Aurelia Lorca began writing as a violinist/lyricist in a punk rock cover band called Unfortunate Mustaches with the legendary Roxi Christmas,...read more but was promptly kicked out upon having laser electrolysis. She then worked part time as a secretary for the Evil Dark Overlord of The Zen Baby Federation, but was eventually let go because she just couldn't wield a staple gun that quickly. She now free lances for free for anyone who offers clown magic.
There is a prologue in John Steinbeck's ''Sweet Thursday,'' but it's O.K. because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: ''I like a lot of talk in a book and I don't like to have nobody tell me what the guy that's talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks. . . . figure out what the guy's thinking from what he says. I like some description but not too much of that. . . . Sometimes I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle. . . . Spin up some pretty words maybe or sing a little song with language. That's nice. But I wish it was set aside so I don't have to read it. I don't want hooptedoodle to get mixed up with the story.’' ELMORE LEONARD
Connor was good at listening to her stories.
She told him she wanted to someday be a writer.
He told her that he wanted to someday make films and become a herpetologist. A scientist who studied reptiles.
“Are you going to make films about reptiles?”
“Maybe. I don’t know what I am going to make films about.”
His first film ended up being about suicide bombers, revolution, and music.
She became Aurelia Lorca- The title character of Federico Garcia Lorca’s last play, he was unable to finish because he was killed at the start of the Guerra Civil.
It all made perfect sense.
His first iguana he named MacGyver even though the creature was a girl. Whenever she visited he took her out of its aquarium so she could run across the room. At first she cringed when MacGyver flicked her leg with its tail.
“She likes you. Pet her.”
“She looks like a miniature dragon.”
“Well, she doesn’t breathe fire. And she’s totally safe to pet. Pet her.”
She tentatively put out her hand and touched the ridges on her back, and was surprised: MacGuyver’s skin seemed warm.
She was never his wife, or witch, and certainly never one of his pets. She owed him no explanations, yet:
Every female character they read about in high school who broke rules ended up dying violently or tragically. And none of the heroines ever broke rules: The Wife of Bath? Married to all three of her lovers. Circe? A sorceress, who never disobeyed the gods. Elizabeth Bennett, marries and lives “happily ever after” because Mr. Darcy is a lie.
In Chapter 8, of Cannery Row, Mrs. Malloy says to her husband, “Men just don’t understand what a woman feels.”
Gender is performative, especially in Steinbeck where every character is an outcast and is allegorical to each other. They are all whores, pimps, gamblers, saints, holy men. Our father who art in nature.
Connor saw her every early morning before school when she thought she was alone. When she was an earlier version of herself with a dumb purple spiral notebook trying to make sense of the hour of the pearl, and not seeking praise or shame. (For this, she will always feel some sort of gratitude and betrayal.)
She told him twenty years later to eat her wake because she felt like she was choking on his dust and she never expected or hoped for him to fall behind.
She hoped to keep up with him.
She hoped he would keep up with her.
She hoped that he would put away the tight jeans, motorcycle boots, hair bleach, and Hollywood douchebag look.
She hoped that he someday realized how his greatest strength was the way he knew how to listen and let people be themselves, but only when he forgot to look at their reflection in his eyes.
She hoped that he someday knew that she was no longer sorry.
She hoped that he someday understood how only the sublime keeps the wheels rolling upwards towards the pantheon of the gods because no one ever truly expects to get there, and trying to say anything to the contrary comes off as saccharine and unholy.
Anger, longing, loneliness are always sincere, human, even in such silly toe stubbing moments. (Will it make him feel better, give him momentum, if she told her frightening body mass index? How she once tried out for a role as a plus sized Wonder Woman but didn't get the part because she wasn't big enough and had too much of an aversion to the word “fat?”)
She should keep watching those wheels, get drunk on time, get drunk on wine, get drunk on poetry, get drunk on anger, get drunk on love, and stay drunk on. Odysseus, Jack Lucas, Rob Gordon, Martin Blank- They all would have different names, but be the same John Cussack. She should keep comfort that there were too many names for him, while she still questioned if she was Aurelia Lorca, Nicole, or Nicola, the name on her first birth certificate.
He was good at listening to her stories.
She told him she wanted to someday be a writer.
He told her that he wanted to someday make films.
