“It’s okay if you write about this, by the way,” Frank tossed the notion as an afterthought, “no one would believe any of it, Mike, they’d dismiss you as bonkers and only be half-wrong.” He laughed as if punctuation. I set down my drink and stared. “You’re considering it, don’t have to lie. Hollywood broke your heart for movies, but you still think yourself some sort of writer. You mentioned novels on the message board, remember, one about Lennon living and Reagan dying instead, one about the failure who would’ve doomed mankind had he not been such a screw-up.”
It must’ve been three A.M. at that point? A sports car zoomed down Sunset at a breakneck speed, shattering the stillness of the moment, what had been just the air-conditioner’s hum and a distant clinking of dishes far in the diner’s back-kitchen. No squad car followed, they never do, the cops in Los Angeles aren’t for stopping the rich from being reckless, they’re there to harass poor folks into complacency. That’s nothing to do with The Curse of the Thirty-Mile Zone, of course, that’s anywhere in America. Maybe this country has its own old curse to speak of, built atop an ancient Native American burial ground, after all, the whole bloody thing, it’d have horror-film logic to it.
If Manhattan’s the city that never sleeps, L.A. is the city that can never wake up, that sleep-walks through its nightmares and unconscionable fantasies of avarice. Dreamland. Strolls out of bed in an Ambien haze, lets a film producer assault women without consequence here, lets a cop beat a black man to death and is surprised when there are consequences there. Moves quickly on either way, just as in dreams, things just shift to the next scenario instead of really beginning or ending. There are horses to race to death out in Santa Anita. Someone famous will overdose. Something.
“Probably be best if you just tell people it was all a fiction from the start, not for the sake of you somehow blowing up my spot, just so folks don’t think you’re even more crazy than you actually are.” He put up a giant hand for another refill from the waitress. “Writers always start off writing power fantasy, the way they feel life should’ve gone. They’re handsome, they’re misunderstood geniuses, they have laser-beam eyes, fly the Enterprise, whatever. At some point, if you live long enough, you can figure out how to use writing to relitigate your life in a more grounded manner, apportion yourself both the credit and blame you deserve, can through a thick haze of metaphors still find yourself wanting. Who knows, maybe you’re even there now. Maybe it’d even sell.”
“Maybe,” I finally smiled, “but that’s not the point. It’s about trying to find a space in my head, real or imagined, where I could finally sleep at night.” “No, it’s not the point of writing at all,” Frank received his warm-up, “but isn’t it nice to dream about?”