Then this girl appeared out on nowhere and asked if she could use my phone. She ‘needed a ride’.
So I lent her the phone and she proceeded to talk for ten minutes about how Julio needed to come over right now and ‘smoke her out’. Cause she wasn’t gonna take Araceli’s b******* anymore. She was tired of it. She was done with that, so done with that, you have no idea how loco and she needed to get high and she was tired of everybody’s stupid b******* and no one listened to her anyway.
She got down into a squat and rotated away from my gaze, murmuring and gesticulating. Finally I walked around into her field of vision, and she turned away from me, annoyed to have her privacy intruded upon.
‘I’m just going to be a minute. Okay? Jeez.’
She took another five.
She handed the phone back without thanks and started throwing rocks at a metal pole.
I see two lessons here. Always take the railroad tracks instead of the street. Don’t lend your phone to strangers.
This spur went somewhere, once upon a time. People manufactured things right here. The things were loaded onto railroad cars and dispersed across the country. We don’t make stuff anymore. We design things. Incredible stuff, actually. Like this iMac. We send the blueprints to China and they make it for us. The designers do very well in this arrangement. The Chinese do well. Industrialists in China don’t count their money, they weigh it. They give some of it back in the casinos of Macao, but mostly they double their return by buying our Treasury bonds. We sell bonds to raise money to send checks to idled Workers Who Formerly Made Things in This Country. We have decided, in lieu of Unpleasant Decisions, to make our children pay these bonds for us. A century ago, the Chinese sent coolies to America to build the railroads. Today young American women doll themselves up, get on the plane to Shanghai and Macao and offer themselves as mistresses to Chinese industrialists. It’s a living.
If one finds oneself on the uppermost floor of the parking garage of the Topanga Mall, gazing north and east across the great plain of the Valley, overwhelmed with melancholy, and entertaining the five-storey plunge to Canoga (or at this particular spot, the two-storey drop to the food court roof) and a not exactly instantaneous death ….there is a number you can call. As a friendly reminder for the fence-sitters, there is a sign like this about every thirty feet. Or, as an alternative, you can take the train:
There are a number of street crossings like this at critical junctions in the Valley. This ending is instantaneous. You can feel the gravitational pull of the locomotion splitting the air, rattling femur and ribcage, even while tucked safely in your car at a legally mandated remove behind the crossing gates. Imagine standing on the tracks, the distance between you and the Surfliner closing by the second. Many people have. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, have taken this very route, and yet there are no signs anywhere, no numbers to call. We find them in pieces scattered over the length of a football field, goodbye notes folded into their backpacks. Exactly one person has jumped from the top floor of the Topanga Mall. Make of it what you will.