If I can't put gas in my car, I can't get to work to earn more money. Of course, this "job" is purely notional, as I've been looking for something for a while now, and nothing has come my way. Recently I've registered with a temp agency, but the process for finding an assignment is calling them first thing in the morning and seeing what they've got. I can't pay my cell phone bill, so I can't call them in the morning, so I can't get a job. So part of my mental calculus includes some grim thoughts; how long before I'm out of gas and stranded? Once that happens, short of some external influence, I'll starve to death. That will take a while, I'm still carrying around some extra weight, and I've got a gigantic jute bag of basmati rice that should sustain life for quite a while. Maybe at some point in there I'd find a job in walking-distance. Of course, that's a pipe dream. Walking distance, in LA?
It turns out there's a sale on cans of refried beans that are cheapest source of calories. For some variety, I also get a couple of cans of tuna, some baked beans, a loaf of bread. And coffee. Because if I starve to death, that's okay - but I won't be without coffee.
And all this calculus only highlights one axiom; I can't do this alone. The promised job has turned out to be an unpaid internship, a source of much anguish for me. Eventually I'll get paid, but for the moment, I'm practicing and serving as an unpaid lackey. I feel desolate, like this has all been an incredible mistake, and I wish with fervor, maybe as hard as I've wished for anything (except maybe that time in Ft. Knox on the Close Assault Course, when I wished I wasn't sweating under a merciless Kentucky summer sun, coated in sweat and sand while live machine-gun fire ripped over head. ) I wish that I had never come here. None of the things that I came out here to do have materialized; I haven't sold a script, I haven't been working as a sound effects editor, most of my belongings are still in storage in Pennsylvania and I certainly don't have the means to get them out here. My friends are a continent away, my grandfather is in poor health I can't be of help. What a collossal, huge, mistake - and it's irreversible too, because even if I wanted to, I don't have enough money to put gas in the car to drive home. Or even to Texas.
Maybe the only thing worse than being in LA would be being stranded in Texas.
When I get home, my roommate, who has been cold, distant and hostile for some time, is cooking dinner. I joke good naturedly about her secret identity as a superhero, and she laughs a genuine laugh. She's making dinner for everyone (including our whacky neighbor, Rose) to sit down together. We can do this now, because we have furniture, donated by a friend. A really cool glass dining room table, a couch, loveseat, and a coffee table. Suddenly the house looks like a place people live, instead of a massive container for milk crates and dirty laundry. Sitting down to dinner, I find what's been true all my life - that when I'm "on" to entertain others with chit-chat and funny stories, I forget all about whatever is troubling me. Dinner is pleasant.
Afterwards, they sit down to watch a movie, and enjoin me to sit with them. We watch "Vanity Fair" which makes me wish I could escape to the world I've created in my book, which is a damn sight better than fantasizing about what it would have been like had I remained in West Chester. Would I have found a publisher for the book? Would Claudia have stayed? Would I be cozily snowed in, even now, with a fire snapping in the fireplace, a stack of books from the library, a purring cat, and trips to the hot tub in the evening? Some of my happiest times have involved being snowed in with friends or lovers.
After the movie, I get a message from my best friend - my dearest friend, the most loyal and true friend that ever was, or ever will be. Unasked, he's sent me a loan - the check is in the mail, and called the cell phone company and paid my bill. I'll pay him back, he knows it. I'll pay him back in more than just the cash, too - though he doesn't need or require that.
One of the axioms of the calculus I was doing in the supermarket was that I couldn't make it alone. But another axiom, one that I forgot for a little while, is that I'm not alone.
I am humbled.