Coming back to Kansas City after visiting Los Angeles is to come back to a small town. The airport's a long way off from our house, out past every place to buy cars and TVs. There's a field by the exit to the airport where I've seen both deer and wild turkey. Shawn tells us he's relieved when the road matches a curve in the river and he can first see the heights of the Kansas City skyline. He says he feels like he's back home.
We went to Los Angeles at the end of September to see our friends and also Beyoncé. Shawn was born there but hadn't been as an adult. This was maybe my sixth time going. Josh's third. Our first trip all three of us together anywhere. Josh swam in the ocean for the first time. I cried to see it, but we were all in the water, so no one could tell. He swam in his underwear because he forgot his swim shorts. No one cared.
We walked as much as we could. Miles and miles every day, and the city never got smaller. A friend of Josh's mother invited us to stay in his guesthouse years ago. We took him up on it this time. From the porch, we could stare into the mountains. There was a foil tray of homegrown pomegranates in the kitchen. Dogs in the yard sometimes. One night, a skunk. Shawn saw it and froze. They're larger than you imagine they'll be. On the same porch, we met an actress we'd wanted to meet for a long time. She emerged from the cold dark carrying a lantern. I won't tell you more about it here, but the next time we see each other in person, sure.
I've always wanted to see a rattlesnake in the wild. Whatever evolutionary benefit there is to fearing snakes and spiders, I lack it. Like the time I was a child trying to trap a spider in a jar to move it from the back door to the yard. It fell onto the deck and tried to run from me. I picked it up in my hands without fear. I like to think I wouldn't do the same with a rattlesnake. I wouldn't pick it up. But I'd want to get a good look, and that would be my undoing. The only rattlesnake I've ever seen in California was ground up into a sausage I ate near Venice Beach.
There was turbulence on the plane but nowhere else. We ate everywhere there was to eat. We saw Joan Crawford's false eyelashes behind glass. We watched a play. We visited a friend's beautiful new home. A tree in her backyard demanded you look at it. Like the city at night, it was covered in lights, best seen from a distance, but even then, it was impossible to take it all in with only two eyes.
We had six, and it still wasn't enough.