Interaction with strangers in the same house lit my anxiety alarm. The last time roommates occupied the same house was in 1972. I lived in a three-story twelve bedroom mansion in San Rafael, California. There were thirteen of us. Disbro lived in the attic and inhaled laughing gas all day. I was twenty-years old.
This anxiety was visible even at twenty. Sometimes all of us sat down to dinner at one dining room table. The conversations literally wrapped around the room, the halls, and the windows. My voice was restrained; they were too conversational and intellectually humorous for me. I was the youngest.
This brings us back to the Puzzle of Solitude. When there is conversational nuances, improvisations, laughter, dancing, cooking, dressing, showering, slacking, without strain or tension, then it is time to leave out solitude and hook the bait of adventure.
Fragments of my fragmented spirit reincarnated this summer at Chantel’s. There were three full-time roommates that shared the house, Chantel, Speedy, and Nathan and an occasional Nico. There are up to eight visitors occupying the private cottages, and a flexible showing of hungry men and women at dinner time. Added to this is the number of languages spoken, English, Spanish, French, German and Koui’s (Chantel’s dog) welcoming bark.
Interaction on the routine, necessary, and impulsive terms of cohabitation in the morning: preparing coffee in two Turkish pots, buttering bread, stretching, checking email, cuddling Koui, and taking showers. The first morning my mask shed when I walked into the kitchen in my nightie and open robe. What happened in twelve hours to my belt of modesty? Speedy and I chatted in English, and then he’d Skype his wife. One morning he introduced us. I looked forward to his Skype discussions; the most fluid and rhythmic language to my ears. The art of conversation has vanished from many factions of our society. The phone and laptop are now our mouths and ears.
Not so with Europeans.
“ Loulou, so you have a gallery of photography?
“ We had one; now it’s a vacation rental decorated with photography.”
Nico leaned against the wooden island table to hear the story. You can’t look Nico in the eyes without lusting just a little.
“ How’d you start this gallery? Nico asked while chopping perfectly unmeasured tomatoes, mushrooms, and onion.
“ I called photographers; and a few friends pushed my cart to the right door. One time I walked into a gallery on Robertson Blvd and noticed this exhibition of celebrities on the beach in St Tropez. It was incredible!”
Fabian who owns a gallery on Robertson moved in closer as I continued.
“I walked in and asked the Swedish owner if he’d co-exhibit in our gallery in New Mexico. He said yes, we didn’t even sign anything. He kept his end up. So I showed the Edward Quinn’s in Santa Fe. I should have bought the Audrey Hepburn one; when she was eighteen.”
“I know the Quinn photographs. Bridget Bardot– yes– what was the name of the Gallery?” Fabian revealed enough interest to spark mine.”
“ Christopher Guye.”
He moved closer so we were face to face.
“I know Christophe! My first gallery was next door!”
All of us applauded the connection; I think I moved a notch closer to the group.
This is what happens when joining is more exhilarating than not. In the next few weeks: we dined in French and English, watched Soccer, teased and laughed, cooked and drank. There were parties with Jennie, Chantel’s assistant, who has two congregations of friends, all uniquely different and robust. I had walks on the beach alone, and time to write; but the real vacation was interior. I left the old LouLou, who paced, fretted, vacillated and deconstructed behind. She lost the battle to interior florescence.
The thread of interaction followed me outside the compound. I discovered Malibu is not all celebrities and rock-stars. There are families that go to the beach, hang out at Vintage Market, and attend community events tied to the ocean, horses, and surfing. The school of surfing for children is worth a visit just to see the little boys and girls riding waves. Malibu has its own Playhouse, a Movie Theater and two upscale outdoor shopping malls. The Getty Villa perched on cliff- side overlooking Pacific Coast Highway has reopened and it is free to the public.
The vacation sabbatical ended last week; though the effect remains. This adventure was supposed to be all about ocean swimming, window shopping, revisiting former favorite spots; what I really needed was to revisit myself. Do we ever stop emerging? I hope not.