Going to California (An Excerpt)

I dreamed I was in California and everything was perfect.

I sat under palm trees and lay on white sand beaches. I drove the endless freeways, and aimed my car toward the setting sun that hung in the hazy red sky. I smoked cigarettes with cinema legends and ate dinner with the movers and shakers of a town that ran on money and lust. I walked boulevard after boulevard of neon glitz. I talked with tattoo shop owners and slept on the rooftops of apartment buildings. I stared up into the sky and watched planes fly out of LAX. I stared off  into oceans of twinkling lights that spread out in every direction.

I dreamed I lived and breathed the Los Angeles of Jim Morrison and James Ellroy, of Raymond Chandler and Charles Bukowski. But instead of seeing a woman so alone, as Morrison did, I saw one inviting and wanting, a city only too happy to provide me with every conceivable pleasure. She was a work of art laid out flat next to the ocean, bleeding with streetlights and highways, motels and nightclubs.

The women were beautiful and they were endless, the types that only exist in dreams; angelic figures without flaw, and always a smile on their face. I had whirlwind romances go by in seconds; life-long love affairs in the blink of an eye. I sucked whiskey off of perfect nipples; I licked bourbon off the inside of beautifully tanned thighs.

I dreamed I was out in the sunbaked countryside I’d read about in John Steinbeck novels. I walked in the orange groves and among the hills. I’d see hardworking farmers coaxing life out of desert ground. Up in the hills I’d bask in sunlight that never seemed to end. This was a landscape of heat and beauty, and when I dug my bare feet into the soil I felt a sincere belonging. I’d look up into the blue skies above, extend my arms and say out loud, “I’m home.”

I swam in crystal blue waters and never needed to come up for air. No matter how deep or how far I swam, when I surfaced the beach was still right there, cold beer and lawn chair sitting ready.

I dreamed I was happy under those palm leaves.

But it was only a dream. I’d never even been to California.

 ***

I woke up late the next morning and made my way to the kitchen to put the coffee on. I filled the machine with my eyes half closed, still groggy with sleep. When I slapped down the button to start the brewing process, I shut them entirely. I could probably sneak in an on-my-feet three minute power-nap while the coffee brewed.

The dream was still in my head. A dream like that wasn’t something I could just let go of when I awoke the next day. It was something I’d secretly crave to revisit every time I felt myself drifting off to sleep. Even standing there in my bathrobe, in a kitchen piled high with dirty dishes and full ashtrays, I could still feel that lingering euphoria.

The coffee maker clicked. I grabbed a mug and poured myself a cup.

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