The sofa was too soft and smelled of weed. The studio apartment was small and stank of weed and sweat. He needed a sturdy chair to sit on, but it was either the sofa or the floor. He sat back onto the cushions of the sofa and tried to imagine the pain not as lightening bolts, but as rain, dissolving into the earth. His friend passed him a joint, but he refused. He had not smoked weed since high school when he would drive around aimlessly, X blaring from the speakers, taking toke after toke.
“Weed won’t make the pain any better.”
“It’ll help keep your mind off the pain.”.
“There are other ways to turn my mind.”
His friend nodded. Whatever worked.
“Anyway. I’m not going to say she can’t come to the screening of my film. Of course she can come. But I’m not going to going to talk with her. She’s a drama queen. In high school, it was because she felt fat. Of course she was fat, she didn’t exercise, except for the nights she went to the skating rink and ran around with those awful girls she was friends with. I tried to take her hiking and it was pitiful. She couldn’t make it up one hill without wheezing. We never got to the top. When she moved back home after finally finishing college, she went on a low carb diet and lost weight and… But god damn, even then she was not happy.”
“She found me on Facebook when she was in the middle of ending her marriage and popping Ativan left and right. She blamed it all on her never ending family issues. She had been cheating on her husband with, I kid you not, an artist who painted with blood. I listened, I tried not to judge. I tried to help her. I told her to come visit me in Los Angeles. I took her to this jewelry store with pink walls so she could buy herself another necklace with Hello Kitty on it. Do you know how many god-damn necklaces with Hello Kitty that bitch has? I drove her all over LA and even took her to catch an early morning flight back to SF from LAX at 4:30 in the morning. After her divorce she decided that she was ‘in love with me’ and was still mixing booze with the Ativan and started text bombing me and sending me these long crazy babbling emails, raging about Dosteovsky and Baudelaire, and how popcorn wasn’t low carb but she’d rather eat popcorn than sleep with me, unless she was high. It was insane.”
He sat up. His neck stiffened.
“She kept saying one’s first novel or film should be like one’s first love- That there are mistakes and lessons to be learned, but no matter what the mistakes, we can’t give up. That she couldn’t finish her first novel because she had unresolved issues with me.”
He eased back into the sofa, imagining again soft rain, falling and dissolving into the earth.
Her first year away at college she had tried not to think about Connor too much though he seeped into her dreams.
The first night she dreamt about him, Connor helped her move furniture out of her mother’s house and retracted the nasty comment he had written in her year-book by showing her that he had also signed her diploma with, “best wishes.” In the second dream he told her that her hair looked good when it was messy, and she responded with the opening lines to the Canterbury Tales in Middle English. In the third dream they were walking somewhere, she did not know where, and she was talking about something, she did not know what, and she looked over at him and his mouth was filled with something but he was barely talking. So she chattered on, but the more she said the more his mouth filled, with what, she did not know. She said something, she did not know what, and he spat out a little green ball, a sour candy, and another, and another, and another, and another. And then his head snapped back and the little green candies filed from his mouth in a line and she realized that one of them had become plastic. She said she was sorry, she was sorry, for exactly what she did not know, but she was sorry, she was sorry, she was very, very sorry.
By spring she started calling him and then hanging up as soon as he said hello. She wanted to tell him how her dad had returned home with nothing but a trombone, a fifteen inch television, and adult onset diabetes from drinking himself into a stupor for fourteen years, but it all sounded so cliche. She slept through most of spring semester, argued with her roommates, and falling in love with the poetry of Robinson Jeffers so much that she began to imitate his long bleeding biblical lines, but she could not un-humanize her view enough, and she did not understand how any of it it applied to her own life, other than taking a liking to hawks and thinking about Connor’s iguana, MacGyver.
Connor had gardened for his parents to earn the money to buy her. She had pale green dots on her cheeks and a long skinny tail. At first Connor did not know what to name her, but then he excitedly decided upon MacGyver. Like the television show, his favorite show.
She didn’t give two shits about that television show, and whenever Connor talked about it she would tune him out. Hence, when he called her crying at the end of senior year, “MacGyver’s dead,” she thought it was talking about the character on television, not his iguana. His mom had cleaned the aquarium for him, and turned the heat up too high. He came home and found his MacGyver had been fried. She tried to listen. She wanted to be a good friend, but sometimes he was so babyish it was maddening. Yet, he was certainly kinder than her boyfriend who said she was too fat for his friends to see him with her.
