Letters to Jake

Breakthroughs

Hey Jake

Jake, it seems the barista and I fell into a ditch. We were having an impossible time getting to Nevada. I was having an easy time of writing to you on into infinity about our stagnant efforts to cross the state line, but while I thought that, in my effort to get to infinity, I was building a new Tower of Babel or something, or being like Icarus, or doing something that, at least, extended up into the sky, I was, in fact, digging a hole into the ground, like if maybe Atlas had been handed a shovel instead of a boulder.

Holes, Jake, as you know, are hard to get out of. You dig down and down and down, and then you realize that, if you want to get back out, you need a ladder. But at least I kind of maybe told the barista I loved her. I told her I loved her in an ambiguous way. In a way that gives me freedom. I told her that when she’d gone deaf, I’d told her I’d loved her, then I’d asked her if, now that she wasn’t deaf anymore, if she wanted me to tell her I loved her again, with the full benefit of premeditation, with the full cooperation of my brain, my heart, and my sexuality too.

“Your call,” she said.


Preoccupation

Hey Jake

The barista and I had faraway looks in our eyes. We stood on the top of the hill and lavished them on the landscape before us—the poppy preserve without poppies in Lancaster, CA, barely outside of Los Angeles, nowhere close to our goal of Nevada. I hung my eyes on the nubby-round hills that looked like knuckles. Then I hung them on the ridge-type hills with the spine-arisen-from-the-earth’s-crust aspect. I hung them on the eastern slope, the one that looks like it’s melting. Then I hung my eyes on the yellow patches of agriculture to the south, past 140th Street, down towards the actual city of Lancaster. I don’t know where the barista hung her faraway looks. I couldn’t look at nubby hills and melting slopes and look at her look at the same time. I’m guessing she saw the things I saw but saw them differently. I can’t know for sure. I’ve never been one to read a woman’s mind.


Declarations

Hey Jake

We were at the poppy preserve without poppies in Lancaster, CA, past 140th Street, a street name whose import I detailed for you in my last letter. I don’t know how long poppy seasons last, how long those blooms go, how long the desert’s a blanket of petals. But without knowing the science, I’m going to gamble—petals like that can’t last very long. Not with searing heat, not without tree shade, not with dramatic swings in temperature from night to day. The desert is moody, Jake. It’s hot and it’s cold. It punishes flower petals. It begs them to wilt but then somehow they don’t, at least for a while. That’s why this place was a miracle, Jake. That’s why I put all my faith in it.


Faraway Looks

Hey Jake

I went to the poppy preserve with the barista on the way to Nevada. It was right there in Lancaster, out past 140th Street, the street with the name that makes perfect sense and no sense at all. Perfect because there’s nothing on this road, not even a mailbox, it’s just a post with a number stabbed into the dust way out in the desert so it might as well be comically high—when I think of numbered streets over a hundred, I think of taking Western Avenue from my house the thirty miles to Long Beach, past numbers so high you can’t believe LA is still going. But nonsensical also because, to get from 1st Street to 140th Street, you’ve got to think that something’s going to happen in between. Like, if you’re driving along, and you pass 1st Street, and then you pass 2nd Street, and then you pass all the rest and you get to 140th and you’ve passed nothing but tumbleweed, then you feel cheated.


Weighing In

Hey Jake

One thing about traffic on the way to Nevada is that it’s got a lot of space to crop up. It cropped up as soon as I descended the ramp below the First Adventist Church from Hollywood Boulevard to the 101. It cropped up as soon as the 101 decided to dip down on the backside of Universal City, under that viaduct, where the median’s made of gold-flecked rock rather than straight-up concrete. And it even cropped up again at the 170, the number one most secret freeway in Los Angeles, a road very few cars have ever heard about. But I’ll tell you where the traffic didn’t crop up. I’ll tell you where the barista and I were free and clear, where nothing but open roads stood between me and her, her and me, my heart and hers, sexual intercourse, etc etc: the poppy preserve up around Lancaster.


Questions and Beliefs

Hey Jake

I threw ‘em down, Jake. I played my cards with the barista and we finally got out of Hollywood. It took a while. It took some effort. It took persistence. It took enduring an insane thicket of traffic. But what do you want to hear about, Jake? Do you want to hear about us? Do you want to hear about our guy/girl dynamic? Or do you want to hear about what clogged the road? Do you believe in metaphors? Because I do. I really, really do. I believe in hard work, open space preservation, and maybe God but definitely metaphors. So get ready, Jake, because the traffic between my place and Nevada was unbelievable.


Mood Assessment

Hey Jake

Guess what. I went to Nevada with the barista, an actual woman, and yes, we stayed in motels, and yes, we gambled. I didn’t win any money. I tried. But you don’t care about that. You know I’m employable. I could get a job if gambling crushed me. So gambling can’t crush me. So what you want to know is if I had sex with her. We’ve got two things to care about in this world, Jake: sex and money. And right now, you’d take the former over the latter.


Seduction

Hey Jake

I made you a promise and I’m going to keep it. I told you I was going to the Nevada desert. I told you that going there guaranteed I’d have something to tell you. I told you in my last letter that I was blind to the punches in the face happening right over my shoulder, so intent was I on forging a something out of the nothing that resides in my chest. I told you that if I went to the Nevada desert I wouldn’t be blind to stories that end in punches in the face anymore. I told you it would all change. I didn’t tell you something else though. I withheld information. I didn’t want to jinx myself. I didn’t tell you that my excursion to the Nevada desert was an actual date, with an actual woman, a date that would involve both motels and gambling.


Zeke

Hey Jake

Well, we tried the love triangle. You and Zeke invited me to the Upright Citizens Brigade twice, and both times I couldn’t go. I wanted to go. In fact, when Zeke called, I picked up, even though I was about to back into my extremely difficult parking place on Franklin, a space that requires all kinds of aim while driving in reverse, and my answering meant I had to hold up traffic in uncomfortable ways, in full view of my neighbors, who happen to be immigrants—not that that means anything, except that my car stuck in the road so clumsily that I felt I was fulfilling whatever disappointment they’d first sensed upon touching down in Los Angeles.


Triangle

Hey Jake

It looks like it’s time to take matters into my own hands. Yes, I understand that you have priorities to balance. And yes, I understand that you can’t introduce me to Sarah at the moment, even though you think the two of us would get along. And yes, I understand that if you were to introduce Sarah to me, Zeke might not appreciate it, because he’s in love with her too, and he’s already actually met her.


World Views

Hey Jake

I think we’ve hit an impasse. First of all, I went to your party the other night, and you were the only one there.


Reference

Dear Jake, my upright friend, my friend with endless ideas for social entrepreneurship, my friend with a wife and therefore a reasonable chance to procreate at the socially expected time, my friend all around, my friend from when we were teenagers and ignorant to everything we know now, like, the depths of our flaws, meaning, the depths of our wisdom, my friend of youth, my friend of now, my friend down the street from me in LA, my friend who embodies every social ideal I’ve ever heard of but can’t quite make my own, my friend forever, my friend, Jake,


Introduction

Before sending my first letter to Jake, I ought to provide the reader with some details about this person I’ve chosen to be the sole beneficiary of my wisdom and experiences.