I stand drunkenly, swaying on the ledge of my building. Fire lights up the night sky and I look on dangerously. I’ve been waiting for a sign. I see a young kid one roof away. He leans out of his second story apartment building watching the fireworks crack across the cloudless Los Angeles sky. He peers out of his bedroom window almost falling into the bushes twenty-feet below. Is this what I’ve been missing, I think out loud. Watching the kid, watching the sky, I take another swig and drift back and forth trying to remember a time I had forgotten.
. . . . . . . . .
It’s eleven at night and the fog still rolls in from June. It blankets the city just enough to hide the downtown skyline. I’m in the back seat coming back from Santa Clarita, somewhere between the 134 and Pasadena. The faint sound of Neil Young and “out of the blue” comes on the radio. I sit motionless, head glued to the window, staring at the hills of Los Angeles County. The lonely houses scattered across South Pasadena highlight a central mass of haze-covered buildings. A loud boom gives way to one lone firework. It’s barely visible beneath the fog, or the light, or the beautiful pollution, illuminating the city just enough to leave room to the imagination. And what an imagination a seventeen-year-old can have– when he falls in love at first sight.
My parents start again in the front seat, yelling over Johnny Rotten. Arguing became a staple of our trip once my dad digested a bad corn dog before riding déjà vu– a roller coaster that goes backwards after it’s initial descent. It repeats itself over and over again. Like history we try to forget. It made my parents upset, but in reality they just spent too much time together. They mastered the getting along part years ago. So they had to work on other things. What is love if not the full spectrum of emotion– Passion and hate?
They were becoming irrelevant to my life, but they shaped it more than they could ever understand. Driving through the Valley I finally felt something. Looking on at the city while they fought in the front seat was the first time I understood their passion. What they meant to each other. Why they were angry. It was two against the world and sometimes themselves because of it. I hear my mom screech, “Just fuck off.” and I smile. What they thought was a terrible vacation became the best Fourth of July of my life. My My, Hey Hey, I sing as Neil Young plays in the background. I turn my head to watch the last of the city lights disappear behind the hills. One last spark drifts downward across the fading sky like a feather. It emphasizes my sudden realization. I am going to run away and have an affair with this city. I’m going to fall in love.
. . . . . . . . .
Now, here I am somewhere around the one-hundredth date six years later, and I can’t remember what exactly it was that brought me here. Was it work? Was that my initial urge? My lust burnt out like that Neil Young song. It faded quicker than my cigarette. My My, Hey Hey, I think to myself this time, watching the boy crane his head toward the exploding fireworks. He focuses all of his energy towards the sky, and while I look at him I see more than a little kid trying to watch a fire show. I see his whole family: his father, his mother, his brother and sister. A family of five crammed into a bedroom for two. The full spectrum of emotion. He can’t see it yet, but it’ll all make sense to him one day. He’ll look back at this Fourth of July with all the others. Not as a day of independence. He’ll look back at it when he’s twenty-four or twenty-five and it will dawn on him like an artillery shell. The fourth of July. The day he realized Independence didn’t matter. My My, Hey hey.
With a loud crack he’ll come into the blue and out of the black.
. . . . . . . . .
I sway, speaking out-loud more than I realize, watching the grand finale topple over the San Fernando Valley. With a loud echo from a distant bang my foot loses its grip on the lip of the building. I fall to one knee laughing hysterically, colors blurring my eyesight. She can’t help it anymore and finally breaks her silence.
“Hey! What the fuck, asshole?”
I look over and she seems frustrated, on edge herself, sitting on the floor behind me. Red, white, and blue reflect off her face and I see her for the first time, the full spectrum, for who she really is.
“Please, just come over here and sit down before you kill yourself.”
My My Hey Hey I whisper, bringing myself to my feet but struggling to stand. She shakes her head at me as I move in slow motion across the cold-wet rooftop.
“Rock n’ Roll is here to stay,” I proclaim to world as I take a swig from my drink, inching ever so closely to the radiating woman on the rooftop in front of me. I fall down next to her, lock eyes with the freckle on the hilt of her nose, and can’t help but smile. She finally lets out a sigh and rests her head on my shoulder. So I do what I meant to do all along. I put down my drink, grab her hand, and fall in love. Like I should have in the first place. Like the people before me. Like the first time I had seen Los Angeles.