BY HONEY PALOMINO
My boots hit the pavement and I knew I was home.
The bus ride was long but as soon as that bright California sunshine hit my face, I decided it was all worth it. Whatever happened now, however this all goes down, good or bad — at least I was here now.
I’d grown up dreaming of what it would be like to live in the City of Angels. As a small-town country boy growing up in rural Oklahoma, I knew my chances of actually finding my way here were slim to none, but after Mama died, I knew I had to come.
I had to find the answers or I’d never be able to go on.
The fact that the answers I was searching for ended up being located in the one city I’d lusted after was just a bonus. I imagined what it would be like surfing the waves, even though I’d never actually seen an ocean in person before. I thought of all the blonde bombshells walking around, all tan skin and big white smiles. Maybe they’d throw a few of those smiles my way. The possibilities were endless.
Not to brag, but I’d always been told I was handsome. My first girlfriend, Becky, even told me I should be a model. I love to work out and stay fit, and the rest, I guess, is genes. Mama was incredibly beautiful when she was young, after all. So, there were times when I stared in the mirror and imagined something bigger for myself, too. Maybe I could be a model, but to be honest, I have secret fantasies of being an actor. I mean, maybe, right? You never know.
You never know…
Of course, that’s all a long time away, considering I don’t even have a place to stay or a job or a car or anything yet. All I’ve got is this backpack slung over my shoulder and exactly three hundred and twenty-three dollars to my name, money I’d saved from mowing lawns back in Bixby.
Now that I was here, I’d have to start all over.
The Greyhound station in downtown L.A. is huge and bustling, nothing like the tiny rundown bus station where I’d begun my journey. With vintage carved ceilings and shiny marble floors, you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. I make my way through it and end up on the other side of the block, standing on a busy sidewalk with skyscrapers towering over me.
I strain my neck looking up at the tallest one, a big glass behemoth that seems to stare down at me with deep judgement.
“Screw you,” I mumble, shuffling down the sidewalk, looking for food. I pass up the busy, expensive-looking restaurants and search for something cheap. When I stumble upon a 7-11 a few corners down, I feel like I’ve found the holy grail. A few minutes later, I walk out with a chili-cheese dog and a Big Gulp, only three dollars poorer than I was when I went in.
Continuing down the sidewalk while I consume my meal, I smirk at the chumps throwing down a hundred bucks for lunch in the fancy places I pass. As long as I don’t become as reckless as them, I think, I’ll survive just fine.
I stop for a few minutes at a park bench, watching the businessmen stride by, ignoring the homeless and poor people like they don’t even see them. Nearby, a group of pigeons fight over a half a slice of wheat bread and I can’t help but wonder what they think of their plight in life.
We all get dealt a hand to play, whether we like it or not.
Mine was good, by most accounts. So far, I’ve made the best of it, but still, I’ve ended up here in a city where I don’t know a soul and a total net worth of three hundred and twenty dollars. My future is empty and my past is filled with ghosts.
I didn’t ask to be here. But this is me now. This is the best chance I’ve got.
I stand up and walk over to the newsstand and grab a copy of the LA Weekly and take it back to the bench. Sipping my Coke, I flip through it, looking for a job or a place to live or some other miracle that I can swing.
Of course, I’m under qualified for every job I see and all the apartments listed are apparently owned by crazy people who think four grand is an acceptable amount for rent on a studio apartment.
I shake my head and keep turning the pages, stopping when I see an advertisement for the newest women’s club — Tomcats. I’ve already read all about it, of course. I know the address by heart. I squint my eyes, peering at the pictures of the dancers printed in the ad that I’ve already seen online.
Fox Sterling — a blonde, blue eyed guy that was almost too fit. His thin face made me want to buy him a burger. Blaze, a dark-haired guy with just one name apparently, stood next to him, a smile so bright that I needed two pairs of sunglasses just to look at it. And then there was the striking Daine Ryan — the featured dancer who’d quickly become the sweetheart of LA’s male strip scene.
Since Tomcats opened, the constant press has turned the club into the most exclusive place for women to escape to in L.A. Countless articles and reviews have been written up about them and I’ve read almost all of them, staying up late at night and scouring the internet when nobody else was around, looking for any bit of new information.
I smiled now, the journey I’d started finally feeling like it was beginning now that I was finally here in this city, holding this paper in my hands, looking at this ad for a place I’d been dreaming of for the last month.
Anticipation rushed through my veins, but I took a deep breath, reminding myself to be patient. It would all come in time.
First things first.
First, I needed a place to stay. Then, I needed a shower and a good night’s sleep in a real bed. After that, I could come up with a solid game plan.
I stood up, leaving the paper behind on the bench, and walked towards the setting sun, the bright rays of light shooting between the tall buildings, blinding my eyes as I walked towards my future.