Soon a Latino couple sat down beside me in the remaining two seats on my side of the aisle. She sat beside me, in the middle, with her husband on the aisle. They had no luggage with them and when they took their seats, they did it furtively as if they snuck on board. I looked to the woman but a glance was not returned, and I settled into helping Luigi's quest to walk over those damned slippery logs. After three failed attempts, I looked up to notice the plane was full and we were about to depart.
We climbed to our cruising altitude. The steward, a graduate of Alan Sues University, bent at his waist to ask us if we understood our exit row responsibilities in the case of an emergency. He looked at the Latino couple and asked if they understood the card he had handed them explaining the procedures for a crash landing. With the fixed and frightened smiles of non-English speaking befuddlement, they nodded. He didn’t believe they understood his question and again, asked them but this time with emphasis on each and every word. Returned were the same smiles and the same nods. He turned to me and said, "You're okay, right?" with his eyes rolling and his shoulders slumping in the exaggerated pantomime of exhaustion. I could tell by that performance he must have gotten his masters at ASU. I smiled and nodded, and I suppose I was more convincing than my Latino row mates as he went about looking for alternative passengers to their seats.
"We. Are. Going. To. Move. You." he said to the couple. After some passenger shuffling, an elderly woman on the other side of the plane was recruited and she seemed thrilled at the challenge. She sat next to me, took her card, and started to study. She glanced over at the door and its oversized handle, and with her hand, she followed the path of the red quarter circle that would open the door in case of a catastrophe. She went back to reading the card then let it lie on her lap with her hands clasped over it. We settled into the flight with Seabiscuit playing on the monitors. I listened to it while I read all of my magazines, played more Mario, ate the beef dinner that came with mashed potatoes the consistency of grits, and finally thumbed through Sky Mall while we landed. I think the movie had something to do with a horse.
I was the first one off the plane and I rushed downstairs for a cigarette until the baggage started to come off the belt. I picked up my bags and boarded a rental car van to pick up my car. I was relieved to find the rental car agency empty and went right to a counter agent. I opened my wallet to give them my credit card and drivers license, and I looked haplessly at the empty slot where my license lives. It was gone. My mind raced as the rental agent tapped his fingers. He assured me this happens all the time and I should take my time and look for it. "But it's not in its slot, you ass!" I wanted to scream but I went through the motions of looking anyway. I was panicked and I convinced myself I had left it in DC, in my blue cords I had on the night before, and that there was no amount of looking that would find it. I called Ricky on my cell and told him the story, all the while feeling like a total loser.
"Don't worry, honey, I'll be right there," Ricky said. I gathered my bags and went out into the rain to have another smoke, and wait. My mind went through all of the possibilities and I hated the notion of having to drive Ricky's truck, which he gracefully offered to me, because I had already been in one accident in that truck, rear-ended a long ago with Billy in the passenger seat, and I wanted my own car. I looked out onto the traffic of Century Blvd. and if I had let go just a little bit, my chin would have started to quiver and I would have full-on cried. I was already on edge being back in LA and I just wanted to hide, in my own car, in my own dark hole.
My hand wandered to my other back pocket and I felt my license. Why didn't I look there in the first place, I asked myself, and how can I be such a fucking loser? I slunk back into the rental agency and went to the same guy. I admitted I forgot to look in my other pocket and I showed him my license. Within minutes, I was in a brand new Hyundai. I waited for Ricky to show up and when I told him I had found my license and rented the car, he smiled, shook his head, and kissed me hello. We navigated through LA rush hour and finally reached their home. Tommy was at the door, waiting, and we group hugged and kissed.
"You're sure you don’t want to stay here?" Tommy asked, laughing a little at my choice to stay in a nearby hotel. I assured both of them that I would be fine, and I left to check into my room. I drove a short distance to Marina Del Rey and checked into what was once a swinging little pad in the Eighties but is now a middle-aged dowager. I was given a room with a balcony facing the pool. I stood outside the sliding glass door, looking at the rain dance across the pool's surface, and I felt much like the hotel in which I was staying – out of step with the times and my heyday a distant memory.
I stubbed out my cigarette and went into the room to call my pot dealer.