Literature In Los Angeles

Archive for the ‘LITERARY FICTION’ Category


In LITERARY FICTION on November 17, 2020 at 2:35 pm

Interview by Kiana Madani.

Actress, writer and activist Kiana Madani interviews Liliana Maria Isella, author of the 2020 novel Love Letters, available on Amazon.

Love Letters is a deliciously haunting Hollywood tale of love, fame and fortune unfolding through the amusing, disturbing, rock ’n’ roll letters that Virginia, an American girl in her early twenties, sends to a movie star with whom she is obsessed. Each letter gradually discloses both Virginia’s suffocating and horrifying childhood and her craving for fairytales present in Los Angeles that will deliver its first disillusionment right through that not-so-much next-door-sweetheart John movie star with whom she has entrusted all of her dreams of love.

In a fearless resilience to trade a past of damnation with a future of shiny headlines, Virginia’s intense encounters and unpredictable twists will dance her from a squalor of junkies, drug dealers, and young prostitutes to a deluxe suite at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel first and, eventually, to an unprecedented world of superstardom. Amongst her journey’s lucky charms, remarkable will be the characters of The Lady in Gucci, a self-centered Italian supermodel on the constant verge of a nervous breakdown and her best friend Susy, an overly romantic, at times delusional and talented-at-heart novelist that Hollywood is now trying to turn into an unremarkable screenwriter.

Love Letters is an unique and original look into the dark side of family, our addiction to the media, Hollywood’s boulevards of broken dreams and the pre-set formula of happiness that upheaves from their ashes. Of that Hollywood, our protagonist Virginia is a sacrificial victim at first but only to turn, by the end, into the very essence of its success: unpredictable are the ways to achieve it and bizarre the penchants destiny awards it through.

Interview by Kiana Madani.



In LITERARY FICTION on August 19, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Short Story
by Liliana Isella.

I see you, from the consumed sheets of the hotel room, through the black glass of another sin scene, beyond the reflection of too many rays of lies.

I see you, on your way back to Los Angeles, driving away from our endless night of melting candies, milky stars and wide-open kisses.

I sense your fear, as it goes down on the brake of the emergency lane.
I walk behind you in the wind, toward the edge of the freeway bridge, as its sandy roughness defeats your half closed eyes, traps the running tears in your fine hair and enters a tremor in your flawless fingers.

And I am there to hold your body, when the dawn sends back to you the red rose you’re trying to thrash away.
Just before you left us, I hid that evidence of our disembarrassed pleasure and shameless devotion in the metal strings of your guitar.
As this air of fire entangles the petals of our obsession in my long, ruffled hair, my lips gently die on your neck and my eyes stop dreaming on your shoulder.

You sit back in your car; your guilty hands pull your hair back with your Ray-Bans and turn on the last segment of your run home… Exit light, enter night….*

And it’s your wife, who opens the door.
Her coarse laugh is an ashtray of reassuring misery, good to tell the kids the merry lies they pray to hear.

Your little daughter is waiting under the presents tree.
She comes and takes my hand, up to her room.

I smile at my fate, wrapped as a gift on her soft bed.
She locks the door and seats my dreamless childhood in her reign of magic snowflakes, Nordic fairies and smiley elfins.

I let her delicate smell of dusting powder close my eyelids down.
Slowly, she lays a grain of sand into my right hand and moves my head on the border wall of all her nightmares.
“Can you hear her too? Can you hear my mom crying alone in their bedroom?”

In the crumpling of the paper tissue, my blindness starts counting the last seconds of its eternity.
Right before her white hands lose their innocence into the same bloody reddishness of this Vegas sunrise, we both can’t think of anything but you.

There will never be, for us, another night to sink the bitterness of our loveless memories in the warm ocean of your redeeming arms.

Story by Liliana Isella.

Painting by Edgar Degas, After the Bath or, Reclining Nude  ~ c.1885


* Enter Sandman by Metallica


In LITERARY FICTION on February 1, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Storia di Liliana Isella.

Painting by Cindy Moore

And now my bitter hands
cradle broken glass
of what was everything.
Pearl Jam, Black

Il tuo cuore suda schegge di diamanti e una a una addormenta le tue vene, al buio del tuo ultimo respiro.

Il telefono squilla e corro verso la porta—a chiudere a chiave il peggiore dei nostri sacrilegi, a sbarrare il passaggio alla piú irrimediabile delle illusioni, a sprangare l’entrata ad un diavolo che tanto con noi piú nulla ha da spartire.

La segreteria. Un messaggio. Mani tremolanti di una voce socchiusa che gioca a mosca cieca con la tua vita stesa a terra.
Tua madre. No, non puó essere oggi. Che giorno é oggi. Le pulizie. No, non puó arrivare proprio adesso. No no no no.