Connor was two years behind her in school. She gave him rides home. The one afternoon she didn’t have her car, he ran to find her saying that he had a ride home, and she could come too. She saw The Doors movie and Monty Python and The Holy Grail with him. He went with her to visit her cousin when she was put into the psych-ward. He came to her senior year orchestra concert and dressed up in a pale blue sweater. He told her how lost he felt when one of his best friends moved away. He called her crying when MacGyver died. He told her about the dead body he found with his father, how it haunted him. She told him about her dad’s drinking problem, how he kept disappearing, and though her parents were divorced her mother still loved him and gave him money. She made him laugh every day the winter they hung out by declaring there was snow on the mountains at the end of the valley road. In the spring he hiked those mountains with her even though she was out of shape and wheezing. He was fast, but he always waited patiently for her to catch up. There was an earthquake as they were walking across the bridge over the river. The fields rippled. She was scared, so he held her hand. He said she was a girl who was a friend, his girlfriend, but not his girlfriend, and Wonder Woman was the only female he had ever found attractive. She had a boyfriend, she but wanted to make out with Connor. The only logical thing to do was to stop talking to him after class. Stop hanging out with him. It wasn’t hard. He didn’t talk to her either. He signed her yearbook “Have a nice life with Mitch”- a guy they both found annoying, but her boyfriend’s name was Theo.
Her first morning back in town for summer vacation, Connor agreed to meet with her for coffee near the wharf. She arrived early. He got there ten minutes late with his hair wet and in a ponytail.
“Sorry,” he said. “I’ve been behind all day.”
He paused, and then said, “It’s been a year. Give me a hug.”
As he walked to the counter for a latte, she noticed he seemed thinner and paler than she remembered and his hair had turned from light auburn to blonde. Even his freckles seemed paler.
The coffee shop was resplendent with windows, so much that they did not need to keep on the lights. Everything was bright and clear. Connor returned with his coffee, sat across the table from her and answered her questions about school with wide unblinking eyes.
She felt like she was in a strange interview or poker game but he said he was struggling to keep awake.
“Summer vacation, this is kind of early for me,” he said.
“So are you ready for your senior year?” she asked.
“Sure,” he said, unblinking and sipping his coffee.
As he told her the story of how their French teacher had a nervous breakdown in the middle of the courtyard before final exams, she wondered how he could drink his coffee so slowly. She gulped her coffees down quickly, eager for the rush.
He was going to be a senior. She asked questions about college apps. Where was he thinking of going.
“UC Santa Cruz is probably the only UC I’ll get into,” he said. “If I was Hispanic, I might get into a better UC.”
At first she regretted the question- his brother had gone to Stanford and his sister had gone to Harvard- but then decided no, she did not regret it- She was Hispanic, and she earned her spot at UC Davis.
He looked away from her and out the window. The tourists had begun to arrive. The sea-gulls were quarreling, and gurgling over errant pieces of food. Maybe it was the fog, every sound was dewy, as if slowed down in mist.
“So you decided on a major yet?”
She began UC Davis undeclared.
“I am thinking of a triple major, of History, English, and French. I can’t decide if it sounds crazy or pretentious as all hell.”
“Not crazy at all.” His words came out in a gush. He was no longer staring out the window. He was staring at her and his eyes were tearing.
She thought she heard him say something else, but she was lost in what he was choking on. His face reddened in the heat of his words. Was he crying, why was he crying?
“I’m sorry for being standoffish last year.”
“It’s ok. We are friends. We are friends.”
Her hands were shaking. She took off her glasses, rubbed her eyes, put her glasses back on, and then took them off again.
“Why are you being so jittery? Have you been drinking coffee or something all day?”
The waist on her jeans felt too tight, and her underwear felt like it was cutting into her thighs. Everything about her felt swollen, large, and bulging. They left the coffee shop and walked by the Santa Rosalia statue by the wharf.
“Santa Rosalia- Did you know she was the patron saint of fishermen?”
“Monterey used to be a fishing village, you know that, right?”
“My dad’s a scientist with the Coast Guard.”
“My grandparents were immigrants who worked in the canneries.”
“So? What’s that got to do with anything?”
