the window on the passenger side of my old car had been thoroughly shattered, but nothing valuable was missing inside, because there was nothing of value in there. The one strange thing was that whoever it was that did thais had taken my favorite compilation CD, one I’d made recently and had left on the passenger seat. I wasn’t sure if the cops were only called when a car had been stolen or something valuable like a cd player boosted from it but my room mate said an attempted break in was worth their time so I spoke with a team of cops that came by the house and took some photos of the old car. Later I ripped up a thick green yard waste trash bag and duct taped it to the hole left by the broken window glass. This made me look poor, but I didn’t mind; I was young and I’d been to college and it felt good to look poor.
One day a few months later I was driving down Sunset and there was a fragile, slow-moving blue Hyundai driving in the next lane, which I immediately took notice of the car because I could hear a song from my stolen compilation cd coming out of the window, and when that one ended, I heard the next song start. I took down the young man’s license plate, because I guessed I’d have to give the information to the cops. I felt reluctant to do anything but follow the man, or boy, for a few miles. This was partially the result of white guilt; his slicked back hair was so black, and his irises looked black too, and high cheekbones; to me he looked like a cross between Johnny Depp and early pictures of Emiliano Zapata that I’d seen in my Sophomore year class on the lasting Social Implications of the Mexican Revolution. I just wanted to drive behind him for a few miles and see where he went.
I called the police and gave them his license plate number. Presumably something bad but not too bad happened to him as a result of the insignificant break in to my old car. A year passed and I gained twenty pounds. Two years passed and I met my husband. Four years passed and we got married. In that first year of our marriage, I had three miscarriages. Five years passed and my husband finally got the loan to start his HVAC business. His office was in a gutted, stationary Airstream trailer on a lot in a business park, surrounded by other managers who ran their businesses from trailers. His was the best. He was the best. It was amusing, the fact of his office in that trailer, when all the other trailers there were designed to look like real little buildings. In his office, there were curtains I’d made from old t-shirts of ours and a huge and beautiful old mahogany desk that took up almost all of the floor space. Customers never went there, of course. People with HVAC problems called him and he dispatched one of his workers to the freezing cold or insufferably hot home.
One day, a worker of his named Shan (formerly Shannon) called over to me when I was leaving the trailer and she told me, “Hey, it was kind of a weird job today. The guy whose apartment I went to was playing all these songs that are like, the songs you always put on all the mix cd’s you make everyone. It was too spooky, like too weird to just be a coincidence.”
A few minutes later when she and my husband were having a talk on the picnic bench by the trailer, I looked at the paperwork she’d just turned in, and wrote down the address. I entered it into my GPS and drove there, putting an Ativan under my tongue at a stoplight and letting my cares and the core of my personality dissolve as the pill dissolved under my tongue and seeped into the parts of my body that contain both stress and hope. I arrived at the building. It was an apartment building that looked like it’d once been a boarding house; it was painted blue gray with darker blue gray trim and made me think of Jonah’s whale. I kept as quiet as I could. I walked around to the back of the building, and from an open window I heard one of my songs. Desolation Row, Bob Dylan. I'd always been perversely drawn to that song’s lyrics because they were so mocking towards the women in the narrative, “Ophelia, she’s ‘neath the window, for her I feel so afraid, on her twenty second birthday, already she is an old maid.” Besides that lyric and something about Cinderella cagily observing the misery around her, I loved the music itself, and the hopelessness described in the lyrics. The song ended and I heard the person inside the apartment jingle his keys. I hid. It was him.
For miles I followed him, and I don’t think he noticed. We stopped at an Arco station, and a Ralph’s, for a 2-pack of paper towels and a loaf of what looked like wheat bread. He dressed in this hip way, like an old fashioned greaser, sort of early Elvis. I could see the outline of his penis through his tight black jeans. We drove to an apartment building, where he went inside and stayed for three or four hours. Through the filmy amber curtains that lightly rode the wind and hung about the windows like smog, these curtains that hung like ghosts from the windows of the room where he sat with two friends, I watched animated men punch prostitutes in the stomach and beat cops over the head with billy clubs; they were playing the video game Grand Theft Auto. They were all three so amused and absorbed. Once, an older women brought in a sandwich for the young man who was presumably her son, and he playfully slapped her butt when she walked away. She quickly turned back to face him and swatted him with a dish towel she’d had in her other hand. Everyone was smiling.
Later that night,I followed him down Sunset Boulevard, and then, I started to get a sinking feeling as I saw that he was parking to go into the bar I used to go to almost every night when I was younger, when I was young enough to enjoy having a thick trash bag taped to my car window. I don’t like going places that remind me of the past. I don’t like to remember how I used to be, before I turned over control of my psyche to my husband, before painful cramps doubled me over in pain and viscous bloody masses slid from my pussy into the toilet bowl and meant months of brave sad smiles. I don’t like to remember how life was right after college when I didn’t yet know what person I would become. But I followed him inside, and took a stool three stools down from where he sat chatting jovially with a pretty bartender. This is how I learned what I’d lost, sitting there that night. I lost a lot.