When you are forced to rely on public transportation in Los Angeles, you inevitably end up doing quite a bit of walking. There is no such thing as a bus stop just outside your door or round the corner; in fact, if there is a stop within ten minutes walking distance you are lucky. There are also those days when the bus is so crowded or smells so much like feet rubbed with lunch meat, I choose the option of getting off and walking home. I try to time my exit at a stop where I know I will have access to a quiet street with very little traffic.
There is a lovely maze of these little streets that make up about ten blocks between one of my regular stops and my house. It is a beautiful walk for a cool spring day and I usually get the entire walk to myself. Usually.
On the day in question, the air was warm but carried a breeze through the myriad of trees that line the back roads of Hollywood. I wore a big blue sun hat to protect my eyes from the sun peeking in through the leaves and a short-sleeved black cotton dress. It was warm enough to go without a sweater, so the illustrations that pepper my arms were available for all the world to see. I figured I would be safe from comment in the middle of the afternoon on my favorite quiet route. I was four blocks away from home and the walk had been uneventful, and then I saw her.
30 feet ahead of me sat a woman in a metal fold out chair. I slowed my pace to take a better and more gradual look. She appeared to be in her late 60’s, but was smoking a cigarette with the determination of a long-term chain smoker, so I figured she was probably in her late 40’s or early 50’s. Her hair was old school platinum blonde and attempting a flirty Marilyn Monroe curl, but fell flat and limp around her sad puffy face. She wore tight high-waisted jean shorts and a black tank top that struggled to cover her round belly. Her toes, with brightly painted nails, brushed the top of white flip-flops that she had let fall to the ground beneath her feet. She looked up at me and smiled as she exhaled the smoke from her practiced lungs.
“Do you need a kitten?”, she asked.
“Not today thanks”. My intention was to be polite but move along quickly. It didn’t work out quite as planned. The woman was in a mood to chat and I couldn’t ignore the loneliness that saturated her gaze. She needed to tell a piece of her story and I had time to listen.
“My name’s Caroline”
“Nice to meet you Caroline”.
” I have these kittens out back; just out there in my back yard. The mom just left them and now they need homes. I would take care of them but I have to go into the hospital for a surgery. I fell down the stairs. My boyfriend gave me all this vodka to drink and I fell down the stairs and now I have to have surgery and I can’t take care of the kittens. Are you sure you don’t need a kitten”? She barely took a breath in her desperation to tell me her story.
” I really can’t take a kitten, but I will ask around for you. Take care of yourself”.
As Caroline said goodbye, I turned to make my way down the block and almost crashed into an opening gate. The girl coming through the gate had bright orange hair with black tips. She wore cat eye glasses dotted with tiny rhinestones and had a purple ring in her nose. In her hand she clasped a black studded leash.
“Come on Molly. Good Girl”.
At the end of the leash was a pregnant goat wearing a bright red sweater.
Nothing like a pregnant goat on a leash being walked by a girl with pumpkin colored hair to take one’s mind off of kittens. Amazing how one adventure so quickly becomes another when you walk in L.A.