We’re not in Los Angeles, Ali reminds me for maybe the fiftieth time as she unlocks her phone and points to the map. “This bit is Orange County, this bit is LA.” She’s mad and tells me I’m an idiot yet somehow it’s a mark of respect, a mark of true friendship even, that she calls me out for being lazy.
“I dunk because I love,” she says.
It’s Christmas Day. I’m staying at her family home for the next couple of days and we’ve gone for a walk but now we’re sitting on a bench overlooking LA in the dark – I mean Orange County – I mean wherever the heck we are.
The entire region around LA and Orange County is always going to be MegaCity One in my head; an enormous landscape filled to the brim and stretching out to infinity. In fact, my mind still reels a little bit when I think of the urban sprawl and now we can see it before us here—pinpricks of light hover out in the darkness like a swarm of tiny UFOs.
But out of nowhere, and for no particular reason, I start crying big blubbery tears. Ali’s talking about herself for the first time in a while and I’m starstruck by how kind and earnest she is all of a sudden; Ali is the sort of friend that makes you a much better and more thoughtful person just by spending time with her.
Maybe I’m crying because this is the first time I’ve spent Christmas away from my family and outside the UK. Although no, that can’t be it—I wouldn’t have wanted to spend it anywhere else. Or maybe it’s because friendship like this is still an unfamiliar concept to me. Maybe it’s because my visa is running out and my anxiety has become slightly overwhelming as I think about how little control I have over the next twelve months of my life. Although maybe it’s just because I’ve spent nine hours on my motorcycle driving down here from San Francisco and I’m exhausted.
As we stand to leave I manage to hide my dumb tears from her in the dark. She would definitely call me an idiot if she saw me crying.
On Boxing Day we drive over to Huntington Beach and it’s almost empty besides us and a few cyclists riding up and down the boardwalk. We watch the sunset and I make a bad joke about how the sunsets in England are way better than this.
But I’m lying. This is the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen.