May 13, 2006
This is from a journal dated March 1996.
I saw the comet again tonight.
Carlyle called at sunset and asked if I wanted to go out and look for it. She said she knew I was the type of guy who would want to see it. She was right, I had already driven out beyond the city lights to find it twice, not the type of thing I would miss, but I didn't mention my previous excursions. "Let's find it together," I said. "Goodie," she exclaimed. She was the type of girl who could get away with a "goodie" now and then.
I picked her up at 11 and we drove out onto the PCH to escape the LA city lights. In her deep Alabama drawl she told stories about her father, about her broken down Cadillac that smelled of cat pee, about growing up in Alabama, and about this guy Ronnie she used to date. She said he would wear all black, and she would wear all white and they would go into bars like that and drink until they couldn’t drink anymore. Ronnie was dead now. She carefully enumerated all the reasons she missed him and about how she felt him watching over her, "He's an avenging angel. Bad ass," she whispered, before changing the subject to how she felt she would be famous someday. "I know I will," she said, "I just know it."
I was listening, but only half listening, I was thinking about how we carry around memories of people...how you can know someone for years and not notice them until they’re gone, or you can meet someone on a train for five minutes, and they can change your life forever.
We had been on the road for almost an hour now and were somewhere past Malibu, the sky was getting really dark. I could see the stars through the windshield. She had stopped talking but I hadn't noticed.
We drove off the highway onto the sand of a dark beach. I shut off the headlights and Carlyle giggled nervously. The comet was easy to spot even from inside the car. It was right up there as sure as anything and I was newly amazed because all my life comets have been a minor obsession and I couldn’t believe that I was actually seeing one without binoculars. We walked along the beach and I pointed out stars and constellations, but Carlyle didn’t seem to care. I asked what was wrong, "Oh nothing," came the answer.
After a long silence she murmured, "It’s him, isn’t it?" I had no idea what she was talking about but she explained, "it's ok his presence is strong tonight. You feel him too." Accepting her logic I said nothing and looked at the comet and the stars and the moon and felt thrilled for a while. In my giddiness I laughed and said that the comet was brighter than it had been the a few nights ago. She asked me what I was talking about, and I admitted I had seen it already. This was a mistake and she stomped off towards the water. Even with the waves breaking I could hear her crying. It was really dark.
After a while, I heard her walk across the sand, and get into the car. She flashed the headlights to hurry me up blinding me temporarily.
We drove home in silence which didn’t bother me, but I put on the radio to lighten things up. The DJ on KCRW was playing Mississippi John Hurt, one of my favorite blues singers, and sound of his quiet voice got all mixed up with the sound of the wind coming through the window. It all felt nice in my head and my mind was wandering all over the place, but I kept coming back to thinking how grand it had been to see the comet on the dark beach and that Carlyle would one day forget being upset and remember only the sky. I wondered how I would remember it.
When I was four or five my parents woke me up at midnight to see a lunar eclipse. Now I don’t remember the eclipse at all, I just remember being picked up by my dad and sitting on his shoulders and my mom tickling my back.
When my head starts going like that, time flies. We arrived back in no time and I drove Carlyle to her little house in Huntington Beach. I didn’t want the night to end on a bad note, so I kissed her on the cheek and said, "I hope you enjoyed seeing the comet." She got out of the car and started walking into the dark.
"It wasn't anything," she called back, "it was just a blur."