"What are you working on now?"
Seeing Other People is like a less-douchey Brett Easton Ellis novel about a college student living in Los Angeles, her desire to make a real human connection, and the various relationships she finds herself in. Each page can stand alone as a micro short story. There are parties and art assholes and frat boys and someone sitting on the floor playing "Wonderwall" on guitar. It's about being young, and not knowing who you are, and desperately searching for something resembling meaning. But in a totally not heavy-handed way.
There are about 37.2 trillion cells in the human body. Each cell weighs one nanogram. Inside of each cell is an entire universe. A system of DNA and mitochondria and lysosomes and ribosomes. A cell can function all on its own.
When you’re dead, the elements that make up your body will be dispersed. The carbon that came from the stars that lives in your bones will turn to soil. Ashes to ashes.
I like to remember things like this. The numbers calm me. There are 196 countries in the world and 6,909 languages spoken and there have been 267 popes. My favorite number is pi, because it’s endless.
My middle name is Shoshanna, which means “rose” in Hebrew. I sometimes go to this botanical garden on campus, just to look at the roses. I can spend hours there, sitting on a bench, smelling my namesake.
Well, not hours. Maybe thirty minutes, tops.
If I ever get a tattoo, it will be of a rose, in white ink, on my left shoulder. Except if you have a tattoo you can’t be buried in a Jewish cemetery.
Which doesn’t really affect me, because I will never die.
I go down to the community center on the far side of Westwood and sign up for a flower-arranging class.
On the walk back, I stop at the library. I love libraries. It feels like every summer always felt growing up. Our library had this thing where you wrote down how many books you read and if you read ten books you got a prize. I always went for the toy lizards. They were fabric, and filled with sand, with beads for eyes.
At the library I look through the Young Adult section and flip through some vampire books, and then I go the Kids section and I pick up a picture book with a cat on the cover.
It’s a book about a cat, I learn as I read, that is trying to build a spaceship. Everyone tells the cat that he can’t do it, that a cat has never even been to space, and who is he to think he’ll be the first. But the cat keeps trying. He gets all these parts from a scrap yard where his dog friend works, and he does it. He makes a spaceship, and he flies over the moon.
A small child goes up to me, and says, “Where’s your kid?”
“I don’t have a kid.”
“This is the kids’ section.”
“So why are you here?”
I start feeling sad so I put the book down and leave.
I’m waiting at the DMV to get a California ID so that I can get a medical marijuana card. I’m stoned as I’m waiting there, actually, so this just seems like a very responsible move. It’s really shitty to be dependent on other people for weed. As a modern woman, I should try to be more independent.
There is a man sitting across from me at the DMV with a magazine in his lap. He has a wool hat and a big jacket, even though it’s not hot out, and is probably around 35, but looks older. But I can tell he’s younger than he looks. I’m good at knowing things like that. He is staring at me, not blinking, while “Jack and Diane” quietly plays from some hidden speaker.
He licks his lips. I start to cry.
My California ID picture features mascara streaming down my face and widened pupils in my big brown baby deer eyes.
I stand outside in the bright sun and cool breeze of the parking lot and take out a cigarette, even though I don’t really smoke.
The creepy man walks out, too. I don’t want to talk to him, but I want my cigarette lit, and for some reason I can’t figure out how to use a lighter.
“Hey, can you light this?” I stretch the lighter and cigarette out to him.
He lights my cigarette and smokes it before handing it back to me, his other hand around my waist. I follow him to his car and while he’s fucking me I close my eyes and try to remember what it felt like to be young and I have this memory of being six or seven finger painting a picture of a rainbow and being very anxious about getting paint on the carpet and my mom coming over and seeing the paint and yelling at me until I cried, and then she started crying too, and picked me up and held me like a baby.
The world is a beautiful place.
I take the Line 1 Bus, which is blue, to the Santa Monica Pier. It’s early and pretty cold out but I really want to see the ocean. I walk down the pier and see a custard shop and a man playing Eagles songs on guitar and everything smells like trash and kelp.
I lay down in the sand with my David Foster Wallace book and place it on my stomach and close my eyes.
A tiny dog runs over my chest and people go screaming after it.
I sit up, my chest stinging with tiny paw prints, and see it running toward the parking lot. A Range Rover backs up sharply and starts pulling toward where the dog is heading. The people keep screaming. Then, maybe they hear the screaming or the dog, I don’t know, but the car stops short and the dog trots in front of it.
I lay back down again and regret not buying sunscreen.
I oversleep and miss the flower-arranging class.
Megan Lent writes short fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, and has been published online at sites including VICE, The Nervous Breakdown, Shabby Doll House, and Metazen, and in print in Lost in Thought, Illuminati Girl Gang, Big Lucks, and Keep This Bag Away From Children. She is the author of the NAP ebook Patron Saints and the chapbook The End of the World, released by Dig That Book and Reality Hands. She is a student in Los Angeles.