Eliza Barry Callahan

Courtesy of the writer.

Cover Image for "Loops"

I once wrote that Los Angeles gives me this feeling that I am perpetually on the edge of town. Never arriving. That, no matter which direction I drive, I never can decide if I am coming or if I am going.

I am supposed to stay in a friend's apartment for the next couple of weeks—the friend, a translator, is in Hong Kong doing research for his PhD on photorealist paintings and contemporary agency in post-Mao China. I arrive at the tail end of an atmospheric river—long, narrow regions in the atmosphere – like rivers in the sky – that transport most of the water vapor outside of the tropics. There has also been indoor flooding. The rug, wall to wall, is wet. Mold takes hold. I will need to find myself a permanent temporary situation.

I find myself at a Thai restaurant in a Hollywood strip mall, where a man I have just met interprets the word autofiction as writing about cars. He tells me he loves cars. What kind of cars did I write about? Well, I have written about a Saab, I say. Mmm... he says, I love Saabs. I also love morning glory, he says, as he lays some morning glory down onto his tongue.

I find myself at the farmers market in Hollywood on a Sunday, and I run into a man I know. When I ask him what he is doing on Friday night, he says he is going to his friend's wedding in San Antonio, that his friend is marrying herself. That the friend has a new boyfriend who is going to be in attendance. That he is here to buy kimchi, quail eggs, and lilies.

I find myself in a last-minute apartment beneath the home of a librarian who inherited the house of his previous lover, a master gardener who had inherited the house from his previous lover, the author of Midnight Cowboy, the novel, later the motion picture, who killed himself in the home after learning he had AIDS. The librarian lives there now with his new lover, a much younger man from Japan. The librarian tells me that Anaïs Nin spent time in the home as well as Marlene Dietrich, Edward Albee. I find inscriptions from Nin in several books I pull out of the shelf: Winter of Artifice, The Practical Life Of Anabolic Steroids, Taste Of India, Modern Man In Search Of A Soul. On the front page of House of Incest, she writes to the novelist: “your scented dreams are so complete your net must be magnetic.” I find myself reading that at the time of the publication, which took place at around the same time that Nin was having an incestuous relationship with her father, some members of the Nin family who knew about the incestuous relationship were "horrified" to know that Nin was writing a book with this title. That they assumed that the book was going to be an exposé on the father/daughter incestuous relationship. I find a copy of Siddartha signed by Herman Hesse.

I find myself at a dinner at a Lebanese restaurant, also in a strip mall where the host never comes and everyone collectively—all ten guests—decides not to drink. Ten Mint teas.

I find that in one week, I have met three body doubles in passing; That body doubles like talking to strangers.

I find that several women have used the word diarrhea in the last several days—to brag. I find myself thinking of someone who I am certain is not thinking of me. I find several people have brought up the full moon and how it has made them feel different. I find myself seeing Aimee Mann at the Starbucks in Los Feliz doing a crossword puzzle wearing a very small scarf.

I find myself covered in turmeric stains from a source unknown, having not come into intentional contact with any turmeric at all. That yellow: light with a dominant wavelength of roughly 575–585 nm. I find myself understanding it as particulate matter, native to the region. I find myself noticing the hummingbirds.

I find myself searching for car keys in a planter in front of the wrong home and then missing a Vietnam War-themed 50th Birthday Party of an artist. Dimensions variable.

I find myself in Topanga at 5:30 pm with an unusually high tide and more driftwood than the man sitting next to me, on a beach towel that says Jerusalem, has ever seen. The atmospheric river... I find a piece of wood in the shape of an ear. I take it with me, as well as several others with indiscriminate forms. In the car driving home, a colony of sand flies emerges from the wood, forms a chorus line, and temporarily infests the car.

I find myself hearing a man in line say on the phone that fermentation comes at a cost. I find myself in another line next to a man on the phone describing a real estate deal as extremely sexy. I find myself not feeling comfortable taking left turns, hesitant to change lanes, and being asked by my various passengers if I would just let them drive. I find myself learning the smell of rotting citrus. I find myself noticing that all the fruit seemed to fall last week—mass grave. That it's the Angelino rats' favorite time of year– pre-fix citrus dinners.

