Outside the large windows that opened to the Pacific ocean was a sloping hillside laden with houses and cypresses. The sun was beginning to wedge its way from the wide open sky to the horizon and its light glimmered on the waves that lapped at the sides of the coast. She looked out at the view. A couple of seagulls drifted on the wind. The sight made her feel like she could be in Greece or Italy or in some small town on the Mediterranean sea. It was a sensation she liked, like bathing in warm water. The calm late afternoon sun over a lazy hillside drenched her in wanderlust. All around her there were people she could not see, families immersed in barbecues and slow strolls along the waterfront and bike rides. She could not see them, but she knew they were there. There was the smell of grilling meat and the vibrancy of an unusually warm afternoon. There was something about the golden coated hills that made her want to don a backpack and head out on the first ship destined for a sleepy island, where she would need to use pantomime and universally understood hand gestures to get herself fed and housed. She looked out the window repeatedly, wanting to express her desire for a sudden burst of flight with someone, but she kept it in, there was another conversation happening.
Or rather, there were three or four splintered conversations that sparked and flamed and then died quickly, only to ignite a few minutes later. Uncontrolled attention flew about the room like a ping pong ball.
The sofa she sat on was pressed against the windows, the other was against the wall. A large houseplant, the size of a small tree separated them. A Persian-style rug filled the center of the space, on top of which was a makeshift coffee table made out of a glass tabletop that sat on a wide drum. Somewhere, a drum kit was missing an important part. Three sand dollars rested in the inch of space between the tabletop and the skin of the drum. The table was covered in bright orange glasses filled with lemonade and roasted portabella mushrooms dusted with thyme. There was a platter of sliced beef that sat waiting for a mouth, a bowl of potatoes was getting cold.
She looked at the food with interest, she wanted it, but she had grown weary and careful. It had sat for too long, been saturated with too much breath and subtle vibrations. She watched it. She wanted a little bit of the meat, she wanted a green olive from the bowl numerous fingers had dipped into. But she looked away, attempting to keep a calm smile on her face as ping pong balls bounced from wall to wall, corner to corner. A faulty stereo began and stopped a CD at whim. Each time it stopped, she jumped slightly, feeling slapped and startled. She looked around for someone else who noticed, that seemed as shocked as she did, but the conversation did not stop. Darting movement came from half a dozen people.
She sat on the couch, on the plush checkered cushions of black velvet and beige linen. Her bare feet were pulled in close, resting on the fabric. She wondered if, as a houseguest, she was sitting in an appropriate position. But she saw her hostess sitting in the same way, dressed as she was with form fitting leggings and a short skirt that gave just a couple extra inches below their panty lines. They looked like teenagers dressed for a day at the mall.
“I stopped eating meat a week ago, I feel so much better, like I have a lot more energy.”
“I was a vegetarian for about a year, my skin turned green and I walked around half dead.”
“So yeah, I disagree with the premise of that movie.”
“Does anyone want some more food.”
“Hey, will you tap that stereo, it’s skipping again.”
“I mean, if you want to use someone else’s song, you need to get permission.”
“It’s a stretch, but not a long one.”
There was so much happening all around her, energy flew in all directions like a chaotic storm. They were all like parts of a machine that never linked up, that never synchronized to actually make something happen. Here, each was his own gear, sure of its purpose and plan and all of them battled against each other in their thoughts and words and movements. She remained mostly silent, giving her attention to a particular speaker, nodding, smiling when something was funny. When she looked away, no one seemed to notice. Attention was not required in this setting, each person was a singular entity and she simply tried to breathe, she simply tried to remain calm. Outside the waves were lapping against the drenched black rocks as the sun started its final dive into the endless ocean.