Corro in cucina.
Sul tavolo c’é il laccio con cui hai legato la tua ora intorno al polso.
“Una siringa sul tavolo”—giá vedo quello che scriveranno i giornali.
L’hai lasciata nel cartone della pizza.
Mi chiedo se la fetta fredda che hai avanzato é quello che mi serve ora.

No, dev’essere nella stanza delle chitarre.
Per entrare ti scavalco come una libellula senz’ali attraversa un fiume senza sponde.
Mi fermo a fissare il computer, quel vetro spento su cui tre anni fá mi insegnasti a usare internet.
Tre ore fá, in quel riflesso mi hai fornito la mappa, la via, il raccordo esatto delle due nostre vite a perdersi per sempre.

Nella fretta di lasciare la fine del tuo regno inciampo sul tuo silenzio.
Cado in ginocchio e nella quiete del tuo costato cerco di soffocare il mio affanno.
Appoggio le mie labbra sul tuo petto—questa volta, solo per assicurarmi che abbia smesso di battere.

Il telefono. Un’altra volta. La segreteria. Tua madre. Ancora lei. Ancora no.

Me ne devo andare—prima che sia troppo tardi.
In questi casi la veritá non é poi cosí importante, se sei l’unica a saperla.
Nessuno sa che sono qui; nessuno sa che é stato il tuo sorriso, a convincermi a maledirti; nessuno sa che sono state le mie mani, a percorrere il sentiero verso la dimora del tuo boia; nessuno sa che é stato il piú fedele dei tuoi amici, a consegnarmi la tua fine.

Le chiavi. Eccole. Finalmente. Te le trovo addosso e d’addosso te le sfilo.
Io, qui a rubare dalle tasche dei tuoi jeans, dentro a cui avrei infilato la mia vita. Non c’é nemmeno piú dolore, quando poi é cosí tanto.

Se mi sbrigo sono ancora in tempo. A uscire da questa malattia, a voltare le spalle all’errore che non c’é modo di pagare, a lavar via la colpa dal favore che a questo amore é costato la tua vita.

Andare. Andare via. Ma andare dove—con gli occhi bendati di gesso, le mani fasciate di sangue, le lacrime incastrate nel rimorso come vipere in rotoli di paglia.

Non mi volto a guardare quello che di te rimane—sul pavimento, a mezz’aria, nell’alto dei cieli.
Ti accendo la televisione, spengo l’ultima luce e, una volta per sempre, pulisco le mie impronte dal tuo ingresso principale.

Le scale corrono in discesa contro una vita che scappa verso l’alto, lontano dal tuo nome che ieri—e oggi piú di ieri – nel mio seno batte ancor piú forte:  “Massimo, in un cielo di diamanti, tu al sole hai detto no.”

Story by Liliana Isella.

Painting by Cindy Moore.


In LITERARY FICTION on November 13, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Short story by Liliana Isella.

“Fredda. Come la sua tomba.”
For the last ten minutes. Over and over. Sexier and sexier.
Cold. As his tomb. That’s what it means.

Really?!? Who’s the idiot who wrote this line? Who’s the marketing big shot who bought this shit? Who’s the dummy who’s gonna drink it?

I was picked for the Italian version of this commercial. It’s a new beer. A light one. She is cheering on the tomb of her ex. Cheating ex? I suppose so. Don’t really know.
Well, there’s not much to know anyways. It’s just the beer, the tomb and me.
High heels, red lips and allusive nonsense.

Thank God, it’s done. The hipster teddy bears on the other side of the cameras give me the thumbs up.
As I close the door behind, Melanie reminds me that we’ll be finished in six days. Five after Halloween.

9000 Sunset Boulevard. Los Angeles from the top floor.
I wait for the elevator and can’t wait for the rest to come.
You get this two star town, you get the five star world.

The sliding doors ring. I stare into the hollow they disclose for me.
Him. Him. Him him him.
James. The million dollar pen. The million dollar liar.
The hero. The coward. The father.
The addict. The husband. The Husband.

I drive a few blocks down. Up and down this boulevard of the moon sun. This kingdom of the rock’n’roll nights. This skyless freedom each day harder to dream about.

I turn left into the Starbucks little lot. So little there’s no space.
Well, I’ll park in one of the Hollywood TV’s. I’m Hollywood enough to not be towed, after all.

I sit outside with my latte. The little patio is right across from James’ hotel.
Room 505.
He tried to convince me. On the phone. Last night.
Should I. Should I not. Should I. Should I not.

I was never able to forget her.
Lilly. Lilly. Lilly Lilly Lilly.
James’ muse, his violated Juliet, his million dollar angel.
I desperately fell in love with her in his first book. I missed her to death in the second. Ever after, she’s been following me around.

I take a sip and wonder if she approves James’ wife. His kids. His Manhattan installation.
Probably not. Not really. Schools, meetings, travels, The Hamptons, family, reunions. She chose not to choose those words.
She chose badass. She chose love. She chose sweet boy.
She chose bye.
Her wrists. A cut. Bye.
Bye sweet boy, bye….

