Nine Months in Los Angeles

A Letter Home — November 15, 2013

Aliee Chan
Human Parts

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the distance between my apartment and my childhood home: 2,781 miles

Dear Home,

It’s been nine months since I boarded a plane in Philadelphia with my grown-up cactus and my grandmother’s scarf and waited for my three suitcases tagged with pink ribbon to make their way around a carousel and into a caravan. It’s been nine months since my high school friend welcomed me with a beer and a hug.

In Pacific Standard Time, it feels like yesterday. In Eastern Standard Time, it feels like years. Pictures of New York are beginning to look romantic. I get nostalgic for rain and the way a well-heated room feels when you go inside. I whipped my forearm out to swatch it for coffee today and the barista was only half-charmed by how I know when there’s enough cream. When I’m sad I wonder if the bouncer at 85 E. 4th Street remembers my name or if people still consider me a friend or if I’ve transitioned into someone hardly mentioned but thought of fondly, like a first car.

New York, I tell people that I’m from you when I want to appear ambivalent in a cool urbane way, but it takes less than a full conversation for people to deduce that I’m a soft and suburban Jersey girl: I smell like 3 AM diner French toast and Washington Valley Road. My leather jacket is fake and I bought it three years ago at the Target by the Costco (you know, by the minor league baseball stadium).

Mom and Dad, thank you for not visiting me in my first six months. I was really vapid and boring. That’s code for depressed and trying to fit in. That’s code for I have split ends from burning my hair every day with a curling iron. That’s code for I can now look presentable in less than an hour and my beauty regimen relies on free samples from Nordstrom’s and Keihl’s.

On my twenty-fourth birthday, I learned that Los Angeles is one bad touch away from either banging its twelve-dollar cocktail through a headboard or running a 5K. I used to work out six times a week. I have mixed feelings about quitting. I try not to equate exercise with hating myself, but I spent too much time trying to shrink into something more camera-ready. The sun has made me calico colored and I’m trying to pass it off as an executive marketing decision. I am sorry that you won’t see my baby-biceps this Thanksgiving, but they were fun while they lasted.

I spend my mornings driving down Mulholland Drive with a ninety-eight-year-old film legend. I spend my evenings reading picture books and kissing boo-boos. In between I make time for professional make believe in front of a camera, which is something outwardly cold and unfeeling. I try to make friends with it anyway; all in all, it’s kind of like high school.

Here are some other fun things that I learned: The state flower of California is the flaccid penis, the mascot of Mid-Wilshire is the Slavic old woman at the bus stop, there’s a shortcut to LAX, a route around Hollywood Bowl traffic, and the palm trees aren’t naturally that smooth and skinny. Someone told me that night workers come around to certain parts of town and whittle them down in to toothpicks. “They’re not naturally like that,” someone said (I think). “You can see that they’re not if you look all the way up at the top.” Either way, I’ve stopped noticing them altogether, and this concerns me more than it should.

My bedroom looks like Carrie Mathison went to Office Max and tried to write comedy. It’s hard not make everything analogous to a TV show, but I’ve seen Mindy Kaling twice already on Melrose. I’ve seen Jeff Goldblum at Whole Foods.

I got my first wrinkles under my eyes from smiling too much — I don’t know if that’s aging or too much sun.

Home, I will see you in ten days. Is humidity still a thing? I suppose I should pack, but I don’t know what to wear where you are. See you soon!

Love,

Aliee

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