I have been thinking about our nights together in Los Angeles and our regular-irregular sleepaway camp. The radius of our downtown destinations, the haunts we have frequented since you adopted this commuter life, fill me with an even more profound love of Los Angeles.
Our lives are so different from the photographs you have piled in the drawer of your desk on the 30th floor—the ones that go back to those early days in Ohio, the ones we invariably share before dinner. I stare at your picture, then look at your face, and back again, and wonder: how could we ever have been that young? There is no doubt we look better today than we did then, and I ask myself whether this selfie generation, so conscious of white teeth and perfect poses, will understand the journey of getting better with time. They started from a place so far ahead of where we did, with YouTube tutorials and eyebrow guidance. Absent for them is the hit-and-miss approach of our youth, navigating between the style decisions of mothers, friends, and older sisters. It doesn't matter though, because I liked us then, and I like us now—where we are in our lives, and, more importantly, who we are in our lives.
And I love our downtime downtown.
I arrive early and drop my overnight bag in the guest room and stop to look out the window at the skyline of Los Angeles. The light is hitting just the right way to create arches across the transom and the illusion of the viaducts just south of Union Station. The drapes diffuse the blinding sunshine and cast a glow across the pale colors of the older buildings in this part of town as it continues to sprout skyscrapers.
I grab my camera and head out. First to the right, up the street towards FIDM where the semester is ending, and preparations are underway for the party that will celebrate the end of the academic year. The finality of this school year conjures memories of my years in school, considerations of your daughter who has just returned from her first year of college, and the question of whether I would trade places. I ask and answer with an emphatic "no" as I focus my camera on a student with pink and green hair, studying on the commons, the grassy park, just outside the front doors amidst the chaos of these last days. For me, a chapter read is a chapter closed, which makes it all the more comforting that we find ourselves so connected and such good friends all these years later. We have Cheryl to thank for that. We lost one another for a few years, the distance measured in miles and experience, until that summer in Tahoe.
I round the corner to Faith and Flower, the sight of one of our first LA nights together, free of husbands and children. The photo is still in my catalog and looks everything like a celebration gone wildly wrong. A martini tempts me in remembrance of that night, but the restaurant isn't open yet, so I continue my walkabout. I'm a bit saddened by this, and so later, I am thrilled when you suggest we head out for an after-dinner cocktail. We are those women rolling into the final hours of the night in soft focus and warm friendship, having traveled the distance between this instance and all the moments that happened since we were last together. These days, there is arguably too much to share, so we grasp at these moments of kinship more intensely.
In the morning, I will walk left, down that beautiful terrazzo sidewalk I love so much toward Il Caffe in the lobby of the Eastern Building, an Art Deco masterpiece of aqua and gold in the theatre district. It calls to me as if to worship, my DTLA Mecca of sorts. Il Caffe is the perfect blend of coffee and company at hours dark and not so much. The chatter, local, and friendly serves to reinforce my love of Los Angeles and its proper place in this state. I love so much, California.
I walk further until I am in the fashion district facing the mart, and I begin the math in my head of the hours spent wandering showrooms in this big square, unremarkable building in this city of remarkable buildings. But this spot, this magical spot, is so notable for the gifts of friends who are now family and those first tender days with CF. It is the perfect end to my downtown downtime.