“So explain this to me,” Nick said to Christian. The two were seated in Christian’s living room, with many empty beer bottles on the coffee table. “You get a picture of a positive pregnancy test from a chick, but then she tells you it’s not yours.”
“Exactly. I don’t know why, it’s all messed up though, man.”
“No, dude, that’s not the messed up part!” Nick said. He slammed the bottle down. “The messed up part is when she tells you whose little bastard it actually is.”
“How does Nicki Minaj knock up Iggy Azalea?”
“Apparently it’s quite a story.”
So it all happened like this: Tupac Shakur, as we all know, was gunned down at an intersection in Las Vegas in 1996. He spent a decade in purgatory, until an angel from Heaven came to him with a message from God, who said if he agrees to lend his soul to someone in New York City for an additional decade and give her guidance, he would be allowed to pass to Heaven. He agreed to guide a troubled young woman named Onika Tanya Minaj. With his guidance, she pursued her dreams and developed into a famous hip-hop, R&B, and pop artist, with her career starting to take off by 2009. The only problem was, Julian Assange somehow found out about this deal and published it on WikiLeaks. The revelation went largely unnoticed, however, until one night in 2014. Iggy Azalea was sitting in her house in the LA neighborhood of Tarzana. Who names a neighborhood after a children’s storybook character? Oh, I live in Peter Pan Beach. No, I wouldn’t date that trash from Baloo Heights. Lazy sloth bears. Anyway. Iggy decided that since everyone already knows how fancy she is, she could take some time off from telling everyone. Iggy was obsessed with Tupac, as it was some of Tupac’s music that influenced her in pursuing a career in rap. She spent much of her free time pondering if Tupac would look fondly on her budding career and researching him on the Internet. She came across the WikiLeaks post and decided to invite Nicki to her house. Now, the two didn’t exactly gel, because Iggy hadn’t paid her dues yet. But Tupac’s soul which was in control of Nicki’s body told her “as long as you don’t beat up a fool who robbed your homey at Foot Locker the other day, she probably ain’t gonna shoot you.” So, Nicki went to Iggy’s house. Iggy asked Nicki about Tupac’s soul, and Nicki confessed that his soul was occupying her body and guiding her through these past few years. Well apparently it turns out when your soul occupies another’s body for a little while, other parts occupy the body as well. One thing led to another, and then…yeah. It’s safe to say Tupac had been looking down on Iggy very fondly.
“You know, I think she sent that to me but told me I’m not the father so that I won’t hear about it in the news and be worried about it for a while,” Christian suggested after telling Nick the story. Nick was stunned into silence. “You’re trying to picture those two having sex, aren’t you?”
“No! I’m trying to make sense of the story you just told! It’s completely screwed up, man!”
“Anyway, I probably won’t be seeing much of Iggy anymore. I mean, I never saw her after that night last summer. She texted me a few times, but nothing real serious. I wanna find a girl, man.”
Meanwhile, across the dark street in Gaviota Square Apartments, Amanda was going over her personal things to take to Antarctica.
The sun was climbing in the eastern sky, high enough to be hot. The trees cast long shadows on the buildings’ cracked stucco walls, on the dusty cars, on the decrepit sign at the market at the corner of Catalina Avenue advertising the best tacos this side of “La Línea.” The street was as straight as a plumb-line, the asphalt baked by the solar routine. It was an odd morning, the air was anyway. It blew in from the east, dry and hot. It was amazing the whole Pacific Ocean didn’t just evaporate. The air made you feel uneasy. Something new was about to blow in.
Christian, Steven, and Nick were up this morning, still up in fact, and were having breakfast at Polly’s, a diner near the Pier frequented by locals, especially the local fishermen. It was the sweetest thing you ever saw, this restaurant. The proverbial “nothin’ fancy” place, it was one of the things that reminded you of Redondo as a sleepy fishing village, rather than a patch of the concrete jungle of LA. Christian looked up from his buckwheat cakes and gazed out the window at a fisherman cutting up that morning’s catch. Chop chop chop.
“My girlfriend is a fish,” Christian declared.
“Dude, Iggy was never your girlfriend. She was a one-night stand,” Steven said. Nick had only recently declared that Steven had lived in California long enough to say “dude,” and mailed the requisite paperwork to Sacramento just three days before.
“Yeah, man, I know it’s not what you wanna hear, but it’s what you need to hear. You had a fling with her, and that was epic, and many props to you, but you gotta let it go. She’s with another man, and her life is gonna be insanely complicated now, and be glad you’re not a part of all that mess,” Nick consoled.
“You mean she’s with a man trapped in a woman’s body,” Steven corrected.
“Technically, it’s a man’s soul and somehow reproductive organs temporarily trapped in a woman’s body by a Covenant with God,” Christian interrupted. “That fish is both fish and not-fish. It’s been mutilated from its natural form, swimming in the ocean. It’ll never be what it thought a fish was, but we’ll still call it fish when we buy it at the market to devour it like wolves. We gotta go to Jefferson.”
Nick slammed down his coffee. “The fuck!?”
“Iggy won’t be what she thought, or what you guys think a girlfriend is. But she’s the closest thing that currently approximates a girlfriend, and that’s what she is to me still.”
“Cool, but why go to Jefferson? With freeway traffic that’d take 2 hours. It’d be quicker if we were, I don’t know, dragging a coffin through the woods than it would be taking the 110,” Nick asked.
“Nick, can I have a word with you outside?” Steven asked. They excused themselves from the table and stepped out onto the sidewalk. Immediately, they felt oppressed by the hot sun. Nick couldn’t remember the last time it rained at the beach. What a relief some rain would be.
