The Last Edendale
Phyl M. Noir
On April 10, 2011, Sam Garfield was dying. Even before senile dementia made him crazy she knew he’d write her off like he’d written off Uncle Max over the milk. It took nothing at all for Sam to cut people off. He refused to see her.
She did surface streets with satellite radio turned up as high as she could stand it but could not prevent herself from thinking about the neurasthenic Maria Wyeth in Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays who hears about her mother’s death and drives the freeways. Cyd was actually remembering the movie with Tuesday Weld and the actress’s little white hands steering through diffused sunlight.
She parked in front of the old house on Chapman Avenue. A man in his thirties came out of the house. He looked at her sitting in the car.
For Sam and Justine that house had been the realization of their deepest longing for a place they could be safe. It must be that way for the man who lived in it now.
The redwood fence was intact.
An apartment building filled what had been the empty lot where the crazy man had lived. It was already run down. Junk filled the front yard.
Cyd’s cell phone clicked. She opened the lid and thought at first how horrible: someone sent her a photograph of Sam’s corpse but then she understood he was still alive in the picture and smiling. He had been too miserly to get his teeth fixed so only his front teeth were left. His handsome old head with its full head of white hair and Ramses-II beak rested on a hospital pillow.
She got back in her car and listened to La Marche Funeral. Over and over the dirge marched predictably to the grave. Chopin interposed the winter wind howling over the gravestones but the refrain sounded to her like pathetic and brave resistance to death — the arrogant and futile movements of living that so briefly achieve nobility.
When it ended she put her wallet and cell phone in the glove compartment, got out of the car and locked its doors.
She walked past the houses barricaded with bars and high fences. What had been a drugstore was now a grocery store painted with a mural of brown and black children playing soccer on one wall. She saw her reflection pass in the store windows.
She walked over the Fletcher Bridge. She passed through the Great Heron Gates and went into Rattlesnake Park.
Ducks buoyed in the river, which was green because of all of the trees growing in the soft bottom. A bird with bands of darker color around its neck ran furtively and comically along the incline. A Black Legged Stilt walked in the water one skinny leg after the other. She entered the exuberant vibrating and echoing din beneath the Two and emerged from it. The light was like light at the beach. An owl hooted. The river water rushed over rocks. A helicopter hovered over the Golden State Freeway. A black dog swam noisily through the river.
The Dolly Madison bakery in Frogtown exhaled white bread puffs.
Homeless men sun-burned almost purple sat on one of the benches sharing a bottle of beer. A Chinese woman her age who had thickened at her waist walked towards her and smiled. Cyd said, “Jade.” They passed each other.
The wind moved over the water deepening its color like the Holy Ghost passes across the human soul.
Someone had chalked a penis with a stream of sperm spurting upwards on the concrete path the sun turned into metal.
A young woman on a bicycle approached and yelled “Hey Professor!” Cyd recognized her. Wheels on a metal cart stolen from a supermarket chirmed on a Frogtown street. Automobile engine hum on the 2 and the 5 framed and divided air.
On the city side of the path stood World War II Quonset huts, a brick factory building from the nineteenth century with skinny windows barred with wire mesh. A garden in Frogtown behind the river fence grew rosemary where two elderly women sat eating sandwiches.
Bunker Hill’s corporate acropolis hid behind the Echo Park and Elysian hills. The chaparral growing on the hills were shot with yellow light. Castor oil plant grew through a wire fence. A Metrolink train went north on the other side of the river.
The architectural spans over the river at Figueroa grew closer. She went down the steep levee into the concrete channel and walked in the water towards the confluence of the Arroyo Seco and the Los Angeles River.