excerpt from You or Someone Like You

L.A. is covered with flowers. Gasoline pink, mint crimson, moonlight white, deuterium violet.

We drive past them, tuxedo next to evening gown, two elegant Saturday evening pupae in this rushing metal-and-glass cocoon, migrating by infrared night vision toward some disease fund-raiser or cinematic party where we will metamorphose and spread our wings, seeking the heat lightning of the cameras. Diamonds filigree on my neck. My studio executive husband. Click click click. “Mr. Rosenbaum, over here, sir.” “Howie! Great to see you, how’ve you been?” “Howard, how are you? Hello, Anne.”


Before we leave the house, I put my flowers to bed. The bougainvillea simply waits in the dark in its gaudy purple glory. Stupid plant. Infragrant. Ambitious and showy and thorned, but if pruned that sort has its uses. As Howard pulls the car out, I check my new Stewartia koreana. I have just transplanted it, and it is wet and upset, bewildered and off-key, but it will be fine in a day or two. The lilies are overwrought from the heat. The butterfly bush is sullen but will perk up later. The kumquat is simply delighted with everything. My horticultural nursery is innocent, sleepy, except the delirious moon vine, which is waking up late, delicately, waving and stretching and looking around, asking, “Where is everyone?”

Everyone has set with the sun.

Out here on the streets, the tough flowers grip the walls, cling to the gates, and skirt the concrete sidewalks, self-saturated with their delicate scented particles and infused with the even more delicate, invisible fizz of television and radio waves, their opalescent petals shot through with the quantum mechanic buckshot of millions of cell phone signals from millions of cars. The street flowers bathe in catalyzed exhaust fumes. The metallic night is cool as tinted glass, hung with the thick odor of indolent Los Angeles blossoms, groaning silently with their own weight, glamorous and petulant. On thin vines, the honeysuckle climbs the concrete barriers behind which they hide the big houses, the long driveways.

Everything in L.A. aspires. Even the flowers. Aspiration ladens the bloom-opiated air. They stand, waiting for someone to notice them. As we swoosh up to the brilliantly lit entrance in our car, they languorously shift their svelte, gorgeous bodies, forests of thin-waisted women, covered in the most expensive silken sheaths and suits, slit their eyelids as we emerge, desperate to know “Who are they?” and “Can I use them?” even as they seek to broadcast “I don’t care.” They always greet each other with only one eye; the other is on the future, the rest of the room. As we carve our way through their bright colors and pass by into the hall or home or screening room or backlot, their hot interest blossoms into flame and burns in the next instant to a cinder. They turn back to gaze once again at themselves, straining to determine whether or not they are impressed.