Boyle Heights

Looking back over the 1st street bridge to the Los Angeles skyline across the intersection, the road sloping down to the west, she takes an inadvertent picture of a car crossing the frame. The city rises over the flats, all glitter and promise.

“The sun is stupid,” I say as we cross 1st.
“Yeah, the sun is stupid, right. The sun is stupid because it warms us and gives life and causes plants to grow through photo, photosynthesis.”

I don’t reply. The heat comes off my body in waves. December is supposed to be a cold month but the sun is out and my cold weather clothing is out of place in the seventy degree weather. When we left the subway station, ascending the stairs two at a time, I noticed people staring.

As we walk down 1st, she takes pictures of old murals on stucco walls and of a bas-relief she names “God of salads” for the seeming explosion of lettuce leaves from a man’s aged face. We enter a Mexican supermarket so that she can look at toys. A man sleeps in a straight backed chair by the doorway. The aisles are crowded with hastily placed goods, plastic racecars and butane canisters I laugh at.

“You just need ten of these to make a bomb.”
And seeing a six pack, “Hey, there you go.”
“Once I nearly burned down my dorm room with one of those,” she says.

On our walk east we pass under a freeway bridge. Crossing the street and doubling back, we encounter a pet store with brightly colored canaries who chirp as I approach their cage. She points out small silver fish with the word “LOVE” written onto their bodies. I wonder aloud if someone wrote on them with markers. She says that yes, someone must have.

We spend an hour in a hamburger joint, arguing about consumerism. She doesn’t take any pictures and throws away her burrito before finishing it. I drink the large cup of water she can’t finish, as well as my own. We take the subway to the next stop and disembark into a bird-themed station colored a pleasant blue.

Passing a cemetery, she asks, “So, do you know what kind of grave you want?”