Monday, July 8, 2013

A Strange Combination of Odd and Normal

  In the summer after I was 14 I used to visit my father in California. It’s weird that in remembering that, I just used the word Father, which is less familiar than Dad, but that’s how it felt then. I visited a guy I didn’t know very well, an adult man I was related too. We both tried to pretend it was normal, or at least I did: this situation. He’d pick me up in a two-seater sports car and we’d drive to the beach without saying much. It wasn’t uncomfortable exactly, but it was a strange combination of odd and normal. It felt oddly normal, or normally odd, something like that. The beach was different from the ones I was used to on the east coast, at least this particular one, which was near Venice. There were homeless people and buskers, transvestites and gangs of surfers, rasta dudes and girls, girls, girls. It was dirty and lonely and scary, but it was exciting too. We’d go to lunch and sit outside at a café and watch the people. My father would do things to try to make me laugh: he’d take a sip of water and miss his mouth, or drop his fork and bonk his head on the table when he reached to get it. It was hard not to laugh but I remember looking around to make sure no one else noticed. I’ve since come to learn that 14-year-old girls are intimidating in their silence and judgment and obscene beauty and that my father had no idea what to do with me, but then I remember being desperate to be liked and always feeling awkward, and even though inwardly I loved his shenanigans, I was more concerned with not wanting to be embarrassed. I was always slightly relieved when he left me alone to walk around while he went to a meeting for work. I felt sophisticated and independent buying a soda at the little market and walking to the beach knowing I had keys to an apartment in my purse, just like a grown up. I’d “browse” at the sunglasses stands, the silver jewelry tables, the wall-cases of every scent of incense imaginable. People were friendly to me, I thought, because I was their peer, but now I realize it’s probably because I was a kid.

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