Here. Now. She is.
Long black hair, pale soft skin, big blue eyes.
Full red lips. Immaculate heart. Invincible will.

Second, third, fifth floor.
The Sunset Tower.
The golden doors. The ancient walls. The seductive palms.
James. There, he is.

I just look. Look and hold. My latte.
Look and don’t turn.
Don’t. Turn. To her.

I whisper I want to love him.
I want to love him the way she couldn’t.
Love him. Hold him. Heal him.

She grabs my wrist. Empties my hands. Takes my life.
Red. My beats. Into her soul.
Big. Blue. Soul.

-Liliana. Lilly. Lillian… whatever.
I choke. The guy laughs.
-What a sublime, unique name.
-Well… it’s not that unique, around here. Believe me….
-Oh, in Hollywood, you can never be.
Tattoos all over, black nails and a brand new BMW by the patio’s fence.
-Is this your latte, Liliana?
-Ha… sorry. I don’t know how it got that far.
He places it back on my table and sits down.
-Do you often talk by yourself, Lillian?
Laugh. I do.
-I was just… rehearsing. Let’s say.
-Oh, another actress….
-Kind of. Not really. I mean… commercials, so far. Beers, tombs… stuff like that.
Laugh. He does.
Stand up. I do.
-Ok… gotta go…. Happy Halloween, ok?
Three steps.
To James’ tower.
To the other side.
Stop. Turn. My latte.
-Please don’t leave your lips behind….
His black nails.The white lid. My red lipstick.
-Oh, thank y….
The cup to his chest. He pulls it.
-Don’t leave your reason behind either, Liliana. An unreasonably haunting smile sublimed by an unreasonably beautiful name – too much, to become just unreasonable.

I slowly reach my hand out.
His tattoo jungle, the hot paper, our mirroring Ray-Bans.

Full red lips. Immaculate heart. Invincible will.

Story by Liliana Isella.

Photo by Nic Adler.


In LITERARY FICTION on September 25, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Short story by Sue Callender.

The nape of her neck expended tears of anxieties and fears.
Recalling love had and love lost – not so appealing, and yet so enticing.
Dalliances craved to the core of pleasure – few and far between.

Her pensamiento turned to him – the boy next door. She once had a dream in which he beguiled her out of her clothes, and she came (in actuality).
Nothing really happened, ‘twas solely the act of perhaps, the chance of maybe, the mere sound of yes.

He had come over to work on their yard a few times; her flat mates said they knew him from school. And every time he would pull out his grandeur shears – skin so smooth, hair so fine, a countenance of soiled dreams entrapped in perfection.
All she could do was grasp her notebook and coffee whilst she sat on the big beautiful cyclical bay window, her foot dangling.

Her corazon went a flame, when her pensamiento turned to him.
Her sentimiento could only be conveyed as the time of the butterflies.
But, their rustling flaps angered her.
Love did not reside within her, anymore.

All too real – imprecations of past existences have brought her here. To this place of sullied Nirvana. Cobain-ing through life, the misery felt so right. The happiness felt so raw, so transient, so self-important.
She hated that happiness. And it was more clear than the crystal that resides in the tomb of Great Love:  Happiness hated her as well.
And this actualization paralyzed her, breath heavy and oscillating against the big beautiful bay window.
A dream deferred.

Story by Sue Callender.

Photo: Girl and Butterfly.


In LITERARY FICTION on March 14, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Short story by Jon Dambacher.

He justifies the older black and white headshots by dropping trade paper quotes about such and such casting director, “…prefers black’n white because they’re more classic.”

He shot photos of himself in the bathroom when he first got to town but now is too lazy to drop the weight while eating a salad with the dressing on the side, which he pours on.

The Whole Foods vegan cookies and sugar-free brownies are his favorite.
He sits in his apartment scrolling through the online casting calls.
Soon he starts flipping through the local celebrity gossip pages more and more. He used to scoff at them when out to lunch with a girlfriend by saying, “Did you see what Monica Reed did at Razor Blades last night?”
“Oh, god,” she’d grunt before chewing into her soyrizo breakfast burrito, “What’d she do?”
But, he’s slowly become apart of it.

In another conversation the girlfriend asks, “You did theatre in New York. Do you think theatre is dead?”
Moments like these are the closest thing he’s ever going to get to being interviewed. Moments like these keep him alive.
Before answering he leans back into the café booth, darts his eyebrow muscles to really develop a response, “Um, no, I don’t think it’s dead, I just think…”
These talks will be the last fragment of genuine happiness.

The hand-delivered trade papers start pilling up on the driveway at 5am.
The casting websites are all minimized at the bottom of his computer screen to be looked at this weekend.
Celebrity news is flipped through zombie-like while he’s at the store waiting to be asked to decide between paper or plastic for his frozen pizza. On a much smaller scale, this question is also treated as part of the extended interview. Considering he’s a role model for Americans everywhere he wants to send a good message, “Ah, you know what, I don’t need a bag. Save a tree.”

