The guy we met in L.A. wore a sweater vest with a check shirt buttoned all the way up and he had a tattoo in the shape of Iowa on his inner left wrist. He was twenty-seven, a Hollywood casting agent, he had found out I was a writer, and he had just asked me if I would ghostwrite his memoir. We were in a bar on Sunset Blvd. and very drunk, me on straight tequila, him on beer, and my friend Derek on anything that came his way. I agreed to write the memoir.
Ken—his name was Ken—said, “Jesus was just one of my saviours. I believe everyone I meet is saving me, and I’m saving them.” Then, after a while, he continued. “I don’t have God, but I still do good things, you know. I think he’d like that better than someone who believes in him, like Ashley, who still screws people over. God would be like, man, what a bitch.” I didn’t know who Ashley was.
I think of L.A. as a pet cemetery for people.
Earlier, at a different bar—this was our fourth—we met the guy who tweets for Jimmy Kimmel. “I work for Jimmy,” he said. It’s a big job. He tweets from the show’s account, but he knows the password for Jimmy’s personal account, and sometimes Jimmy will ask him to tweet a pre-arranged thing if Jimmy will be otherwise occupied when that thing would be at peak funny.
“At any moment, I could get myself fired, get him fired, and get the three hundred people who work for him fired.”
Ken said, “You know what, I heard the biggest load of garbage the other day. He hates white people, but he also hates Mexicans, Japanese etc. He hates everyone, so it’s okay. Why is that okay? Surely it’s better to hate fewer people than all people. Hating blacks is better than hating blacks and Mexicans. It’s like Valentine’s Day in second-grade: bring enough hate for everyone in class or don’t bring it at all.”
Being drunk makes all kinds of people tolerable. As usual, I was filled with myself. I loved Derek too; it was so cool that he was here and we were in LA and I loved the way I felt about Derek.
Now we were in a bar that was slowly changing into a rave club, with faux Irish décor, Guinness flags, medieval county maps of Ireland, and girls dancing in maiming heels with Ziploc bags for dresses, shooting blue Jell-O laced with alcohol into their mouths from big cartoon syringes.
“You know where this Irish kitsch comes from, right?” Ken yelled in my ear. “It’s so white people can feel like victims of history. Lansdowne sent my people here on coffin ships! It might be healthy, I don’t know.”
Ken went outside for a cigarette and we followed him. I don’t smoke, never have, though most of my friends do; rollies. To piss them off, I roll up a ten dollar bill and pretend to smoke it. I didn’t do this with Ken. A short well-built guy with a shaved head asked me for a lighter. I shook my head and jerked my thumb at Ken. The short guy had a Central American accent. Derek said we were new in L.A. “Man, did you drive? Don’t drive home, the police here are crazy. Just warning you; they’re everywhere tonight. Ah, but you’re white guys, you should be fine.”
I told him we walked. He started on a story about how he had been roughed up by the police in Culver City. Then he pulled up his sleeve to reveal a beige fault line on his upper left arm. “They pushed me to the ground, they searched the car, I didn’t do anything. I ran a stop sign, that’s all.”
Ken started laughing and said something I couldn’t hear.
“Where you from man?”
“El Salvador. You think it’s funny, man. It could never happen to you.”
“I bribed cops in Panama every day when I was there. Police brutality,” said Ken.
“Man, I’m sorry that you’re so uneducated about where you live. This shit happens all the time and no one does anything. If you knew.”
“Do you know the crime stats? Minorities commit more crimes and mostly against their own people. I’m not saying you did anything in Culver City, I’m just saying the cops need to be efficient.”
The Central American guy came back out with a bigger friend. “Sorry bros, my brother gets drunk and does this all the time.”
“He’s not really our friend, we just met him tonight,” I said.
The short Salvadorian guy threw a punch at Ken, but missed. He withdrew his hand, then charged. They went down. I knelt down and punched the Salvadorian guy in the face and when he fell away, I got up and kicked him in the stomach. My toes jammed in my loose shoes. Someone grabbed me and threw me against the railing. Derek picked me up. Through the window, I saw the bouncers hurrying to the scene. We heard Ken shouting for help. Two men were kicking him as he held on to the first Salvadorian guy.
Derek and I jumped the fence and ran. We found the car.
And the vomit came out in five onion-laced waves of red. Sleep was easy after that. We picked up Derek’s girlfriend in the morning; I dropped them off at their car rental place and drove back south. From Century to Jamboree took me 35 minutes.
Nathaniel Lucas is a writer and poet across the Pacific Ocean. See his work at Social Matter and Atop the Cliffs.