shack of a place a few blocks from the Venice Pier. They would leave for work in the morning and C. and E. and I would arrive, make ourselves some kind of brunch and drink mimosas, first, and then later, when we were honest about what we were doing, 10:30 am G&T's. Everyone else was killing time until they started a graduate program or an internship; I was just unemployed.
We would fall asleep on the beach, wake up and buy coconut popsicles from one of the roving vendors, swim until we were tired enough not to mind the slow-scale grind of the drive east. That was the summer I learned that if you have to sit in traffic it's best to do it in a salt-crusted bikini. Our motto was "fat enough to float, not drunk enough to drown."
C. & S. on Venice Beach, 2009
I had just had my heart broken for the first time, every last romantic girlhood delusion about men and myself stripped from me and then carefully, cruelly dismantled. The boy in question had loved someone, but it wasn't me; I had been excess so I made myself spare. I didn't understand anything about how to be an adult and I wasn't interested in figuring it out, either. The summer gave me so many good excuses not to try.
Los Angeles prolonged my indolence; it stayed hot through the fall. Everyone else drifted into real lives but H. and I remained weightless. H. knew about the mess I'd made but he didn't hate me for it; instead, he was patient with me. Extraordinarily kind. We spent hundreds of afternoons together, but of course there's one I remember like it was all of them. It was September, probably. I drove to his house in Brentwood and left my car there. He packed me and some napkin-wrapped BLTs into his ancient Volvo and took me to Santa Monica. It stayed foggy until so late in the afternoon that we almost left but then, somehow, it cleared. We leapt into the water, swam out past the breakers, and bobbed there like corks for an hour, the cliff's faces sandblasted raw on one side of us, and then, looking the other way, there was nothing but the ocean, rolling and rolling in to meet us.
C.C., S. & A., Venice Beach, 2009
Then it got too cold to swim. By the time it was warm enough again, I had gotten a job, and moved back east. I stayed there for years.
H. in Lake Memphremagog, Vermont, 2012
It's been so long since I was working on it that sometimes I forget that A SONG TO TAKE THE WORLD APART is a book about the ocean. When I came back to Los Angeles for good, 25 and convinced I had fixed myself, I started taking this 7:30 am Sunday yoga class. The studio is a few blocks from the beach, so afterward I'd walk the pedestrian path that runs parallel to the shoreline and think about Lorelei: what was going to happen to her. What I was going to make happen. I never went in the water, then. I was alone, those mornings, and it didn't seem safe: to throw myself under without someone waiting for me on land.
Santa Monica, 2014
In theory summer is ending but T. and I are natives; we know to expect another long, hot fall. Lately we've started going to the beach on Fridays. We both make our own schedules: she's mostly done with grad school and I write when people will pay me for it, or when I feel like it. (A luxury, in part because I know it won't last.) The first time we did it we drove, but now we take the train from downtown, gliding west along Exposition Boulevard. We bring lunch, lie on towels, pull our tarot cards, take pictures of ourselves, each other, the water, the mountains, the sky. When we go in swimming our conversations are punctuated by the waves curving over us. "It doesn't seem like it should be real, right,--" under under under under "--that the moon is actually the thing that controls the tides?"
If you're not in either of those places you can still read this piece I wrote for The Millions about adulthood and young adult literature, two subjects about which my knowledge is still largely theoretical.