I’ve lived in Los Angeles just short of six months and it still feels like some impermanent, fluctuating span of time. Like a vacation, almost, but one where you still have to work and you still have to pay your bills and you still have to fill your car up with gas. I don’t know why California feels so different but it’s made me behave like a visitor, like a stranger. I can feel my brain actively forgetting street names and ways to get places and whether the airport is to the north or the south. You won’t have to know this, my memory says. Don’t let it clog up any space. Maybe it’s been so long since I’ve tried to really settle down somewhere that I’ve just forgotten how.
Yesterday S and I drove to Point Dume, thirty minutes or so north from Santa Monica, well into the idyllic beaches of Malibu.
I used to surf there, S says, pointing out at the water. We’re passing Sunset on our left, the turnoff to the Pacific Palisades on the right. The surf today is flat; there are hardly any surfers around.
The parking lot at Point Dume consists of eight spots, all full. We wait in line behind a minivan that keeps changing its mind. Ten times they start to pull away and then reverse again to wait longer. When they finally give up, that’s when the first pair of hikers return to their car. We’re first in line to grab their spot.
We walk around for an hour, maybe more, seeing no promised sea lions but two faraway dolphins that surface moments after I’ve expressed my desire to see them. The water is a fairytale, strange shade of blue and looks at once freezing and inviting. The air is warm and breezy and the sand underneath our feet is cluttered with tiny pebbles and broken shells.
Again, that familiar feeling. That little voice: you don’t live here. None of this belongs to you. At best, you’re some sort of permanent visitor.
But at the top of a fifty foot drop into the almost-turqoise waters of the Pacific, being a visitor feels okay.
Photographs taken at Point Dume State Beach in California.