As I drove around in the rented Grand Prix, I took in how many Mercedes, Lexus, BMWs, and Bentleys were driving around. The OC is dripping money. If you inhale deeply, you can smell the dirty paper almost as distinctly as the ocean breeze.
My job was simple---determine if this one company is legit. I needed like 10 minutes, I gathered, but I was scheduled for a day and a half with these people---an attempt to be smoozed? I hated this trip already.
I needed a drink when I landed, but it was 9am. I settled for bacon and eggs at an IHOP across from the airport. In the booth in front of me were these beautifully eccentric gay men. I can imagine them at a better restaurant, moving their animated hands with a cigarette "Dah--ling, please," they would say drinking martinis, laughing at everyone else's inferiority.
Instead, I saw them puzzle the waitress by asking for an Arnold Palmer to drink.
The meetings were as I expected, and I was beginning to feel the 4 am trip to the airport catch up with me. I still had lunch and dinner to get through.
I had to hush the voice that was screaming "I DON'T CARE!!!" in my ear during dinner, when all the higher ups in the company were enlightening me with their tales of LA night life. I had a firm talking to with the voice, told her that I could barely get through work and if I had any hopes for a positive review in a few months, we had to endure this insanity. She grumbled, sat and sulked in a corner until we were alone later on that night. I continued to listen to the project manager get more animated as he swallowed his 2nd scotch of the night. I tried to keep a small smile on my face. The academy award goes to....
I read to the voice when we were alone together, later that night. She seemed to like that---imagining herself as a young girl falling in love with a vampire. The story was bittersweet, and when I flipped to the last pages, she demanded more. What happens next? Much later that night, I went and bought the sequel to the book at a Borders and read 150 pages before I fell asleep with the light on.
My dreams were bizzare. Incoherent messes disguised as stories. I saw a few people from Michigan there. I can't remember what they were doing or saying to me. I remember feeling safe. My phone rang at 5am for my ride to the airport---only I didn't order a ride to airport. They apologized profusely for waking me, and as I fumbled back to sleep, wondered who overslept their plane.
The morning was not much better. At the free breakfast, a deeply tan middle-aged man cursed at his cell phone and asked 1000 questions about my colleague's life. He was deeply impressed with the government job, and couldn't pronounce her job title, fumbled 10 times trying, and I deduced he needed a beer to work off the hangover he was carrying around.
We drove to the a.m. meeting. I doodled in my notebook, but made it look like I was taking notes. They gave us a reprieve and we drove the short 10 miles to the beach.
I walked the small path to a look-out point. Everyone on the path was about 60 years old. They looked me up and down with my dress slacks and shoes, wondering what board meeting I had escaped from. It was a breezy 70 degrees and the surf was crashing into the rocks below. I let the voice out from the corner, and she stood with me.
"It's beautiful," she breathed.
"Yeah," I replied.
"You know what I like about the ocean?" she asked.
"What?" I asked.
"How insignificant it makes me feel," she said.
"Yeah," I said, smiling.
"I'm tired of this new life, Reese," she exhaled, sad.
"Me too. Me too." I whispered.
"Will it ever get better?" she asked.
"It will be different. Some day you won't wake up and feel like dying," I said.
"When will that happen?" she complained.
"I don't know. When we're 80 or something," I mumbled.
Down below I saw children braving the surf. Their mothers looked bored, digging their noses into the latest trash novel, ignoring the pleas of the children to "look at me! look at me!"
The voice wanted to scream at them, rip the novels from their perfectly manicured hands and shake them. "Don't you know how lucky you are, goddamit?!"
"Don't waste your breath. Most people don't know how good they have it," I said.
The voice broke down, sobbing. I held her hand, let her cry her never-ending frustrations out.
"It's not fair," she whimpered.
"I know, sweet girl. I know"