I find myself driving the boyfriend of a friend's friend, who I have just met, to Tom of Finland's House. I ask where he is visiting from, and he says New York but that he's only lived there a year. That it's nice to be in Los Angeles because something about it reminds him of Ramallah, where he is from. That he is working on a performance piece about a 9th-century inventor—Lightness and Darkness, the strings of the oud, ways of discussing seasons, temperature, mood. That his visa says origin unknown. That he appreciates all of the driftwood in my car. That he's trying to reach FedEx to track a lost package and might need to take the call on the ride to Tom of Finland's.

I find myself talking to someone who says that degeneracy is holistic in LA. I find myself on one day believing I could live a really nice life here and the next thinking I need to leave as soon as possible and someone saying in reply that the sort of bipolar LA experience is very real—that one day it's the best place there is, and the next is the darkest of your life. It's situational.

I find myself eating a tri-tip steak walking around a man-made body of water with a disparaging vegan who is directly in the middle of a broken heart saying that God is very quiet sometimes. I find myself being invited on several intentional walks without destinations—“loops.”

I find myself in tears about nothing pinpoint-able driving up N Crescent. I find myself elated about nothing pinpoint-able driving down Laurel Canyon the next hour. I find myself canceling and being canceled on.

I find myself at an imitation diner, where, over pancakes, three artists discuss their hatred of another artist. One, a lesbian, says she likes all women except this one.

I find myself waist-deep in water colder than I'd drink on the trail to Eaton Canyon Falls, heavy from last week's rain.

I find myself speaking to a doctor, a man much older than me, who tells me that his late father was also once a doctor at Cedars. That he had been a particular golden age movie star's doctor. That when she needed her appendix removed, they told her they were also taking the ovaries. That she put a note on her gown that said please not to take her woman-parts because she wanted a son just like the doctor’s handsome little son. The man I’m speaking to well up with tears, and I realize he is speaking about himself. That he is the son.

I find myself receiving a message from the artist who I drove to Tom of Findlands asking for my email address and a photograph of driftwood. He tells me he's interested in reading my books, that he has hearing issues from his military time as a bodyguard with Arafat.

I find myself ordering a book I've wanted to read to the nearest bookstore, nine miles away. I find myself deciding to drive to Malibu and turning around ten minutes into the drive.

I find myself at another dinner, this one at a home, where no one drinks anything again but eats an assortment of red and black berries after the meal in front of a fire, where a man who arrives after the dinner with a very uninhibited black dog whose tail immediately takes down a vase rattles off the astrological signs of all US presidents. Woodrow Wilson, Capricorn. He says Libras have despotic tendencies: Putin, Kamala, Netanyahu. And when asked about the risings and moons, he also provides. Abraham Lincoln, Sun in Aquarius, Moon in Capricorn, Ascendant in Aquarius.

I find myself at a self-identifying New York-style Sichuan Chinese restaurant and while inside forget that I am in Los Angeles.

I find myself referring to a coyote as a hyena. I find myself very slightly nauseous after a large and incredible Ceviche. I find myself not understanding the physics of a situation. I find myself at a gallery on top of a hill advertised as a mountain.

I find myself near the Roosevelt Hotel around noon, walking to the public parking lot behind a late-night show and thinking I'm hearing Sheryl Crow’s sound check and a security guard telling me that it's Sheryl Crow’s sound check.

I find myself reading that Nin's use of the word incest is, in this instance not literal. In other words, in this book the word "incest" describes a selfish love where one can appreciate in another only that which is similar to oneself. One is then only loving oneself, shunning all differences. At first, such self-love can seem ideal because it is without fear and without risk. But eventually it becomes a sterile nightmare. Toward the end of the book, the character called "the modern Christ" puts Nin's use of the word into context: “If only we could all escape from this house of incest, where we only love ourselves in the other."

I find that on my way to the airport, I really do feel I am actually just about to arrive in Los Angeles.