real lives of married people

real lives of married people, linked stories set in Los Angeles, is both a love letter to the city itself and an intimate portrait of women falling in and out of love.

spring, 1988

You are young, you are delicious, and you know it. You’re going to L.A. to see what happens next. On the corner of Lexington Avenue, where you tell your folks you’re leaving town, your mother coughs and cries, drags on a Winston. Black mascara slides down her cheek.

You land at LAX, 3,000 miles from home. You’re wearing a leather jacket, red lipstick, and holding a guitar. In your bag is a screenplay, a thriller. You’re sure that someone wants to read it.

Your first meal is pancakes and coffee at Du -Par’s. Twenty years from now, you and your husband will take your daughter there, and you’ll sit at the same table.

Your college friend lets you stay on her couch off Melrose near Fairfax. The writer’s strike is on, but you manage to get a job working for a female producer on a Culver City studio lot. You don’t read the pink paper phone messages fast enough, so you get fired from your first job in production. You leave the job with the pregnant cat you found on the set. You’ll call her Cat Stevens. You’re glad she’s the one who’s pregnant.

A month later, you take over a friend’s reception job at an agency. One afternoon, everyone crowds into a conference room, cheering as they watch a sex tape of Rob Lowe pumping a teenager in a hotel room. You learn to cringe and smile simultaneously. Most of all, you try not to disconnect the almost-famous actors calling their agents. You want to be big, but for now you are small. And for now, you are free. You are free to fuck up, recover, and start again.

You get invited to all the parties in The Hills, Malibu, Echo Park. You drive to the beaches, to the flea markets, or to the nowhere limits of downtown. Waves breaking like crumbling blue walls. Towering palm trees bending their necks over Craftsman houses. You pass inland towns with porches lit by fuchsia bougainvillea multiplying as fast as galaxies. You taste oranges bigger than your fist. You hear the bellicose sound of helicopters overhead and the howling of skinny coyotes at sunset.

Or you hear nothing at all.