You’re a long way from home, Dorothy.
I finally had time to think about what I had just done. As I passed the Santa Monica Airport, my car loaded down with the few belongings too precious to trust to any mover, I was overcome with a stomach sinking anxiety. Which was hilarious because I had pretty much landed in Paradise. My nine-month old yellow Lab, Bardot, (think Brigitte), was taking it all in with unchecked wonderment. I was taking deep breaths and trying not to dry heave.
New lives don’t happen overnight, I needed to give myself some slack. Heck, I’d already bought the house on Rose Avenue. So it was clear across the country? No biggie.
The neighborhood I’d moved to was just south of the Santa Monica Airport. It is located about 2 miles from the Pacific Ocean in Southern California and has a rich history.
Just south of the airport sits Rose Avenue. This suburban cocoon,
with its homey California bungalows built up as the original owners made
way for a younger, more affluent clientele, was now my new permanent
address. Rose Avenue begins at the top of a hill and rolls down as it makes
its way to the ocean. The closer you are to the top, the more of a sea
breeze you’ll enjoy. Mine was one of the lucky “upper berth” ones. I was
promised that I would never be too hot living here, and rarely too cold.
My alter ego “Dorothy’s” real name is Annie Elizabeth Hall. I am the
only child of lovely parents who innocently gave me a perfectly fine name,
unaware that Woody Allen had already claimed it as his own. Luckily
people had started nicknaming me Halsey early on, so apart from events
like jury duty, I am saved the bad Diane Keaton impressions.
I think of myself as average. I’m 5’8”, not fat, not thin, have brown hair that I highlight when I have the time and funds, and a pleasant but unremarkable face. I’d be hard to pick out of a police line-up except for one feature. I have Kelly green eyes. And they tend to turn to sea foam from the salt when I cry. Believe me, I know.
There had been too many tears recently, and I was done with that. At 36 I was starting over. And the wounds were fresh, so I’ll quickly summarize. I left behind a failed marriage in New York City to a self-absorbed, meagerly talented writer whose most seductively crafted line to me was, “I love you like shit”.
I’ve been told that I am “smarter than the average bear”, and I am certainly no push over. How could I have forgotten this the minute I saw his tight jeans and dimpled smile? I missed every sign, distracted with creating the perfect romantic life in my mind rather than in real life. Maybe it was because of my lack of training being an only child and all. Or, maybe I just don’t play well with others. Or probably, he was a better liar than I’d realized when we first met.
The day he came home from work and passed up playing with a soft, wiggly puppy whose head was stuck in a shoe and stifled the aromas of my Coq au Vin with his fetid bong, I knew I was done.
Equally so, I had had my fill of my business partner of the last 3 years. Starting a software apps company after the bubble was a Sisyphean enough task without having to play “mommy” to the person who was supposed to be sharing the burden. Questions like, “Can we get paid today?” or “Is it okay if I go home?” were not going to contribute to building the next high tech empire. Since I could technically work from anywhere, I took my toys, my puppy and my intellectual property and followed the sun to the left coast.
I pulled into the driveway and took a deep breath. The smell of jasmine and freshly mowed grass had a calming effect.
Was it too early for a glass of wine? A nice, crisp Sancerre?
Before I hopped out, I shut the engine and sat and stared at my home. Who would have guessed that I’d be moving to a quiet, Chinese Elm-lined street, and living in a dream California Craftsman? It was so, suburban. It made me think of running barefoot, listening to the "sssssssh-chk-chk-chk" of the sprinklers and waiting on a tire swing for the Ice Cream Truck. I looked down at my navy Talbot’s shift dress and matching striped espadrilles and felt like the one chocolate in the box that nobody wants to eat. I couldn’t wait to change, this time I was going to fit in, damn it.
Next door, of course, Marisol was outside and pretending not to prowl. I’d been warned about her when I’d come out to finalize the purchase. At the time I wondered why Vincent, the previous owner, had listed Marisol in the disclosures statement of the property sale.
Typically, my realtor explained, a seller steers clear of disclosures, unless forced to by extreme conditions such as when a murder had occurred in the house, it sat upon sacred Indian burial grounds, or there was a clear image of the Virgin Mary in the wallpaper and the Vatican had been called. Vincent was a bit of a character, so I chalked this up to some real estate tomfoolery.
To look at her she seemed harmless enough, watering her lawn in a denim housedress while eyeing the neighborhood. She kept her head down pretending not to notice me. Thin and a bit frail, she had chin length hair that she kept out of the way with small combs. It was blue black but betrayed by a band of gray at the crown.
Time for Clairol #124, Marisol.
I pictured her standing at the sink, an old towel around her shoulders, applying a wand of purple touch up goo to her roots. All the while using the vanity mirror to check on the backyard next door.
My car was bouncing like a monster truck because Bardot was impatient and excited to get out and start exploring. The two of us stepped onto the front lawn and were suddenly face-to-face with Marisol.
How did she make her way over here so fast?
“My name is Mrs. Marisol, Ysabel, Rosario, Priscila Cordoba,” she announced without extending her hand. “I hope there is not going to be any trouble like the last people,” she added, laying down the residential gauntlet.
Does she know I own this house now?
Bardot cocked her head at Marisol and then stuck her nose up the woman’s housedress. Today’s exploring had begun, I’d have to ask Bardot later what she’d learned.
I was about to apologize and reply when I realized that Marisol was gone.
How does she do that?
A flash of light hit my face as her metal-screened outer door opened and closed blinding me for a minute. I made a mental note to re-check my disclosure statements.
I glanced past her property to the next fenced-in yard. A man I hadn’t seen before was dressed all in black and sat crouched atop an equally black motorcycle. His tall, sinewy frame formed a perfect “s” with the bike. The sleek mirrored helmet revealed nothing of his face, but I could tell that he was staring at me.
Darth Vader called and he wants his suit back.
“Attitude, Halsey,” I heard my mother admonish in my head.
I felt a chill in spite of the 75° weather. With barely a move he started his bike and it gave off a thunderous roar. I jumped and gasped with surprise. Without looking anywhere but at me, he drove off down Rose Avenue.
All at once Bardot and I were alone, standing on our new front lawn, far away from home and seemingly, civilization, as we knew it.
Was all of this a mistake? I wasn’t expecting the Emerald City, but a little bit of a yellow brick road would’ve been nice.
Then Bardot proudly squatted in front of the entire street and laid claim to our new home. As we headed in I saw a slat shift slightly from the blinds in one of Marisol’s side windows. I stopped myself from picking up Bardot’s deposit, something I would never do, and grinned in Marisol’s direction as we walked into my house.
A little civil disobedience was always good for the soul.