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March 9, 2009

by Cole Coonce

(excerpted from Sex & Travel & Vestiges of Metallic Fragments)

His driver’s license expired on his birthday and he never knew it. LAX’s Homeland Security caught the lapse last month as he attempted to board a plane to Kennedy. He was lucky to be allowed on board.

A month later and it is Indian Summer and any suburban adjunct to Los Angeles with a smattering of foliage is on fire. Meanwhile, it is a soul-sucking afternoon at the DMV on Rosemead Boulevard. The parking lot is overrun with shaven-headed hoodlums in hopped-up Hyundais jousting for fleeting parking space with housewives in Honda CRVs.

In the glaring sun he pulled his silver Chrysler over on the street while the others played bumper cars in the motor vehicle parking lot. And to think, he pondered, that this is where the driving tests begin. Fair enough: if you can make it out of that asphalt atom smasher alive, you deserve to drive. That should be the whole exam—make it out of the parking lot without getting killed and the city is your motoriffic oyster.

Inside the DMV, there is even less personal space and the only thing that would make it more tedious would be to show up with a hangover.

The lines to get a license are tangles of confusion and entropy. Even with an appointment, the passing of time is five gears in reverse. After visiting three windows, he was told to take a number and go sit in the blue section. He was in a blue chair, next to the bluehairs—old ladies whose medications were a few molecules off—and he tried to ignore their rants and harangues about stolen debit cards and purloined passwords, delivered in a stuttering clip and pointed at the gunfire-proof glass.

This is America as the New Second World, he mused, as marble-mouthed public address announcements about assigned numbers going to assigned windows gurgled through blown speakers. It was completely unintelligible and each p.a. notification was merely an alarm to look at blasted-out teevee screens, whose parallelograms framed a matrix of a sort of bingo game, with numbers correlating to the next available window. If one ignored the garbled salvo of sound, one ran the risk of not looking at the video monitor and thereby missing one’s number and starting the whole procedure over again. The cacophony was accompanied by Japanese girls talking into phones and asking what their friends were wearing when they went to the new Brad Pitt movie. It was post-modern Benetton cum post-war Poland. Eventually, his number was up, his picture was taken and he was renewed.

Back on the street, the sky was mercury and the silver Chrysler was baking, and it didn’t cool down until he pulled off the freeway and parked under the shade of some nascent oak trees at the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center.

By then, the sun was on its downward arc, the hydrogen lumens lighting the soot and particles that had collected from the surrounding fires. He swam and swam, and closed his eyes as he did the backstroke. He was in shadows and then he was in sunlight and back again.

Because of the piss-poor air quality, the pools were half-empty, but a smaller one had a swim class for rugrats. Toothsome Pasadena milfs monitored their munchkins and provided sensual visual respites as he would pull up to the lip of the water and catch his breath.

His workout was done when he saw her exit the women’s showers and saunter towards the water: blonde, stout, and sculpted with an hourglass body, her amber skin offset by a bicep tattoo of a pattern that resembled the concertina wire from a concentration camp. She wore a red one-piece that fit like latex. She rolled her tresses into a rubber cap and draped a pair of cobalt blue goggles over her limpid eyes.

He rested his back against the pool’s edge as she swam. He tried not to stare. Her form was flawless. Perfunctory, but as graceful as a dolphin, if not a leopard. He tried not to be obvious about his admiration for her strokes, but he would watch her porpoise through the water and out of the shadows; and the sunlight would hit her face as she swiveled for air and it was a wet, expressionist painting.

She climbed out of the drink, the water dripping off of her carnal can. Her exit was as smooth as her swimming, as she had deftly unraveled her blonde locks with one leg still in the water.

He left when she did. He sat in the car with wet shorts, and thought of beauty and propagation. He keyed the ignition and the radio reported more ocean and desert winds fanning ubiquitous flames.30-

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