Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Floating in Yorba Linda (excerpt from a book I am writing)

This is an excerpt from a book I am writing.  I wrote this passage as one of the first attempts to organize some memories on paper about a year ago.

I was driven to a house in Yorba Linda, at the end of a street on a hill.  The house was in a community I have never again returned to and all that I remember of this vague place is from two views.  One from the pool, where I could see that it was light colored house with a flat boxy roof.  From my position in the water, I looked at a back bedroom and a family room across concrete and a small patch of grass. The other angle I remember was a view looking out towards the street from a somewhat steep driveway at the end of a cul-de-sac at the top of a hill.  This house, with these shards of images at the end of this cul-de-sac from a single night, was the place I was being hidden; a weigh station for me.

One of the only clear memories of that time was being in a floaty inner tube in Nancy’s friend’s pool; suspended in piercing blue chorine in Yorba Linda.  It was the middle of summertime and I stared down at the giraffe ripple patterns hitting the bottom from the sun’s reflections through the water. The only sound I heard was that of the automatic sweeper gliding on the surface and occasionally bumping the sides of the pool.  Nancy, my social worker, occasionally came out of the house to check on me and make sure I hadn’t drowned or gotten into some kind of trouble; then would recede back into the house to be with the owner, a gentleman she was always smiling and being girlie with.  I was very sensitive to adult flirtation and attraction given that I’d been excluded from the warmth my father had with women in the past. As I floated in my borrowed inner tube, I felt a sense of momentary freedom and serenity, knowing that my mode of transport allowed me to pan from the safe confines of the shallow over to the treacherous deep end like a hang glider moving over a precipice. 

The next days there I hung, legs dangling in the water from my inner tube for what seemed like a moment of frozen time, staring into the blue below.  It’s hard to know how long I was actually at the house.  A couple of days, a week? Longer?  My parents, now in their 80s, no longer recall.  While I was in my Yorba Linda limbo, that next year would show a marked change in my life in a profound way.  My memories of my father, my mother and that early life are actually rather easy to recall in some ways, because having such a drastic change of people and location makes it easy to identify which memories are from which life. 

But for the time being, I was neither here nor there, only floating in Yorba Linda.

In the next few weeks, there was some temporary agreement made between Nancy and Marcia and Bill’s attorneys.  I was to spend my weekdays with Nancy at her house, and the weekends with Marcia and Bill at their house.  For me, it was night and day.  Living at Nancy’s house which was in the neighborhood between Olympic and Venice, and between La Cienega and Fairfax. 

Her house was a small, probably two bedrooms, two-bath house that didn’t have much of anything interesting in or around it.  It was on a residential street that looked cookie cutter gone worn-out.  One positive aspect was that there were a fair number of kids in the neighborhood at least somewhat around my age.  I remember many afternoons, while waiting for Nancy to get home from work, being babysat in one of the neighbors homes and watching “Gumby” each afternoon with their kids.  There was also a neighborhood dachshund that I used to play with and occasionally drop.  Over time, the dog lost enthusiasm in my visits.

Nancy was not real warm to me that I can recall.  She seemed busy after work still on the phone during our evening time.  She once had a conversation in front of me that even then, I knew was inappropriate to have in front of a child.  She was on the phone, probably with a fellow social worker and said, “You mean he put his finger in her you-know-what?  Well, if he put his finger in her you-know-what, then something had to be done.’  I knew I should be listening to this, but I did anyways out of curiosity standing around the corner of a kitchen wall.

One night in particular, Nancy and a male friend of hers had tucked me in to say good night.  Nancy was leaning down to kiss me on the head, and I popped my head up really fast, which made her nose bleed.  She told the friend of hers what had happened and didn’t come back in to say goodnight.  I felt bad, and yet part of me had been angry with her for being the force that was keeping me away from Marcia and Bill and I think some part of me meant to do something that was unexpected to Nancy that night.

Nancy’s personality seemed to be on the edge of crotchety to me, if that can be said of a woman; somewhere between stern and uncomfortable mixed with a lot of resentment.  I didn’t want to be at her house, and I didn’t want to be at her school, which was a neighboring elementary school.  The classrooms seemed so formal and intimidating to me compared to L.A. Child Guidance, and I was clearly well behind the other kids in terms of social skills.  The other kids would talk and answer questions that the teacher posed to the class, and I, now being out of my element, would again remain silent.

During class breaks, the only time I enjoyed at the school, I would play with a ball on the edge of the playground, or just be by myself.  One day, I saw Marcia and Bill drive up in Bill’s blue Fiat convertible.  They had come to see me, perhaps not meaning me to see them, but once we did see each other, they waved at me, and I waved back at them with sadness.  I somehow felt devastated for the rest of the day, wanting to be with Marcia and Bill. 

My weekends with Marcia and Bill felt wonderful to me.  I felt free, and I already had a connection with Marcia, as I did with Nancy, prior to my father’s death.  But Marcia seemed to be much more of a caretaker and kind.  Bill was interested in showing me all things about the world.  He would show me where we were on a globe of the earth, show me maps, explain how things were made and built.  Their house was on a crest on the top of the Hollywood Hills, and they had a big, grassy back yard, and around their property, you could look off to what seemed forever, down to Los Angeles and see the hills all around.  There were trails leading up and down the hills around the whole neighborhood.

The feeling of freedom was partly from the actual surroundings.  Up on the top of the hill where they lived, there were trails that went meandering off from a large number of undeveloped housing lots.  There were not a lot of cars driving around there since Marcia and Bill lived on the end of a coldasack, and many of the roads in the neighborhood just lead in circles and didn’t really go anywhere.  During those years, the neighborhood was a hideaway for artists and entertainment folks and there were several gay couples in the area at a time when co-habitating homosexuals was not something that was advertised.