August 31, 2013
Since I’m going to tell you, I guess I should start at the beginning. The problem with that is where it starts, and whether all the knots and veins and tongues our parents told us about, or their parents, stopped in one cortex or another. So, since the beginning is hard to trace, I’ll go to the start, and because why will drive me wild, I’ll try to explain how.

How, then, started six years ago, when I was a bit younger and hell of a lot more optimistic. I had just finished college with a B.A. in Spanish and nothing to do with it, and since I couldn’t keep up with my sanity and my rent, I moved in with my brother. Ezra had been in LA for three years then, but his apartment was crammed with enough Ramen and Marlboros and Colgate to last him through The Walking Dead. It was one of those years when people were obsessed with zombies and nukes, when another scandal chipped at the still-hanging “Hope and Change” signs and the news was fascinating for its capacity to appall. I remember the news especially, because the first day I was with him, I found Ezra reading some magazine with Jodi Arias on the cover.

“You haven’t been in LA long enough to read that s***,” I told him. He lowered the cover and smirked, asking how long was long enough. “Talk to me once you bang some movie star. Isn’t that what people do around here, anyway?”

Ezra laughed, shook his head, and dropped the magazine on the table. “Nah,” he said, “It’s what they wish they were doing. Most of them just stare at some screen all day. City of Angles, my ass; it’s the City of Zombies. But you need a job from one of them, so don’t be late.” I dropped my Coco Puffs in the sink and took the bus to the interview. It was the most ridiculous conversation I’ve ever had, including the one about snails I had last year on a bizarre trip. The woman was 4’8” and asked me for opinions on Jay-Z, Obama, and Mad Men. I still don’t know how I got the job, but my second week in the city I was working as a translator from the American half of telenovela production. The night I got the call from Lourdes, whose name I couldn’t remember at the moment, Ezra dragged me out of my sweats and drove us to Cerca, a restaurant built like a sleek black ice cube. “Congratulations,” he smirked, “Welcome to the disintegration of America.”

“And here I thought that was Congress.” Ezra snorted so loudly the French girls behind us sneered, which only made him laugh harder. He was twenty-five, but when he laughed—really laughed—he could have been fifteen. Back then, I thought it was because of the way his teeth were too big for his mouth, but it could have been his eyes or the way he crinkled his nose like a puppy. It could have been a lot of things, really, because time tap-dances on memory. Anyway, I don’t remember what we ordered or how two broke kids paid for it, or if we did at all.

She came in late, at the end of a chain of girls my age. Emmy—that was the name she gave Ezra later—glittered. She was stretched, with long arms that ended in diamond bracelets and blonde hair that swayed along the small of her back. I was coming back from the bathroom when I saw her leading next to Ezra. “Are you here alone?” Her lips skimmed his ear and his eyes seemed to roll back in his head. He stood and followed her out, slipping me the keys where I had melted against the wall. That night, the sky hovered blue and refused to dip into black, and I sat up with one cigarette and another. At three, I tried to put it out on my tongue like one of the pretty girls at college had done; I ended up with a scar no one sees anymore because of the piercing. I fell asleep with ice in my mouth, and Ezra was still gone when I left for work.

“So, is she a goddess or did you get kidnapped?”

“Aren’t you supposed to be at work?”

“Lunch,” I said, stabbing a tomato. It ruptured in my mouth and I swore at the juice.

“What the hell?”

“Nothing. Tomato problems. But tell me.”

“I think I’m in love.”

“There’re cheaper girls for that. The ones you pay for are the cheapest; you should see what guys had to fork over for the sorority sisters.” I could hear him roll his eyes through the phone.

“I’m seeing her tonight.”

“Have fun.”

“You too. She’s coming to the apartment after dinner.”

“Lovely,” I teased, “I’ll pick up earplugs on the way home.”

I don’t know why I gave a damn about how I looked to meet her, but I did, and I tried on exactly seven outfits before leaving my bedroom. They were due back in ten minutes, which with Ezra driving meant four. When they swung the door open, Emmy was still glittering. There was something in the angles of her lips and glances that was horrifyingly beautiful, or beautifully horrifying, and her voice was like glass. “Rachel, Ezra told me about you.” She reached to shake my hand, pinching my fingers between bands and jewels.

“Nice meeting you. I didn’t expect--”

Ezra elbowed me and I knew when to shut up. I poured three glasses of Pinot Noir and brought hem out, thinking I would need to switch to vodka if I wanted to last the night. Their necks were bent together like swans’, and they whispered exquisite things I couldn’t understand. I stood with the tray for a moment, cleared my throat, rattled the glass, but nothing moved them. I took the wine back to the kitchen and drank, missing my reflection in the microwave door.

In my bedroom door, there was a tiny window, and I would’ve forgotten it a while ago if I hadn’t looked up and seen it after reading that damned magazine I’d taken from my brother. Ezra’s hands wove in Emmy’s hair and the small of her back, his eyes closed, his cheeks glowing the way all of her seemed to. He slid the dress of her shoulder and I stepped back, but their voices came through. I had heard every girl on my floor f*ng and being f*ed in college, but I had never heard a couple make love until their voices seeped under my door.

Emmy must have left early, and Ezra with her, because I was alone in the apartment when I woke up. I poured out the rest of the Coco Puffs and flipped the TV on as I heated the water to shower. Savannah Guthrie was going on about budget cuts, and I didn’t turn the TV off when I went to shower. When I stepped out, I had forgotten where the voices came from until I saw the screen, and I couldn’t think why my phone had eighteen missed calls from my mother. I tossed the iPhone across the couch and was halfway back to the bathroom when the local news switched on. “Last night, a prominent drug lord’s girlfriend and a young man with her were found dead off of the interstate near Santa Barbara. Emmy Fritz, twenty-one, was found shot along with Ezra Levine, twenty-five, at about five this morning. Police are currently searching for Donovan Barrow, pictured to the left, and urge anyone with information to phone the tip line below or the LAPD directly.”

There is a shock that comes with young death, a feeling like a tooth has been ripped from your stomach. There’s the blurt of pain, of course, and the blood, but the ache is what you’re left with, what settles in. I stayed in LA but moved out a week later. I haven’t seen my parents since the funeral, partly because of the shrine they made out of Ezra’s old room and partly because of the fight, but that’s not important. Donovan Barrow was never arrested or tried, but I didn’t expect him to be, even then. It’s hard to be disappointed without expectations, isn’t it?

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