He goes to sleep early and wakes up late.
He’s the most famous person living in his apartment building. Everyone invites him to their courtyard birthday barbeques.  Everyone removes their ear-buds when they’re in the laundry room together to say, “Hey.”
They’re all casual about it, which he really appreciates.
Word got out about him being a connected industry guy after he was leaving self-addressed Warner Bros. postcards in the communal junk mail bin.
Manila envelopes which contained Screen Actors Guild magazine subscription information began to stick out further than all the other trash. If ever a package came, either the Superman themed remote control or the Planet Hollywood t-shirt from eBay, it stayed on the doorstep of Room 3 for days before someone finally mentioned it when sliding quarters into the dryer, “Hey, I grabbed a package for you that came. It was left for a while out in the hall. I think you were out of town or something. I’ll bring it right now.”
“Oh,” he says, shrugging his shoulders ever so delicately, “…yeah, I was. Got sent to Europe for this thing.”
It feels so good. “Thanks for grabbing it, though.”
“No worries,” she says, shrugging her shoulders with simulated comfort. “I know you’re busy.”
He chuckles.
She nods, “Oh, I understand. Believe me.” She begins sharing, “With this new deal at work I’m….” And he stops listening.

When she finally leaves him there, alone in the laundry room, he stacks quarters into fours, creating small towers, calculating each dollar to the amount of his load.

His job keeps his mind there in the entertainment world, as he’s waiting tables off the Walk of Fame under the feet of Hollywood Boulevard.
Every morning as he steps into work he’s joining his fellow cast members. “Hi, welcome to the World Famous Fab-Fifties joint.  Our special today is the James Dean burger with Marilyn fries. With our World Famous Shakes you’ve got some options: Bing and Bob, strawberry banana, or do a solid and get the peanut butter chocolate which is the Bella and Boris.”
There is great satisfaction that floods his face when he gets a younger group of people and uneducated table who ask, “Who is the Bing and Bob” or “Bella and Boris milkshake named after?”
He read his lines so cleverly and never misses a cue: “They’re legends.”

Collecting his few dollar tips he smokes cheap cigarettes out back watching the Star Waggons lining the street.
This is a reminder to lose those thirty pounds for updated headshots. He sees those new headshots being taped up to quark boards inside the wagons of the costumer’s trailer; lines of outfits with his headshot copied above the collar; his latest headshot next to his many wigs in the makeup trailer.
Every foot under Hollywood, having come from near and far, has lined up – all faces looking inward – to get a glimpse of him emerging from his trailer, walking into the camera’s focus as someone asks him, please, to do what he is known best for all around the world:  singer/songwriter, actor, writer/director/producer, author, entrepreneur, and social media consultant.

The black and white headshot falls to the carpet of the trailer floor turning to dust.
The cardboard cutout wilts to ash, blowing away in the smog up over the Forest Lawn Mountains.
He flicks his cigarette into the street, turns his back to the sun and returns to drop off Table 53’s tuna melt and fries with a side of ranch.

Story by Jon Dambacher.

Photo by Unknown Author.


In LITERARY FICTION on September 6, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Los Angeles, 17th March 2006

Say anything, John.
I know, I know, this is probably the millionth time someone plays this old joke on you but, after what you just did tonight….

You walked out from that Italian restaurant and I came to say something to you.
Your body was still but the rejection in your eyes was speeding at a thousand miles.
Also later, when that black kid approached you at the valet and you aimed your fingers shaped like a gun against his head, I knew your animosity was toward me and not him.
“You should feel lucky it’s him and not you,” I heard on that sidewalk I was watching you from.

But no, no, I couldn’t feel lucky at all.
Especially when you went to say something to her.
It doesn’t matter what you said. It was all about your expression: gentle, sweet, dreamy.
Oh my, you wouldn’t be able to make it again, not even in the most comic of your romances… oops, I meant in the most romantic of your comedies.
By the way, did you drink a glass (too many) in that restaurant?

Your face – it was all for her.
For her, the fucking hostess of that fucking Italian restaurant.
Why? Why her? If she doesn’t even care about you.
Why? If she will say yes to you not because of who you are but because of who she is. And, she’s like, “…oh yes! tonight this guy they all say is kinda famous but I had no idea of who the fuck he is came in and stared at me for his whole dinner and oh no! he’s not cute or anything but who cares? he followed me to my car and oh no! the bullshits he shot were not funny at all but oh yes! he must be kinda celebrity and whatelse does fucking matter so why not?! I’ll let him take me out for dinner and then for a drink and then we’ll see… am I right or what?!”

So why, John?
Why didn’t you come to say anything to me?
Why? If I see your beauty.
Why? If I see your love.

But, don’t think I’m jealous, now. Just don’t.
After all, that was just a dream.
Thank God, it was only a nightmare.

