I spent Wednesday — the last day of a spontaneous week-and-a-half getaway to Los Angeles — in the heat of an 80-degree March afternoon, barefoot, in front of a tinsel-like stretch of the Pacific Ocean.
My nephew, Dash, newly turned two, squatted in the sand beside me, eyes fixed on a bird wetting its wings in the surf. “Bird,” he said, blinking with such force that his lashes, straight as sticks, created shadows down his cheeks. Then, noticing the distant hum of an engine overhead, he looked up, pointing at a cottony stream of clouds left in the wake of passing plane. “Plane,” he said.
“Dash,” said my brother, Max, “tomorrow, Shoko’s going to be on an airplane.”
Dash shoveled sand into a Smurf-blue plastic mold of a castle.
“The next time we talk, I’ll be in New York,” I said. “In the apartment I showed you on the phone, with the bus stop outside and the train going over the bridge.” I paused. “Beach today, city tomorrow — isn’t that crazy?”
He turned the mold upside down, revealing the crumbling architecture beneath it, mouth open as the turrets fell. Then, already at work building the next one, he answered me flatly, with what’s become his most-used (and most useful) word as of late: “yup.”
A day earlier, I met a friend who’d recently moved from Brooklyn to LA at a grassy, hidden park tucked away in the hills. I brought coffee and a bacon quiche I’d found at a bakery nearby, and we sat for an hour on knit blankets on the lawn, inching them into the shade every few minutes as the sun rose higher.
We discovered, with shock, that six months had passed since we’d last seen each other. It was fall then, and I’d run into him sitting on a Williamsburg stoop late at night in velvet slides and a sweater. Now, here we were in LA, eating breakfast in burning sunlight, our toes in the grass.
I listened as he told me about the art he’d been working on, the community he’d found, the new friends he’d made. I remembered back to when he broke the news to me that he was leaving New York, ready to move, ready for something new.
“Six months have passed, and you have a whole new life,” I said. “How did that happen?”
He shrugged, shooing ants from the ruins of our quiche. “I asked for it,” he said.
I told someone recently that my twenties (which are soon coming to an end) have been defined by a rapid-fire change of scenery, some of it planned, some of it not. It’s a bit of a head trip to think back on the many worlds I’ve inhabited over the course of that time — and the many I hope to find myself inhabiting in the future. But for the most part, the discombobulation has been a thrill — similar, I imagine, to the way Dash finds dizziness electrifying after being spun in circles, and begs for more after he’s staggered left and right, then fallen.
On the plane back to New York, I sat curled in my seat, half asleep as the sky changed from blue to gray to blue again. I was listening to a song I love, and, barely conscious, waited for a familiar, favorite chord. The moment I heard it, the plane tilted slightly to one side, so that the ground disappeared and all that was visible was a sea of white.
It seemed perfectly timed, like music, and for a moment I considered the idea of the planet turning to an undetectable beat.
The plane shook. Behind me came a woman’s voice: “What’s happening?”
“It’s nothing,” said her companion. I imagined him looking at her, touching her arm, waving a hand in the direction of the window. “It’s only clouds.”