“Our friend here needs to find another woman pronto,” Steven said.
“Okay, I said you can say ‘dude.’ You can’t throw random Spanish words into your sentences though. You have to have residency for a year before you can pretend to know Spanish, unless, como yo, tú en realidad entiendes, in which case you receive a waiver.”
“Okay, sorry. But what is this Jefferson place?”
“Jefferson, it’s a park in the mountains north of LA. We were all there on a field trip in middle school. That’s where Kayla agreed to be my girlfriend, and we’ve been dating ever since. I met Kayla through him, actually. We were all friends.”
“So Christian admires your relationship with Kayla, and equates Jefferson with it.”
“Exactly. He must think if we take him there, he’ll meet a girlfriend.”
“What, like we’re gonna be driving down the road and one will pop up outta nowhere?”
It was a long night, last night. Steven was upset that Amanda was going to Antarctica for 3 months to study the effect of temperature changes in cell membrane properties of various fish species. Like only Antarctica has any fish. Steven wanted desperately for her to take a giant Pikachu pillow so she wouldn’t forget about him, but Amanda said she was only allowed to take a certain amount of personal effects, and the pillow was too bulky and wouldn’t serve enough of a justifiable purpose. Her flight to Chile left that morning, and she would take a ship to the southernmost continent. Steven stormed out of the apartment. He went to Nick’s apartment, but Kayla told him Nick wasn’t home. Nick hadn’t been home much of the past two weekends. Last weekend, yes, he totally blew her off and was attending a chemistry conference in Santa Barbara. Everyone knows, though, that when scientists get together under the pretense of a conference, it’s really a guise to get incredibly drunk after the boring research talks are over, go out on someone’s sailboat and head for Mexico, get arrested by Federales in Ensenada, and only live to see the sweet beauty that is the Stars and Stripes at the San Diego border crossing after slipping said Federales several portraits of the illustrious Benjamin Franklin. But that was last weekend, and Nick was busy helping his friend through a difficult time this weekend. Steven left the Gaviota Square apartment complex and crossed the dark street towards Christian’s house. He saw lights on in the living room and knocked on the door.
Florence Avenue. That’s how far the three made it in Nick’s car before they were bogged down in traffic on the 110. Florence Avenue.
“Oh, man, we gotta get there pronto,” Christian said, with an antsy demeanor apparent to the others.
It takes 4 minutes for the black interior of a Chevy Cobalt to get unbearably hot without the assistance of a/c when parked on a 90 degree asphalt frying pan. Nick typically avoided driving to Downtown LA in the morning, because of rush hour traffic, and especially on hot days like today, as Downtown benefitted from neither the cooling sea breeze of Redondo, nor the altitude-chilled air of Jefferson. But to get to Jefferson from south of LA, one had to drive through Downtown. Nick knew of a shortcut named Figueroa and decided to bail on the freeway and take that through Downtown.
Steven showed up at Christian’s a little past midnight. Nick was beside himself upon hearing the story Christian had just told him. Christian filled the newcomer in on the developments. Nick asked Steven if he was picturing the two having sex. Steven insisted that he wasn’t, and was just trying to wrap his head around everything. Alcohol seems to have a way of making crazy shit more understandable, and before 2am, a bottle of Patrón Añejo was produced. Before 4am, that bottle was empty. Sobriety started to set in just as the sun peaked over the eastern horizon. For as often as a California sunset is romanticized about, you scarcely hear of a California sunrise, because it is one of the rudest and ugliest things you can imagine. There’s a reason the song goes “…Until the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard.” Because at that point, everything is dead. A breakfast of pancakes, bacon, and rocket fuel-strength coffee at Polly’s was deemed the only acceptable thing to do at that point.
They drove through the city. Street vendors offered cold drinks for sale, but Nick decided to press on without purchasing any refreshments. He wanted to get his friend to Jefferson as soon as possible. Soon, they bypassed the traffic jam, were back on the 110, and heading away from the city. North of Pasadena, they took a road into the mountains and ascended along its windy path. They had entered Jefferson.
A lack of sleep is the worst thing to bring into a car. Worse than a screaming baby on a plane, or the person on a cruise ship who thinks it hilarious to make Titanic references. “Iceberg, right ahead!” No, you dipshit, we’re in St. Lucia! Nick almost didn’t see the girl walking across the road to take a picture of the city below. Almost. He slammed on the brakes and the wheels locked up. The bone-dry pavement scorched the tires. It takes 4 car lengths for a Chevy Cobalt to stop at such speeds, fortunately for the girl and the consciences of its occupants. The Prius behind Nick swerved to avoid the rear-end collision, dove off the cliff, and burst into an epic explosion. But there’s like a million Priuses (Prii?) in LA, so a drop in the ocean.
The Cobalt’s occupants locked eyes with the stunned girl, but Christian looked into them the most. It was instantly evident she was not from the area. She had a certain elegance and grace to her. Her long hair was rustled gently, not bothered too much by the hot breeze that otherwise harassed other Angelenos. She was a captivating girl that you wouldn’t be able to get out of your head. She was about their age, with the sophistication of a woman twice that, and the sweet innocence of a girl half that.
Christian, calling on his experience at culinary school in Charlotte, knew from the charming way she said, “Bless your heart for stopping on time, are y’all okay?” that she was a Southerner. “My name is Savannah Berkeley,” she said.
At the frozen end of the earth, a ship left Punta Arenas, Chile. A Pikachu pillow accompanied one of the passengers, gathering snow gazing out at the glaciers of Tierra del Fuego from the frigid deck.
It absolutely poured that night and all next day in LA.