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The Last Days of Los Angeles #4

The Free Destruction of the Self


EVERY FRIDAY MORNING I AM SUPPOSED TO WAKE UP AT 4 A.M., shower, get dressed, grab a granola bar and head out the door to go do my court-appointed community labor at a golf course in Century City, the petit-bourgeoisies’ sandbox. But, most Fridays I don’t. The idea of going to work without getting paid is maddening, annoying, vomit-inducing.

When I wake up on time, I catch the 217 off Fairfax Avenue and Venice Boulevard and take it down to Pico Boulevard. There, I jump on the Santa Monica Blue 7. I get off at the Motor Avenue exit, right in the fat, plastic vegan-meat heart of Los Angeles County’s movie studio capital, with upper-to-middle-class crust residents in perfect physical shape, their stomachs filled with organic produce, their manicured, bright green lawns sprawled before giant suburban homes, with a minimum of two new-year sedans and/or monster SUVs parked in the garage or driveway.

I work with Maria. She picks me up a little after 5:30 a.m. from the main office in an electric-powered golf cart. She hands me plastic bags and a metal claw-grabber. She drops me off and I pick up cigarette butts and trash but mostly cigarette butts. I am left unsupervised. I suppose she trusts me, the whole Latino bond thing, or maybe it’s simply an issue of just not caring, just another court-appointed fuckup here to make my job harder in trying to make it easier, the less he’s in my way, the better off I am, pinche malcreado.

I start at the main building where the golfers come to sign up for playing the course or for using the putting green. Afterward, I walk around the exterior of the park and pick up trash. There usually isn’t any, since it’s an affluent area and most rich areas don’t really have an issue with public trash or graffiti or crime or police brutality, only existential cultural suicide.

We have a break at 8:45 a.m. It’s supposed to be for 15 minutes. Every now and then, after peeling off my plastic gloves, green with grass stains and wet with morning mud, I walk on over to McDonald's.

The McDonald's off of Pico Boulevard in Century City is unlike any other McDonalds anywhere in Los Angeles. The floor is beige-crème marble, immaculate and spotless. They have dining booths and tables with lush, black-leather seats that surround a living-room-styled lounge area, fully equipped with a large flat-screen TV hanged on the wall. But, keeping true to typical mega-corporate retail and fast-food chains, all the workers are Latino or black.

After getting back to work, I am usually unnoticed and walk around pretending to pick up trash, occasionally using the metal claw-grabber to grab air and stuff the grabbed-air into my plastic bag, all while humming The Internationale, hoping someone hears it and becomes enraged.

On Fridays when I don’t go to community labor, I lay in bed until 11 a.m. or 12 p.m. I listen to my roommates walk around the house or the near-blind dog running at the door and barking at any discernable object outside. I check my phone. No calls, no messages. I get up, walk over to my dresser and pull out a black bag of beer and tequila.

I have grown accustomed to drinking room-temperature beer, in complete West Los Angeles silence, and have graduated to hard liquor. After the third or fourth beer-shot combo I begin thinking grand things like which building I want to blow up or who I want to kill, where to dispose of the bodies at the golf course, how I will evade the authorities, which country will grant me asylum. After the sixth beer, it get’s dangerous; I feel courageous; I start thinking I’m a genius.

Luckily, I wake up from a two-hour black out covered in piss and shit. I stumble to the dirty laundry bag hanging off the closet. I undress, stuff all my soiled clothes inside and stand naked momentarily. I study myself. I feel my chest, my arms, my stomach, my legs. I have lost a lot of weight this year, but I still maintain a strong physique. I was built for destruction, either to destroy or succumb.

I put on my sweats and walk to the bathroom to shower. I turn the hot water knob to its maximum. The highly-pressurized shower head shoots down at my head and body. The steam fogs the small bathroom. My skin reddens with the searing spray, like perfect needles piercing my flesh. My skin begins to blister and boil. Slivers of skin-flap fall off my biceps and forearms. With eyes closed, I turn up toward the showerhead and slowly open my eyes, the water attacks my vision and everything slowly turns a hazy white. Blood runs down the sides of my face, streaming from where my eyes once were. I open my mouth. The boiling water enters and my tongue melts into fleshy mush. I lower my head and allow it to sear off my hair and expose my skull, a bright and pure white.

The near-blind dog begins barking uncontrollably, alarmed and frantic, seeing the steam violently spill out and rise from the bathroom door. My roommates knock on the bathroom door, “Luis, are you ok? Hey? Luis? What’s going on?”

After the water has worked off all my skin, meat, muscles, I am left clean, liberated, exposed with bones and internal organs. I sigh with relief.

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About Luis Rivas

Luis Rivas lives in Los Angeles, California. He was a telemarketer, construction worker, flower delivery driver, fast food cashier, sales clerk, non-profit canvasser, adult store and strip club manager and package handler/zip code sorter. His work has appeared in the following publications, some of which he contributes to regularly: Zygote in My Coffee,...read more Unlikely Stories, My Favorite Bullet, The Hold, Cherry Bleeds, Corium, Rural Messenger Press, Thieves Jargon, Origami Condom, Outsider Writers, Full of Crow, Counter Punch, Gloom Cupboard, where his is Poetry Editor and Red Fez, where he is author of the Last Days of Los Angeles column. He dropped out of Los Angeles Valley College where he was studying journalism to work full-time at a porn shop. Then he got fired. Now he has gone back to school, continuing his studies in journalism and Chicana/o Studies at California State University of Northridge and Los Angeles City College. He is currently building up his own literary website, peaceisillegal.com and plans on publishing a book on his youth. Once upon a time, he grew a beard. (There is evidence on the Internet.)


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