I’m trying to fall back asleep now.
You know, it’s not easy in this parking lot, with all these noises and fears.
But I have to rest as much as I can.

By the way, tomorrow I might go look for some angel’s light.
When we finally meet, I’ll have to teach you how to use it. So, any time you’re upset for a serious reason — maybe you don’t get a part in a romantic comedy, or you’re stuck in traffic on the Pacific Coast Highway, or your friends book a dinner at a restaurant you don’t like, or your Mexican housekeeper forgets to empty the ashtray on the balcony table — you can let your angel fly you far away from such an emotionally distressing situation. Hopefully, you won’t get too addicted.

Come back from that movie soon, John.
The City of Angels has no sky, if you are not here.
It has no meaning.
It’s empty.

The palms fall down and crash on the deserted boulevards.
The haunting sound of these lonely nights spreads all over the days’ blinding light.

An illusion has to take the place of this crumbling reality.
Illusions are reality.
Illusions are what we live.

You have good dreams John, wherever you are, whatever your bed is like and whoever is watching your beautiful eyes smiling now.
Just be safe in this strange night.


Story by Liliana Isella.

Photo by Jessica Gary.


In LITERARY FICTION on May 27, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Silent Girl and Little Loca ~ Photo by Marco Patino

Mija, I want to write him.
I want to write him so bad.
So, I’ll write you instead.
I won’t give in. Not now. 

I’m trying to stay sober.
Trying to work my shift sober.
No weed either.
Just me.
And it’s so hard.

And he made it harder. He’s not even on the internet. He’s completely ignoring me.
Letting me see he’s on and not saying hello. No, not even that.
Just not there. Like he went and got married or something.
I dunno.

I’m a lousy friend. Not a good friend to him. Not like you and me.
I don’t pry. I don’t call him on his shit. I just look up when he drives up and stop my world for him.
And I pray he doesn’t notice but you know he does. You know he does.

I give him the freedom of not being the annoying girlfriend that must know where he is at all times.
In return I get a grateful man who forgets that there is a woman out there that swore up and down she would not let him get under her skin again.
I look down at my skin and I can see him swimming below the surface. My familiar alien.

I drive out to Calvary Cemetery and hang out with the dead silent movie stars.
There are homeboys in hairnets etched into the granite. How do they decide which photo to put on them?
Why don’t the mothers choose the photos of their babies as angels? 

It takes too much energy to disguise being hurt.
I should go for a normal guy, mija.
Remember that May when Omar was after me?
I kept letting him give me rides to El Camino and playing dumb like some virgin, so he wouldn’t think he could get anywhere. 

He proposed even! Can you picture schoolgirl me, married to Omar, raising Rottweiler pups in the backyard?
But you don’t know how much I think of Omar. How I think that Gee!, I’d be living in a house with a fenced in yard.
Well, I wouldn’t have anyone to talk to but the dogs. And he talked to them in Spanish, so I guess I’d have learned Spanish by now. 

But that’s not the type we go for; is it, mija?
We like the brown boys that are obviously brown but go to college to not be brown.
We want the ones that wouldn’t go with us to the M.E.Ch.A meetings, because they didn’t want to be too political. The ones who stay single way into their thirties, whose parents and families think must be gay because they’ve never fathered a kid, joined a gang, or eaten at their mother’s without clearing the table.

We fuck the boys who majored in art, not business.
We want those boys. We want those boys who one day, in a room full of white people after a conference or a meeting, will realize they aren’t white, after all.

I’m waiting for him, mi’ja.
He’ll be late. And it won’t be because he’s working on his truck or in the arms of another woman—although there is probably plenty of that too.

He won’t be Omar, dear, dear Omar. Whose call I never returned after that third time he said he’d never met a girl like me before. That he wanted to wake up with me years from now, his vieja.

The Omars would take our mothers in.
We need the Omars, mija.
Now, that we are getting too old already, we need them.

Story by Margaret Elysia Garcia.

Photo by Marco Patino.


In LITERARY FICTION on April 21, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Hollywood Boulevard

Nicole really dug me. She dug me because I understood her.
“You’re the only one who understands me,” she’d say. “You’re the only one.”
But to understand her was easy. Anyone could have done it. What I think she meant was that I took the time to listen to her.

She came to LA at a very important time in her life, a defining moment, something I didn’t truly understand, didn’t know the complete story.
She had left the place of her birth, a “cursed” town near San Bernardino, from where she had desperately wanted to get away for years, ever since she was a little girl, and leave her “crazy family” behind.
“They’re all alkies,” she told me. Including two brothers and a sister. And then there was her uncle Will who had had his eyes on her, “ever since I was ten.”

