How could holding hands be so hard? She smiles nervously down at him. The ocean's noise is inexplicably claustrophobic--the sound of tremendous static or the electric pulse of some big motor.
How does he stay so calm all the time, with no visible signs of distress at(more) his size or his shortcomings or his tenuous place in the world? His hand is so soft in hers. She has concerns about breaking him. How weird do they look to passersby? Perhaps it's his wardrobe--nothing fancy, but everything fits perfectly. He answers all her questions (the one piece of advice she remembers from every dating manual--questions! lots of questions!), and suddenly he's telling her about his parents, about his grandparents in Sicily; about the role of violence in folklore; about the impossibility of measuring up to expectations of family, nationality, and manhood; about the things he noticed while sitting at his mother's deathbed; about the spider that tiptoed across the sky blue pattern of the worn white wallpaper, how this triggered a seismic shift in his perceptions of perspective and proportions; about the immense chasm between intention and results; about the humor involved in death.
Her palms are sweating; what will this mean to him? They stop walking and stand in the soft sand. He asks her about work, and she stutters. What does she do all day? Her voice is like a struggling low-juiced battery. Her words clatter down, loud and dull, like nine penny nails through her calloused fingers. She's balanced on a ladder as it falls through space. She studies blank plans. She's adding the same measurements over and over, each time forgetting the answer as soon as she utters it.
His face has no problem with her. She wants to swallow him whole and drown beneath the waves.
California was a bad fit. Coming from the clear deliniation of seasons in New York, the undistinguished seasons of Southern California made me feel stuck in time. For example, summer in the northeast is a celebration. There is an explosion of life, of green plants and wildlife(more), and it injects an energetic feeling into the people. The 4th of July's on the Hudson River is a time of celebration, a family barbecue, an appreciation of life and living things. But in the summers of California, everything dies. There is no rain all season long, and the plants turn brown and frail. No one appreciated the summer, because there was no cold winter to make them appreciate it. Everyone hides inside for the air conditioning. It didn't feel like summer to me, it felt like an apocalypse.
Autumn in New York is just as fine. Yes, the green fades away, but it does so in an explosion of color. The crisp cool air is great for hiking at the same time, and a colored fall forest from a mountain view must be seen at least once. I couldn't really tell when autumn came in Southern California, if there was one at all. There seemed to be only two seasons in Southern California, a hot dry one, and a warm rainy one.
In New York, you knew it was winter because it was cold. You had to bundle up and build a fire in the fireplace. And, of course, there was snow. It was hard to get in the Christmas spirit in California. The carols didn't fit too well. Try singing Let it Snow on a warm winter day in Southern California. After a full year of the strange seasons of the southwest, I came home - and stayed there. (less)