Maura Magazine | The Birds of Los Angeles

The Birds of Los Angeles

“Emily, are you close?” he asked.

I wasn’t, but I murmured yes anyway.

And then the sweat dripped down on me from his face, from his head. Big droplets like in a hailstorm. I wanted to choke but I didn’t, because I was used to it by now. But the first time… the first time I didn’t know what to do. When the sweat dripped down. It was so thick. So heavy. Mud drops. Getting into my eyes. Screwing up my makeup. Burning my eyes.

I wanted to scream, “You’re dripping on me!”

But I had come over and I asked for it and I deserved the sweat.

After all, he was working hard for me. His big, heaving stomach was working for me. My head got lost in the pillows. I never met a man who had so many pillows. I counted ten. He said one cost him $100. I thought that seemed like a lot for a pillow. He said memory foam but it felt like a rock to me. He should have traded in some of those pillows for a TV that worked. Otherwise the sound went out and he would stop doing what he was doing to get up and bang the side. Who watches TV while fucking anyhow? Sometimes I’d catch his eye looking past me at George Costanza and I would think is this how people in love make love?

I closed my eyes, legs splayed wide, and wondered why I hadn’t had the sense to try this position with anyone else. With the other one. He didn’t sweat so much, not like this one. This one. How crass. He actually loves me.

The other one just didn’t.

When I first started coming over this one already loved me. All I had to do was smile, coo like a little bird and out popped his hand. My Pez dispenser daddy. Blue or white. He’d smile and tell me he got me just what I liked because he knew how to keep me there. I’d paw over the little printed numbers and try to decide which one I wanted. Perkies or Darvys. Maybe a Norco.

I knew that horse pill was trouble when I grabbed it out of his hand and fondled it. “What is it?” I asked.

“You’ll like it. I got it special,” he said.

“Well, what is it?” I asked.


I rolled my eyes. Percocet isn’t special. It’s common. Easy. This was no trouble at all.

“Are you sure it’s Percocet?”

“Yah, of course,” he said.

You can’t call everything Percocet. They each have their own names. They have numbers imprinted on their sides. He was trying to impress and he was out of his league. “Baby, I swear,” he said.

I laughed at him. Not with him. At him.

I had Jude on my side.

My sweet Jude could get me all the Percocets I wanted whenever I wanted. In my bored-at-work daydreams I would think about candy dishes filled with white curved-corner pills on my coffee table, on my bedside table, in fancy dishes on my dining table. Like Jordan Almonds, but better. My sweet Jude would never lead me astray, but this wasn’t Jude.

Jude was a chemist. Jude would pull out his bottle, a different name on a different label each time.

Dr. Gibbs, MD or PhD or whatever prescribed to Mary Helms once a day or twice a day or three times a day or as needed with meals.

May cause dizziness. Do not mix with alcohol. Read the drug interactions manual before ingesting.

Out tumbled pinks, blues, mostly whites, circles, oblong rectangles, sometimes triangles with curved edges, all falling onto Formica tabletops, scooped and separated. I’d stare out the window of his flat while he parsed out my choices and wish that I had this rich people’s view of Los Angeles. Six flights above sea level, curving down toward the poor. The grid of lights and black outlines of palm trees making South Central look beautiful. The air flowed in and I stared out. [...]