By Marcia Craddock
Tuesday December 23, 2008 - 10:11:00 AM

The L.A. night was sullen. Low clouds reflected the hundreds, thousands, millions of neon lights and produced an angry red glare in the compressed sky. The air was still and the traffic noises muffled, almost muted. 

The girl? The girl was waiting, was distracted, was excited and anxious, determined to be cool, the epitome of coolness if possible. The old, blue Chevy truck rattled by, backed up, and the boy not driving, got out and sweepingly ushered her in, between him and the driver and the truck swung wide in a turn and headed west to the Pacific. The conversation? Did they exchange “hi’s”? She couldn’t remember. Everyone was super-cool, no need for conversation. 

Cruising north on the coast highway each of the three silently checked the scenery, the speed and the sky. The clouds, the fog, hung lower and not even the rolling white breakers relieved the heaviness of the night. The truck was traveling fast, so when the driver made a sharp and abrupt right turn, the three were slung sideways, and the girl against her will, made a sound. 

A mile into the canyon, another right turn and the road began to wind and incline rather steeply. No person protested but the truck made unhappy noises. Gearing down didn’t seem to make much difference, the laboring sounds continued. The girl gritted her teeth in sympathy. The road ahead was often obscured by thick patches of fog and then suddenly made clearer by thinner patches.  

How long? The time did and didn’t seem long,  

Did she blink, close her eyes? There was the brilliant moon, and an achingly blue-black sky, starless and serene. Does that sound trite? Starless and serene and achingly? But that’s how it was. That describes it, almost perfectly. But how did she feel? Aching and serene, excited and beguiled.  

The driver again, abruptness his forte, stopped the truck and backed, trying to snuggle the vehicle against a small hill. He squeezed out his door and the others went out the passenger door, which was left wide open. The hill was obviously to be climbed and the courteous males offered the girl a hand up, which she was self-obliged to refuse. It just wasn’t that steep, was it? They easily preceded her while she struggled slowly up. She noted that when they reached the crest they wordlessly parted, one going left the other right. When she reached the crest ... there was the ocean, immediately below the hill, the moonlight waves slowly rolling toward her, white and silver illuminated by that astounding moon. 

She had never known the meaning of the word “gazing” before. Now she did. She gazed and gazed till finally she understood. The “ocean” was the tops of those heavy clouds, that so oppressed those below. She sat down where she stood, the boys almost equidistant, perhaps twenty-five yards each, away from her. The girl was caught and transported and she thought, so were the boys. 

How long? That question again? Who knows how long, who understands that what those eyes experienced was timeless, eternal? Trite again? Oh, you’re probably right. Did those three understand? Perhaps, only perhaps. The illusion of flowing ocean could be summoned for seconds at a time before reverting to clouds, but either way was enchanting. 

At some click of a thought, both boys rose and headed toward her at the top of the path. They started down the hill, she following, no offered hands this time. She was independent, they acknowledged that. 

The truck rushed her down the mountain to the heavy overcast, it took her to her house. Being cool lost its importance, she waved good-bye, went in the house, closed her eyes and tried to see again.