(previously on Fiction first draft...)
All the usual particles get blown out to sea during a Santa Ana. The
light in the valleys, even downtown, doesn't have to struggle so hard to
make ordinary things shine. Everything seems closer and more defined,
no cloaking haze to cloud perception.
Tana, who for some reason was thinking of herself as Angela that day, had seen photos of the San Gabriel foothills taken from Los Angeles harbor, back when wooden masts showed in the foreground. Though they didn't appear in black-and-white, the captions told of brilliant fields of orange poppies climbing up from the valley. On mornings after a rain, she liked to drive up to where those fields once bloomed and look down at the cities, the view reaching the ocean, Catalina Island and the Pacific horizon. You sure couldn't see the ocean from Fontana; it was too far and flatly inland and, if it hadn't been, nature could never have scoured its air that clean.
How do we build our definition of love, Tana wondered, driving home through the gusty sundown toward her real or imagined tryst. What models do we follow? Was it love that send her grandfather out to take dance lessons after her grandmother's leg was amputated? Or love that nudged him toward the phone, calling, or so it seemed, every woman he'd ever known and proposing to each of them once her grandmother was dead? Despair, helplessness, hopelessness or the fact that once he married Helen he'd never had to think again about his daily existence, his upkeep, the details. It was her grandmother who retrieved Joe, their placid marmalade cat, when adolescent Tana found his body in front of the bus stop. Even in her sightless, prosthetic state, what Helen wanted most was a vacation in Hawaii and not the annual cross-country odyssey of American Legion conventions, looping up through Salt Lake City, then swinging down to New Orleans, home across Texas. They'd done that for 15, maybe 20 years and not much time remained for a few summer weeks of paradise instead of hours and miles in the car, whatever scant scenery existed passing in a galucoma-induced blur.
It seemed less love than insufficient awareness, the stainless steel mixing bowls, new Teflon skillets and kitchen essentials that Tana wrapped every year as her father's Christmas gifts to her mother, who only wanted one or two pieces of Navajo jewelry. I know it can be different, Tana thought. She wished and believed as she rewrote the script in her mind, determined that the exactly right words, through the sheer wanting of it, would turn what mute spark existed in Ray into something that would catch and burn. Sensed but unprovable, she leaned and bent with discomfort toward hope of a heat that could eventually warm them, not singe their already fragile, brittle edges.