And then she confided that she had come to Los Angeles because she had to get away and, also, because she wanted to be an actress, “you know, in the movies.” She said this with more shyness than usual.
And, since I wanted to be a writer – not a Hollywood writer, just a writer – we made a sort of pact: she would continue working as a checker in the Malph’s Supermarket down the block and I’d stay in the apartment writing a best seller and then she’d be in the movie based on the novel.

But it was terrible. Not the novel. I never wrote the novel.
My heart ached throughout the six or seven months I stayed with her. And after a while the guilt became unbearable.
I had bought a second hand typewriter from a pawn shop on Santa Monica Boulevard, near Western, not far from the apartment, and every day I’d sit in front of it but hardly ever typed anything.

What I did mostly was read. I was a college dropout and I realized the hard way that you couldn’t be a real writer without knowing what the good writers before you had thought and said about life, humanity, and the world. If you don’t quote these writers no one will believe you are serious about writing.
One has to watch out, though. For a while I was quoting famous writers all the time. Then I became conscious that I was becoming a show-off.

“So, where are you now?” Nicole would ask when she got home from her job and saw me sitting in the living room in front of the typewriter.
One time I said, “Remember that time when your uncle Will grabbed you in the backyard and tore your dress off….”
She rushed toward me. “What?! You’re writing that?!”
I had to say I was kidding, and had to reassure her that I would not write that.
“Okay,” she said. “Just say that he was always after me but never caught me.”

My heart was breaking into little pieces. I knew I had to go.
Nicole was very pretty; if I was to say she was “Hollywood pretty” you’d know just what I’d mean. She had sunshine-blond tinted hair and light blue eyes. I had seen the real color of her hair in some pictures when she was a cheerleader in high school, it was light brown, and I had said to her, “Natural could be cool,” and she responded, “No way!”

She had grown up watching glamorous women in the movies and on television and always wanted to be one.
I never really believed she wanted to be an actress. I knew she liked the idea of being one; the idea of being famous, being privileged; a celebrity, a movie star. TV was really important to her. The I Love Lucy reruns were her favorite.

“Don’t you think she’s funny?”
Lucy was a sort of crazy saint. Someone whom she worshipped.
“All my life I’ve watched her,” she said, looking at me over her shoulder.

You could see in her eyes a sort of religious devotion to Lucille Ball, or Lucy, the TV character.
But, unlike Lucy, Nicole was never screwy or funny and never tried to be. She was shy and sentimental.
She was always looking out the living room window. I sat near it in an old chair, behind the typewriter which sat on a tray with four legs. It was the first thing she did when she entered the apartment when she got home from work. She did the same thing in the bedroom. It was a sad ritual and I had to witness it daily.
The apartment was on the second floor, facing the back, and there was nothing out there but a few trees and a tall fence that separated our building from the other. But she stood there for a while looking out, staring, waiting, and, I guess, hoping. Also, whenever I’d start a conversation that was not about celebrities (all the conversations she’d initiate had celebrities as the main topic) she’d go to the window and stick her head out while I spoke.

I knew she was waiting for something that was never going to arrive.
No one ever wrote to her. Her friends took advantage of her, especially Annie, her ex-roommate, who walked out on her and had left without paying her share of the rent.
And she had had two abortions, two successive boyfriends who had walked out on her.
She was twenty years old.

In the evening, after I did my reading for the day, we’d smoke weed and talk about trivial things until we went to bed and made love.
And on those evenings when there were no drugs and no friends around, the sadness I felt for her and for myself was sometimes extreme. Those were nights of tears, in her eyes and mine.

I Love Lucy was on at around dinner time and I had to watch it with her while we ate our burritos, or tacos, or chili burgers.
I never liked the show but that meant nothing to her. “How can you not like it? It’s so funny. Lucy is so funny! Lucy is so great!”

At times she would compare me to Ricky.
“Sometimes you talk just like him,” she’d say. “See? That’s how you say it. Just like that. You’re the Mexican Ricky Ricardo.” She knew Ricky Ricardo was Cuban, of course. And she was supposed to know I was not Mexican. But, television can turn a Dominican into anything it wants.

Apparently her family didn’t like Mexicans.
Once I heard her on the phone telling her sister, “… but he’s not Mexican… Right, Jesse, you’re not Mexican?”
I continued to read and paid scant attention to her. “He’s from New York, you know…”

One time, for I don’t know what reason, we were supposed to go to that town she was from, over there by San Bernardino.
I didn’t really want to go but when she told me her mother and siblings lived in a trailer I thought that it would be interesting. And it was something I wanted to see, in case I decided to write that best seller.
But we never did go, I forget why.

Nicole had gone to the LA West: School for Actors. She took night courses. But never graduated. She dropped out because after two quarters she could not afford a third quarter.
The higher the quarter, the higher the price for the course. The higher the course completed, the higher the chances of her instructor getting her a job with “one of the big Hollywood studios.”

It was easy to see that she, and that small group of fellow would-be actors that sat on kiddy chairs listening to their instructor, were being suckered.
“Get used to yourselves being someone else,” he used to tell them.

