"Nope. I'll never come to LA." My computer barks at me. On the screen is a friend who Skyped in to catch up. Her see-through, blonde hair is neatly braided to the side of her head. It falls across her porcelain shoulder, resting on her porcelain chest. When I ask her why she has such a distaste for Los Angeles she says, "It's all barbie dolls and fake people."
I look down at my feet which are obscured by the stomach I've earned working on a TV show with an always-stocked kitchen, craft services and catered lunches. I become very aware of how the stubble on my thighs tickles my belly (and will continue to do so because I stopped shaving five minutes after my boyfriend told me he loved me). My greasy hair sticks to my oily forehead and I hold in a fart. Is this what a barbie is like?
I don't know much about Barbie or her lifestyle. My parents wouldn't buy me any more dolls after my first one. Probably because I liked to wrap her hair in my feet and walk around the house with her body dragging behind me. I think they were worried I was developing a fetish. I still think about it when I see a woman with long hair. Mm. Anyway.
"You'll never come to LA?" I repeat.
"Not if you weren't there." She confirms.
My computer-friend's comment sears into my brain because I used to say the same thing. I inherited a distaste for Los Angeles when I moved to New York. It was one of the first things I learned; If you love New York then you hate Los Angeles. But why? Why are they compared? Why is any city compared to any other? It's different. All of it. Chicago can't be compared to Columbia, can't be compared to Brooklyn, can't be compared to Taipei, can't be compared to Hollywood. Believe me, I've lived in all of them -- and not in the cool "look how well traveled I am" kinda way, but in the "what the fuck are you looking for!?" kinda way.
After we get off the camera (is that how you say it now?) I go for a run. My breasts knock against each other like maracas, my extra 15 pounds cry out in pain. I dodge a man yelling at the sky and another sleeping on the sidewalk. I run past palm trees and taco trucks. I run past million dollar homes and cardboard box homes. I get to the top of Maltman Avenue and look over all of Los Angeles. It doesn't buzz the way New York does but it quietly hums.
I listen to the hum and hear someone accidentally getting pregnant, someone losing a job, someone buying fast food and someone taking their last breath. I used to hear the same things in X City too. It takes me a year, but I finally stop comparing Los Angeles to New York. I turn around and start walking back to my apartment. I'll run when I'm within eye-shot of my neighbors, I tell myself. I keep that promise, until I slow down to inspect the human shit in front of our gate. I choose to take a photo of the flowers above it. If this is what it's like to be a barbie, then I am a barbie, but so are you.