Walking in LA
Pair this one with Lost by Frank Ocean and put the backpack down
I carry a backpack up Sunset Boulevard. The backpack is military green and heavy. It holds everything I own. It is midday and hot. There is no shade. On some side streets, there is no sidewalk so I have to walk in the open to get around the parked cars. I sweat and my calves ache and the straps of the backpack eat their way into my shoulders. It has always been this way; me on the move with a heavy load. I picked it up. There is no doubt about it. Sometimes I was forced, other times it was by choice, but it always seemed like the right thing to do. It is just the way I am. Or the way I was.
Because last winter one of the heaviest boulders on my back died. Without asking me or anyone else it decided it was time. There was nothing I could do but follow it to the end. It wanted to be left at the side of the road just before the Vermont Avenue exit on the 101, and I obliged. It was difficult, but I was not sad. The boulder got what it wanted.
I expected the backpack to get lighter. I expected to have more energy when walking up the hills in Silver Lake. I even expected to be able to stop since it now would be easier to start again. I made a solemn promise to myself that I would not pick up any new rocks. From then on I would be freer. I would settle down.
Yet, here I am almost a year later still carrying that damn backpack. The boulder is gone, but the indentation of where it sat is still there. I cannot straighten my back. The sound of my worn-out boots pounding Western Avenue is my pulse and I will die if I stop it. The boulder left, but I did not let it go. The pain went away, but I kept numbing myself. I got room to stay, but am still homeless. Nothing has changed. The backpack is heavy, the streets are hot and dusty, there is no shade in LA.
People have tried to been kind. Some people. People who lost boulders, too. But no stone is the same, and if they are alike they are too heavy to lift more than one. Most are annoyed by me. My grimy face, my missing teeth. The smell that keeps the night beasts away. All they see is effort and weight and time that they do not want to put in. And that is fair. That is more than fair. I don’t know what it takes so how can they?
It is all on me.
Regitze Ladekarl has re-emerged as a raconteur after a long, successful career elsewhere. She crafts universal tales from everyday lives with an honest, sharp and witty pen. Besides working on a forthcoming novel, she flexes her voice with personal essays, flash fiction, and method writing here on Medium.
Subscribe to her newsletter here and you will never miss a good story.