July 03, 2003

A Slow Climb to Dangerous Altitudes

The view is glorious up here, but I can’t really focus on that too well right now. I pass Cody the joint, saying “we’re probably gonna get busted for even being here, dude,” but he just shrugs.

“Better trespassing than a possession rap, Aaron.” I laugh at this and shoot back “That’s your problem,” but Cody’s just as quick. He’s all “Oh, it’s your problem now too, dumbass,” waving what used to be my sixty bucks in front of my face, before taking another toke. He grimaces. “Hmmm, maybe I ripped you off, man. This stuff isn’t that great after all.” I smirk and say “How about I take my money back then, asshole?”

“No, that’s your problem now too, okay? Get rid of it if you hate it so much. Toss it in what’s left of burned-out Laguna Beach, you chickenshit fag.” I tell Cody to fuck off but he just laughs like he’s in on some massive inside joke and I’m not, and then he takes himself and my money back to his Beemer and speeds down Talavera. I wait a while before moving. The sun beats down and I try to go carefully, watching out for poison oak. Dealing with that shit would just add another vicious insult to an already injury-prone year.

It began this summer, when my sister and I were at my dad’s place in San Gabriel. We’d met his new girlfriend and I thought she was okay at the time, I guess, but I don’t remember much else about her because there seemed to be so much more going on. There was an earthquake out in the desert, and though it didn’t level everything in L.A., it was still pretty bad.

It had happened at around four in the morning, and I couldn’t get back to sleep. Not out of fear, but because the damn futon had what felt like only a half-inch of cushion, and it was so painful to sleep on that I took my pillow to the only spot of open floor in the tiny living room. I put on my headphones but the radio sucked, and the only tape I had was Zooropa so I played it over and over until I fell asleep again.

I didn’t wake up until eleven-thirty the next morning, jolted into consciousness by the sound of the blender my dad was using to make another weird fruit-veggie-health-whatever smoothie. He asked if I wanted one but I said no, and went over to play Shufflepuck on the Mac Classic. Dad turned on KLOS, but Breakfast with the Beatles was already over, so there was nothing to distract him from asking me about my girlfriend, Alison, and when he’d get to meet her.

I said I wasn’t sure, cause she’s at cheer camp all this summer in Santa Barbara, but she hates it and might quit, so maybe I could tell her to stop by on her way home. He said “Well, let’s hope so son.” I hated it when he called me “son” and not “Aaron.” Did I ever call him “Mr. Haynes?” Fuck no, because that’s what his students and everyone else at school called him, even that asshole superintendent who thought being cool equaled wearing three shades of brown.

Later I helped Dad wash the Explorer, and I got kinda bent when he said that Mom didn’t make Amy and me do enough chores, but I got over that a few hours later when he let me practice driving it. It was kind of fun freaking him out by almost tearing through a picket fence off Foothill and then making like I was gonna clip his mailbox. I could tell he was really worried, but he just said “No wonder you didn’t get your license on the second try.”

I did get it eventually, though, later in August when I came back home, and that was handy cause I wouldn’t need Ali to drive me everywhere. Even better, I wouldn’t have to walk down the hill to work and then need Mom to pick me up afterwards. She was never too keen on us being out late at night, and sometimes I’d have to work after hours to earn some extra scratch for Prom or whatever.

I was almost eighteen and tired of Mom’s leash, though, so sometimes I would lie about working late and then go pick up Ali with my mom’s car. We’d drive up the Pacific Island hill behind her house and walk the trail after dark, and our parents never found out.

It was always so quiet up there, and no one else seemed to know about it—both plusses when seeking a prime make-out location. We were lucky to get to it when it was still routinely deserted, though, because after the fire everyone was paranoid about arson, and the cops stepped up their patrols, making a point to check the hilltop twice a night.

Admittedly that made sense, especially when I went up there a few days after the fire and slipped by a roadblock on Talavera to get a close-up view of the destruction. The air smelled like death, and when I got to the hill’s edge and looked out over Aliso Canyon, I could barely see the lights from Laguna Beach on the other side; most residents had temporarily fled the area until the blaze was subdued.

On my way back to the to the car that day, I’d run right into two cops and a fire crew as they were showing up to catalogue the debris. I was threatened with arrest if I didn’t leave immediately, and they didn’t seem to like my half-true reason to be there—my girlfriend lived off Pacific Island—so I bailed and didn’t come back until tonight. I’d told Cody that I didn’t think it was such a good idea to meet up here, no matter how good his weed was. He’d said it would be too risky anywhere else, and besides, anyone would be able to smell it on us unless we stayed outside for a while.

Cody was gone now, though, and most of my paranoia had left with him. There’s still some daylight left, so I decide to stay up here on the peak and use up my fair share of it.

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