I just learned how to roll a cig properly, and other confessions

Editor’s note: Klar is a 23-year-old transplant from St. Louis who thinks about the physicality of trash and garbage with the passion of a bear in heat. They enjoy the feeling of a nice long run, archaeology, and laying in hammocks all day. She can’t see herself leaving the Southwest anytime soon.

It used to be that I wouldn’t sing out loud more than once every two months. Maybe more, if bits of joy were injected amongst the heavy sacks of sadness hanging in the depths of my tired muscles. The new kitchen echoes with these sounds that I am surprised to find slipping from my mouth.

I would elaborate for you, but it is hard to explain.

Let me start at the liquor store on the corner of my street. Right now, the graveyard shift workers want to card me when I walk in with my new friend, who is 33 years old. Apparently next to some people, I still look young.

Maybe it’s because I’ve got a stress-induced break out — I think it’s the good kind of stress hitting me. Good for my brain and my soul, but my body reveals the effect. Less sleep is making me thicker in the gut and butt. Gardening is making me tan under layers of sunscreen, but the teaching? I can’t wait to have salt-and-pepper hair, just like my mother.

“How do you meet all these new people?” asks Julia.

She’s one half of the one of two str8 couples I live with. Does that make sense? Do a bit of math. Or not. Just know that I live in a sweet bachelor//ette pad with four others. It feels like an accomplishment. A huge serving of “adulting” that I didn’t think I’d be handling this soon.

If you asked me a year ago what I thought I’d be up to right now, I’d have guessed: online grad school and working at the same corporation as my father, and living in that same not-really-my-hometown household. I didn’t expect to feel like I was “making it” so soon in life.

I meet new people because I’m trying my hardest to put myself out there. I’m combating all the guilt, shame, and pity parties that don’t need to be happening inside my head. I’m falling off my meds and workout routine and maybe that is bad.

New folks approach me because I say “hi” even when I’m uncomfortable. I’m walking everywhere, and I gave up on everything other than taking the bus. Bikes are cool and all, but after conceding to the wishes of Julia, the cleaner-than-I-am-housemate(™), I didn’t lock it up inside. That material possession then did a quick disappearing act… but I wasn’t bummed at all. I hardly got to ride the thing; it’s no loss for me, really.

But if you must know, I met my 33-year-old buddy Jacob at the Museum of Contemporary Art. On my way up to the gallery docents’ four-way ping pong display, I got some “wow you remind me of somebody else” deja vu, and decided to play.

Not gonna lie, I’ve caught some FOMO in terms of loneliness. This full-sized memory foam mattress, along with the str8 couples blasting the AC, makes me want to find some kind of set-up where I have a few partners to get me through the nights. All my life, I’ve been rocking mattresses twin-sized. So it shouldn’t surprise anybody when I really put myself out there and met a cute kindergarten teacher at a sex party. Her crushed velvet skirt and sparkling lights made for a high I haven’t hit since…well, a while.

On the way back from the liquor store, Jacob and I learn about each other’s sideways childhoods. I know I’m mispronouncing how to say “I love you” in his language. But I want to get at least something right.

“You are the first person who hasn’t asked me how I got all my scars,” Jacob says.

I snuggle our shoulders closer into the hammock. Life comes at you fast, and I can’t believe I’ve already given him two more scars. Give me two hearts on my leg, just like yours. I know its gonna hurt, I can take it. This gnarly thing on my stomach? I spent a part of my life in the hospital for four months. I woke up during surgery at least twice.

So I heat up the cookie cutter on his parents’ gas stove. Inhale, count to three. Exhale, as I push the metal down into Jacob’s feathery flesh.

I get up at 6 a.m. the next morning to teach K-12 gardening. Each class is only an hour, but I’ve never worked with so many kids. Every other gardening teacher has an education background…I was never even allowed to babysit as a teen. None of my previous “jobs” in ecovillages, intentional communities, and co-op farms burdened me with this kind of sense of responsibility.

Naw, north doesn’t always have to be up, I say. Look at how you drew the garden map. The hills are north. The sun rises in the east, and it sets in the west, right? The street signs by the road say S on them. Who needs a compass anyway?

The kids tell me they want to be lawyers and senators, because they know the government is bad right now, and they want to make it right. Perhaps it is too early for my chest to be inflating with this much pride in them.

Before Jacob, I met a different lover, Jay, on a kink dating app. Jay works “in the industry.” Used to be porn, now it’s the regular comic-books-kinda entertainment. Graphic designers with his talent get so many free superhero and horror movie products that they don’t know what to do with them. I never even had the drink “sex on the beach” before, I think, as the sound of waves nearly drowns him out when he whispers that the trick is to not get sand on the blanket.

I tell my college friend about this when I get too excited, and list all the other talents Jay has: surfing, snowboarding, and playing drums in a signed touring metal band.

“Klar, that is the most LA kind of thing ever lol,” reads the reply Snapchat.

I know dude. It’s true, freakin’ everybody is hot here. Even the grandma I see power walking in the park — Same shit, different day, says her shirt.

There are guava trees everywhere in the neighborhood, their fruits rolling into the street. I tell the old man who asks to kiss me that you can eat those fragrant little things.

If my hands were not full with shovels and buckets I’d take a picture of the “boycott cvs” painted on the sidewalk. I am astounded that my roommate Julia bought coffee at the new Starbucks by the hospital “Cause it was just so close.” She knows how to prevent gentrification, and the local panadería ain’t gonna be on the “coffee” button in Google maps. I let it slide, visualize smashing the Starbucks windows, and say nothing.

The world is slowly ending: fires, El Ninos, and drought combine to create this slow and chronic state of emergency. I wish my former college roommates would go outside more to experience the smaller beautiful things of which I’ve become a part. Instead, I stay quiet as they give their business to Trader Hoes, stare at their gaming screens, and avoid waving “hello” at a new stranger.

I’m not sure if I could have found this kind of sunshine and brutal honesty in the Midwest, where online grad school and corporate contract work held their cold promise of complacency.

When I look at where I am now, I see a million tiny aspects of this literal City of Angels that contrast so starkly against what those plans I had before would have brought me, like moving to Chicago with that ex who is now in law school.

I meditate on the notion and conclude that not getting the fuck out would have guaranteed only one thing. A return to numbness, of going through motions. Unemotional labor, so to speak. I reassure myself that this tweaky sort of stressed out happiness is unique; that it would have been impossible to reach without a move as big as this one. I just hope the intrusive thoughts do not swing by, whispering:

do you remember where you were a year ago, sweetheart?

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