I met her just before she dropped out. I had just gotten a job at the school as a janitor; the janitor’s assistant, to be precise.
In the daytime the place was actually an experimental school for privileged kids from Beverly Hills.
I started work at three in the afternoon when the kids were let out. On Tuesdays and Thursdays this guy named Fred Cohen, the instructor, rented a classroom and “taught” ingénues (ingénuas) like Nicole how to be actresses (there were some ingénuos, too). He was a con-man.

I told her that “LA West” implied there was a “New York East: School for Actors.” She didn’t get it.
If you saw Cohen’s ad in the paper (or at the door of the room where I had been instructed to tape it – a cardboard sign – every day as soon as I got to the school) you’d get it. It said:


New York


LA West: School for Actors
A group of white American Buddhists also rented a classroom in the evenings.
The people behind the experimental school were making money from the elite and from those at the margins, too.

I knew Nicole was not serious about an acting career because not once did she bother to read a manual, or look for an acting job herself, or talked about one. I guess she wanted to be “discovered.”

I didn’t expect to be “discovered” but I was in the same boat.
I didn’t know how to write and had no idea how books were published. But unlike her who at least, with her failed courses, tried to get close to something along the path of an “idealized” career, the last thing I wanted was to go back to school, a career, or to get a job.
Yet, the pile of books I kept on the floor, under the tray with the four legs, and the fact that I read them, were a source of wonder to Nicole.
I think she admired and respected me. Unlike my family, she never questioned what I was doing with my leisure. Nicole really believed I was writing a novel.

It broke my heart, but I couldn’t tell her I wasn’t.


In LA I hardly ever walked anywhere. The only time Nicole and I ever took a walk together was when we went down Hollywood Boulevard one afternoon. I mean we literally walked down the sidewalk after I had parked the car on Las Palmas Avenue.
We walked down the north and south side of the Hollywood Walk of Fame while a continuous stream of cars swooshed down the Boulevard. I think we were the only people walking.

I never dared tell Nicole how I really felt about Hollywood, how phony the whole thing was. It would have broken her heart. But here and there I’d throw a hint or two.
“Look! Even the tourists don’t walk here. They get off the bus and into wherever they’re going. In New York they’re always walking around midtown and downtown. People walk in New York.”

She kept looking down at the stars that were embedded on the sidewalk.
“Haven’t you been here before?” I asked her.
“Of course,” she said. “I used to come here all the time. And every time I do I have to look at the stars.”

She didn’t know Rin Tin Tin but she knew Lassie.
She didn’t know who Sabu was. “Who’s that?” she said.
I told her he was an old Dominican actor from the ’40s, and she accepted it. I could have told her anything and she’d believe it.

We came upon Fatty Arbuckle’s star and I pointed him out and said, “I didn’t know he had been given one.”
“Who was he?” she said.
“He was a silent star who had wild crazy parties and one time a woman was killed in his mansion. A terrible scandal ensued. Fucked up his career.”
“Wow,” she said. “That was in the silent days?”
“Yeah. When actors didn’t speak.”

We were coming near the entrance to the Hollywood Wax Museum when we decided to look for some place to eat. I was tired of walking under the hot afternoon sun.
Nicole looked at every star before we stepped over them. And I looked at our shadows and felt lonely while that endless stream of automobiles just kept on swooshing by us on the street.

I was hungry and sweating and needed something to drink but, because I was addicted to tobacco, I lit a cigarette.
“Look!” said Nicole.
In front of the Wax Museum there was a mime. He was dressed in a tuxedo and top hat and he walked towards us in his mime robotic way and he mimed to me that he desired to smoke a cigarette and “asked” me for one and I gave him one from my pack.

I pulled out the book of matches I had in my pocket and, as I stretched my arm to pass it to him, he tore the cigarette in half and smiled a mischievous mime smile, as the two halves of the cigarette dropped to the concrete.
It was probably a “trick” he performed with anyone passing by with a lighted cigarette (not that many people “passed by”; most people just entered the place).

Nicole thought it was hilarious. I thought it was disrespectful on his part and wanted to tell him so but who’s going to argue with a mime.
We began to walk again and when the light changed I pulled Nicole across the street and then we stopped at a taco stand and we ate burritos. She and I loved burritos.

That incident with the mime stayed with me because of his insolence. What he did was disrespectful. He thought he had a right to do anything because he was a mime.
Mimes are not real people, in a way they are just marionettes without strings. But it bothered me, maybe because cigarettes meant so much to me then.

When I decided to leave Nicole and LA, I said to her that I was going to New York but that I’d be back in a month or two.
And something, I can’t remember what exactly, something about my New York address, gave her the idea that I wasn’t coming back. And so the morning of my trip she took all my belongings out of the suitcase, my clothes mainly but also some books and records, and threw them out into the hallway while I showered.

