Los AngelesShort Stories

Los Angeles Pine Trees

The year was 1992. A soft breeze announced a relaxing afternoon of a late summer day in LA. On one of the streets that went up towards Hollywood, three young actors were sitting on the concrete curb drinking pop and smoking light cigarettes. Their backs were resting against a wired fence that rattled every time one of them spoke or changed positions.

Above the actors, a bunch of pine trees were moving slowly in the timid breeze that took away some of that Californian heat. They smiled and relaxed, closing their eyes in the dimming sun. The skyline: a deep red splashed with dashes of golden rays and purple clouds.

‘We were seventeen, do you remember? When we tried to act for the first time’ Jim recalled as he exhaled a bit of smoke.

‘Professionally you mean?’ Anne asked while covering her eyes with her left hand: a beam of light was reflecting on her forehead.

‘Yeah, professionally. As in when we went to auditions. We all were seventeen’ Mark replied taking a drag and resting his head on the wired fence that made a timid metallic sound.

Anne nodded and lighted up a smoke. The tobacco burning, the white smoke and the stillness of the street made her sigh: ‘I wish we were seventeen again.’

A red sports car passed them by. They turned their heads after the crimson metal bullet that vanished uphill, behind white mansions. Its engine echoed for a while, then stopped, letting the dusk’s tranquillity to cover the street.

‘I don’t think I want to be seventeen again. I was broke and stupid.’ Jim confessed.

Mark stood up and looked at the Hollywood sign through the wired fence. He put his fingers through the knitted metal rectangles and squinted with one eye, fixating the white giant sign.

‘If I could go back and re-do some of the bad decisions I made, I would do that. You know what I mean?’ he asked rhetorically.

Jim put out his cigarette and took the question to be directed at him: ‘Well, the past is the past. It is not coming back – nothing we can do to change it. Ahead, only the future.’ He put his hand on Mark’s shoulder who was still looking at the Hollywood sign.

Above them, the pine trees were moving slowly. A few of the needles fell on Anne’s forearm and she looked up at the trees, exhaling a long drag. The greyish smoke disappeared into the trees’ branches.

‘There are different kinds of past, you know?’ she said softly. The other two actors turned towards her.

‘What do you mean?’ he asked Anne who was now standing up, trying to see the sunset in between houses and villas.

‘We have our memories, with their doze of purple melancholy – times and places frozen in us. That one street, the first beach, the shop on the corner, that boy or that girl, the Christmas when it happened, all these memories are our past, fractured and gone, but always present. Those fragments make us long after what it used to be.’ Anne stopped to gaze at a red motorcycle speeding on a few streets down. The man was wearing a leather jacket and dirty jeans with brown leather shoes.

Anne continued: ‘Then there is the past that we never lived, with its own beauty and outworldiness which makes it so intoxicatingly appealing, so bizarrely familiar…a home we never had, a life we never lived, and yet all so real as if it happened. That is the past which places itself as the future – a desire for certain aesthetics.’

Mark looked at the pine trees which were providing some shade and rested against the wired fence with his right arm. ‘I know what you mean. I have that feeling too. As if what once was it must be so again. No, that’s not it. It is as if what once was, it was supposed to be so when we grew up. Except that it is not.’

‘That is what we call progress,’ Jim replied. ‘We move forward. We can’t move backwards in time. That is if time is real: are my bones real?’

‘I don’t think that is what Anne is saying,’ replied Mark.

‘For me, the future has always been the past. Somehow, the world that I hope to find tomorrow is a world that is already gone.’ Anne replied. ‘Have you seen Leo in Titanic? It ran in 1997.’

‘That’s five years from now. We are in 1992. Time. Bones…’ Jim replied without giving too much consideration.

‘Don’t worry, the future already happened. The illusion of autonomy crumbles under whispers from beyond the void of tomorrow: dreams and inspiration, revelation’ Mark said with a calm confidence.

The door of a villa vis-à-vis the curb on which the actors were sitting opened and a girl in a red dress walked out. She approached the tree actors with a happy smile. Her hair was icy blonde. Her eyes were dark green. Her lips: two cherries.

‘Do you have a smoke?’ the girl asked them. Jim took the pack out of his pocket and handed it to her. She took one and lighted it up, exhaling through her nostrils. ‘Thanks’ she replied smiling and started walking uphill, towards Hollywood. The actors looked as the blonde distanced until she was a red dot on the road.

‘I once saw a blue plane, in a square world, in a cartoon, ten years ago. That felt like home but also like the past,’ Anne explained, almost whispering.

‘Or a street on which I have never been but that I can visualise and feel so vividly. I call that home too, and it is in the past as well,’ Mark said.

Jim looked at them: ‘Pockets of obscure aesthetics that trap the soul.’

Above them, the pine trees were moving no more. The breeze stopped and a voice echoed in the heads of everyone who wanted to hear it, singing: “Hineni, hineni, hineni”.

It was now night in LA, that day in 1992.

Leave a Reply