“We’ve arrived at LAX,” said the captain as the red eye landed.

“What does the X stand for?” I wondered aloud. Neither Aisle or Window responded. People stood up and began grabbing their things from the overhead compartments and I assumed, based on their clothes and general airs, that most of them were Angelinos. A few had even put on their sunglasses, so I reached in my setback pocket and put on my sunglasses, too. Blending into a city filled with actors was a difficult goal, but putting in the effort has always been a virtue of mine. Put in the effort. That’s what’s important. Trying. Yoda was wrong.

“So where are you visiting from?” asked the captain as I stepped off the plane.

“I’m from here,” I said. They laughed and I made my way to the taxis.

“Where to?”

“The Days Inn on Manchester.” I didn’t know where Manchester was but I think I sounded pretty confident. He only drove a few blocks before reaching the hotel. “The brochure said this was walking distance to the beach. Where’s the beach?”

He pointed behind him. West? “’Bout five miles that way.”

I paid and checked in and grabbed a couple maps in the lobby and walked up to my room. 3C, the one with the great view of a few abandoned vans. The key took a little jiggling, and the right side of the door required a bit of a lift before the lock would unlatch, but it finally did, and I soon stood inside my empty room. “Where’s the bed?” I thought out loud before picking up the phone and asking, “Where’s the bed?” to the man at the reception desk.

“Where’s the bed?” he responded.

“Where’s the bed,” I repeated.

“There’s no bed?” he asked.

“There’s no bed,” I said.

“We’ll send up a cot.”

“Do I have to be here when you bring it or can I go see the sights?”

“Go. Go. We’ll bring you one in a few hours.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re sure it’s not there?”

“It’s not there.”

I blinked a few times hoping the bed would appear, but it didn’t and I wouldn’t be in LA long enough to justify dwelling on this small problem. My sunglasses were still on, for christ’s sake. This was my time.

I unpacked a camera and walked outside to the nearest bus stop. The map I grabbed didn’t provide much information about the routes, but this was my vacation and I felt like taking a risk. I’d go wherever it took me, save some money on cab fare, and eventually find a nice place to grab some coffee and a donut or two and maybe a friend. The bus stopped. I stepped on and pulled out my wallet. No cash. No coins.

The driver looked me over for a few seconds. “Where are you visiting from?”

I swallowed. “I’m a local.”

He laughed and waved me on. “This one’s on me.” Maybe LA wouldn’t be that bad after all.

We passed some office buildings and apartment buildings and a few commuters got on but all of them looked too tired to approach so I stayed quiet and stared out the right side of the bus. A few stops into the ride, the friendly driver slammed on his brakes to let a woman on. They were pals. She was obviously a regular, and she was stunning. I stared as she walked down the aisle and kept my eyes stuck to her smile as she sat down with her coffee. The most beautiful woman I’d ever seen had just taken an empty seat in front of me. In my reality. My LA reality.

I tried flirting, but I’ve never been good at flirting. I remarked on the size of LA. I kept my sunglasses on. Then I called myself a yokel. How stupid! I called myself a yokel. She reached in her mouth, pulled out a wad of gum, and pretended to have found it on her seat. “I got gum on my seat,” she said. “Gum.” Across the aisle she went, and alone I was again.

I would have hated her to this day had she not taken over for the driver after he was shot. But she did! She saved my life. Apart from the crazy woman, she saved all our lives. She and that handsome cop.

I cut my trip short after the bus exploded and decided to go back to Ohio the following day. Carolyn was waiting for me, just as she said she would, and I finally accepted her proposal. I guess it’s weird for a woman to propose to a man, but weirder things have happened.