I had left her in the bedroom crying. After I had picked up all my stuff off the hallway floor and managed to convince her that for sure I was coming back because I loved her and because I was coming back to finish the best seller, she helped me pack my bag again, gave me back the wallet I had left on top of the dresser (minus my address book) and agreed to give me a ride to the airport.

Story by Miguel Gardel.

Originally published in Brick Rhetoric Magazine.


In LITERARY FICTION on February 23, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Mi casa es tu casa brought him here.

Three o’clock in the morning.
His face pale and lips dried. He is hungry and thirsty. His long hair uncombed.
In his right hand the black case with his axe and an expensive leather bag over his shoulder.
Damiron. He named the band that.
Damiron. He doesn’t remember that the last syllable of his name is accentuated.
He came to this country before the triumph of the revolution. He had just turned five. So he was too young to have ever known it. I am wrong. He never learned to use it. Here his parents never taught him. The schools never would. I knew it was supposed to carry one but only by intuition.

Now he’s here at my door.
Mi casa es tu casa.
Yeah, man, but that was a formality. Like “I hope you’re doing well” and “Have a wonderful Christmas.”

His disappointed face. But, I am the powerless one.
His long artistic fingers are searching the pockets of his blue “work shirt.”
Nervous. A cigarette and a lighter.
He offers me one and we smoke.

He has traveled long hours. “It had to be now,” he tells me.
It was the quickest flight he could get. The plane had made a stop in Chicago and a stop in Albuquerque and he had to wait hours sitting in those boring airports.

But, I am the powerless one. And it’s three o’clock in the morning and it’s my brother-in-law’s apartment.

“I sleep on the couch right here in the living room. There’s absolutely no space for you.”

I own nothing. I have no property. Only labor power which I’m selling real cheap now to UCLA Hospital.

“I’ll sleep on the floor.”

I would have said the same thing. But Damiron is not desperate. He is shocked. That is all.

“No, man, things don’t work that way.”

Many times back in New York he had made me feel inferior. No pleasure now telling him the truth of my situation. Now I live a “conventional” life with my wife and our baby.

“I’m working as a janitor at UCLA Hospital.”

He looks at me like I have lost my mind. Like I have given up. Like I’m now part of the system.

I ask him to sit on the couch.
There are apples and water in the refrigerator.
“But, I have to go to work in a few hours, by 7 a.m.” I tell him. “I take the bus and it’s a long ride to the hospital.”

He sets his expensive guitar on his lap, devours the apple and drum rolls with his long fingers on the case. And suddenly he seems happy.
The guitar is a Gibson which he got from his parents as a graduation gift. In New York he was in an elite school.

“I need a place to stay.” He’s not worried. He lights another cigarette but I refuse one.

“Let’s go out for a walk,” he says.

I knew I’d have no time to feel guilty. All he needed was just a little time to think.


The cool California night.

“L.A. smells nice,” he says.

He’s right. It does smell different than New York.

“Kerouac said something about this smell in On the Road, I think. I forget exactly what.”

He doesn’t respond.
When we met years ago he was already a reader. I was just beginning.
Jewish Juliet introduced us; she was his girlfriend and then mine. She was a “Beat poet.”
And Damiron talked of cross-country travel for kicks. San Fran. LA. Places that would welcome guys like us.
What kind of guy was I? A poor half-ass musician? And what about him? He was middle class. But he meant romantic, sensitive, bohemian, intelligent, hip. Simply, “Rockers.”

Now I see what I have changed back into. Things he cannot see. But senses.

“From the cab I saw a motel and I think it’s over there. There it is.” He looks at the signs as we walk. Just as I did a while ago when I arrived. “Let’s go back and get my stuff.”


“Have you been to the Whiskey yet?” He doesn’t wait for an answer. “I’m thinking of going there tomorrow. Shit, I mean tonight. You want to come?”

“I don’t own a guitar anymore.” He doesn’t say anything to this.

We walk in and he throws himself on the bed and his slim body bounces.
He unpacks nothing. From the window I can see the pool and the reflection of the red and blue lights on the water.

“I have to work,” I tell him. “Besides, we don’t have a car. This isn’t New York.”

“That’s the first thing I’m going to do. Buy a car.”

He paid the motel clerk with travelers checks.
His father, president of a bank in Midtown Manhattan. What was he in Cuba? Damiron never knew.
His mother was beautiful. A Hollywood actress named Eleanor Parker – that is who she looks like.
The father handsome also. Soft-spoken.
A funereal feeling in their apartment in Queens. Long dark hallway. Damiron’s black cat “Devil.”

He takes off his shoes, lays back and falls asleep. As if I am not here.
I would never do that. I’d be self-conscious. I would think “My friend is in the room and I’ve just waken him up at three in the morning.”


But, Damiron is different.
The L.A. air does seem different.

It was rhetorical.
It was formality.
He took it literally.
Mi casa es tu casa.

Story by Miguel Gardel.

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