She looked at his hands. He had long fingers and pasty freckled smallish hands. Bitch hands. Never trust a man with bitch hands, she told herself. Hands that never picked up a hammer. Typical little rich white boy, she thought to herself. Except she remembered that he helped his parents remodel their house for money to buy his mother’s old car.
She tried to change the subject, and spluttered a few comments about Clinton’s saxophone playing, and Hillary’s headbands, but nothing came out right. She kept yanking up her jeans, trying to smooth out the rolls she knew showed over the waistline.
The beach next to the wharf was not long, there was no more sand to walk but we walked more, down the pier to the foul smelling bird-shit stained rocks of the breakwaters and watched the sea-lions arf and loll about, and the birds feeding their young by swallowing their heads whole and regurgitating. No tourists, the brightly painted tacky wharf seemed far away.
“There is so much about this place that we take for granted: Steinbeck country.”
She wanted to ask him if he even knew what the fuck that meant, but she didn’t know either. He tried to remember the names of the birds, but couldn’t. She wanted to touch one of his hands, but she couldn’t look at his face. She could hardly swallow. She could no longer feel her body. There was so much that she needed to tell him, that she wanted to tell him, but she did not know what to say. She did not know where to begin other than with that she loved him, and at one time he was the best friend she ever had.
But there were no words. There was nothing left to say. There was nothing other than hooptedoodle. There was nothing other than the crazy lazy be-whiskered and feathered fiends of the breakwaters, and old men in 49ers jackets with fishing poles and shopping carts, and granite grays and stink and arfing and barking, the very sensory comic symphony of it all.
It was a Friday. The last night cruising would ever be allowed on Main Street
It was her first Friday night back in town for the summer, so she went cruising with the Shorties.
Happy had told her not to make a big deal when she saw Sleepy’s black eye.
“Don’t even get her started about it.”
The previous Friday on Main Street in Salinas, Sleepy was busted going back and forth between some sixteen year old with a motorcycle she had been chilling with, and Chad, her boyfriend.
“So Chad came over to my car to confront her.”. She could hear her sucking back her teeth, and she knew, even though no-one was watching, Happy was emphatically rolling her eyes.
“Sleepy got out of the car and started screaming at Chad. Me and Sneezy didn’t want to get into their business, so we tried not to watch or listen. But all of a sudden we hear a thud and turn and see Sleepy’s head bouncing off the door. According to Chad, she hit him first. I don’t know. I don’t want to know. Chad’s always been cool with me.”
Once again, she had missed everything. At least everything that had happened since they stopped hanging out at the skating rink. All year the five other shorties had been cruising Main Street every Friday and Saturday night. The Skating rink had become passé. All of the shorties now had cars. Happy had had her daughter that February, but she got her parents to babysit for her. There were only five shorties left- She was away at school, and Dopey had twin boys that were keeping her busy at home.
Her mom never liked any of the Shorties, especially Sneezy. She went to Catholic school with Sneezy. In the fourth grade she bit another girl on the tetherball courts. Her mom forbade me to have anything to do with her. She never listened. Her mom didn’t want her hanging out with the shorties ever since she found out Sneezy’s uncle had sex with Happy when she was drunk.
“That’s rape,” her mother told her.
She called a rape counseling hot-line, but Happy refused to talk them. She became wild, and emancipated herself from her parents, changed high schools to move in with Sneezy, and hooked up with an army guy who got her pregnant.
Happy’s parents bought her a new ice-blue Firebird t-top convertible after she broke up with her boyfriend for cheating on her, got arrested for trashing his Camero in revenge, had their baby, and returned home. The paint job was the shit. It glittered especially at night in the lights and was thus the perfect car to cruise Main Street that one last time. And the perfect year- Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” was the most popular song on the radio. Happy, before her new car, had the best butt of any girl at the rink. The LA Face and the Oakland bootie. She didn’t have the best sound system- but she had the best car, and the best back. And everyone knew it. Steinbeck said there was always something to do in Salinas, and the hills that surrounded the valley had a sort of violence that lurked in its essence. Main Street was dark. She could not see Steinbeck’s evil hills, or much of anything other than the lights of the gas stations and fast food restaurants. Happy looped the song onto a cassette, and, all night we drove up and down that street, yelling out the windows, “OH MY GOD LOOK AT HER BUTT,” bumping their heads to the bass.