• Joseph Kolb

New Blooms

I haven’t left the Bay Area since I moved there except to visit home. My aunt lived in Los Angeles when I was growing up. We would fly down often. She had a lemon tree in her backyard -- that was the thing when we visited, making lemonade -- and a Beanie Baby collection in her closet. Since she moved back to Oregon I haven’t really visited. I have no real sense of the area, only kitchens, backyards, and amusement parks.

Danielle and Jannik recently moved here from Oregon. We're going hunting for a super bloom: poppies. Everyone (in LA; online) is taking and posting pictures of them. A day after our excursion, Danielle will discover one of her YouTubers just posted her own super bloom venture, just two hours earlier. The vlogger, with blonde hair and those cat-eye sunglasses everyone is wearing, mostly just stumbles over the busy trails and makes flat comments about the flowers over shaky camera movements. Danielle rolls her eyes. "I hate when her boyfriend films."


The highway is long and tan, the air dry. Our chosen spot is off of a highway near some power lines. There are a handful of cars beneath them, but we drive a way down a sandy dirt road in the opposite direction, until we can’t go any further. Once out of the car all of the cameras are unsheathed, aimed. I laugh.

"Who's playing muse first?"

Jannik wants to try out his new iPhone stabilizer. He wants Danielle and I to walk down a dried creek bed, naturally. “Action.” We shriek and run, frantically, desperately. I chase Danielle with a rock in hand, act like I’m coming up on mushrooms, pretend we’re brother and sister, then decide we should say we’re brother and sister. We’re brother and sister. We’re twins. We're going to kill each other. Later, after we hike to the rocky peak of a small mountain, a hill really, Jannik pulls out his drone. He fights against the wind to get some footage of us while he crouches in an alcove. Danielle dances to Aly & AJ (”Rush”) while I writhe on the ground for a bit. It’s cold. The wind proves too much and sweeps his drone down to the bottom of the hill. Jannik bounds after it and back up again while Danielle and I eat some strawberries. She records him on her Instagram story.

“Bye Jannik.”

Eventually, on our trek back to the car, we pose for each other in the poppies.

Towards the end of our excursion, I position myself on a large rock sitting beneath a small outcrop that threatens to hide me in the shade. It really isn’t so big, seems only ten feet off the ground or so. After giving it my best, I turn back to face the short cliff and try climbing my way up to the top. I get quite close, off of the ground, and reach out for the holding I think will lead me to the top. It breaks, crumbles a bit in my hand as I fall and land on my modeling rock. Several layers of skin are missing. My left leg quickly goes numb and there’s blood all up my shin, the droplets blooming among whitish-blue flesh.

We all stare at it for a bit. “Uh oh.” I can walk to the car, where luckily there’s a first aid kit waiting. Danielle and Jannik wrap my leg in gauze, glad there is one, think of the blood in the car without it. “That’s going to leave a scar.”

It does.

I leave the bandage on for too long, all night while we’re out in West Hollywood being drunk and complete until the wound adheres to the gauze. The following day we wake late and I have to tear it away from the new-forming skin rendering it fresh again. Danielle and I drive out to Venice Beach. We ride scooters through the neighborhoods in the afternoon light and I think about what living here would be like. I don’t want to leave. The dread seeps into the rest of the night, then we’re suddenly at the bus station for my red-eye trip. We make hopeful plans for another trip down before I return to the East Coast. It’s easier than facing good-bye. Back in the Bay, the trip lingers for several days. In the weeks that follow, I pick at my monstrous scab to reveal the skinless pool, and refuse to let it heal.

©2020 by Joseph R. Kolb