What I Am Looking For
By Laura Schiller
Based on: Weetzie Bat (Necklace of Kisses)
Copyright: Francesca Lia Block
In a café on Telegraph Avenue, Witch Baby sat across from her beloved Angel Juan and said: "What were you looking for?"
"You," he answered.
Witch Baby was thrown. She stared at him for a while across the white plastic table, unable to speak, a strange, dizzy feeling bubbling up inside her. When she opened her mouth, she found it was a laugh – a small, breathless laugh that left him frowning in complete bewilderment.
"What's so funny?" he asked.
"Me? That's it?" Witch Baby took a sip of coffee to keep the giggles under control, then looked back up incredulously into his big dark eyes. Eyes that had haunted her dreams for over a decade, and now did nothing for her at all.
More calmly, she continued: "I was right there, Angel Juan. That was the whole problem. You left to get away from me, my camera and my clutchiness, remember? Twice."
"I'm sorry, baby." He turned those shining black eyes on her again, a look that had never failed to melt her bones to water while they were dating. "I know I've been an idiot … I just … I needed to learn to write my own songs. Be my own person. That doesn't mean I don't still love you, Nina Bruja."
How often had she prayed for this – that he would come back and apologize? Why wasn't she happier to have all her dreams come true? Instead she just felt cool, detached, as if she'd stepped from the summer heat into an air-conditioned office building. She felt a breeze on her shaved head; it hadn't even occurred to her to wonder what Angel Juan thought of seeing her bald. She didn't care.
"You know what?" she said calmly. "Remember when Charlie and I rescued you from Cake?"
He nodded grimly. Cake was a demon who had wanted to turn him into a plastic mannequin two years ago in New York – an extreme form of the same posessiveness he had disliked in Witch Baby. She had defeated the demon by taking his picture, freed Angel Juan, and gone back to L. A. without him.
"Charlie said I had to set you free," she explained, "And he was right. But I forgot to set myself free. It's like my whole life has been about you not being there," with a bitterness she couldn't quite suppress.
"I don't blame you," she said, holding up her hand to cut off another impending apology. "Well, sort of … but it was my fault as much as yours. I built you up into this magical guy – panther, angel, rock star, genie twin – who'd solve all my problems just by being there. I never stopped to think of you as a human being. Until you left, and I had to go cold turkey."
She smirked to herself, remembering how she'd once compared dating Angel Juan to an addiction. It was more accurate than she'd realized at the time. She could see by the way his full mouth twisted that he agreed, almost in spite of himself.
"I've been off the Angel Juan wagon for two years now and … well, no offense, but I'm doing great."
"You really changed, didn't you?" he said, shaking his head with rueful admiration.
"So did you."
It was not only that the features of his face were sharper and more defined; that he'd grown out his spiky thatch of hair to shoulder-length and left off the gel; his surprisingly neat polo shirt and jeans; or the new brown leather guitar case slung across the back of his chair. It was the gravity in his regard as he watched her; the quiet way he sat and held his coffee cup, when before he would have been fidgeting and bolting it down, ready to grab her hand and pull her along for the next adventure. Had all his running, in the end, been running away from something? Something his journeys to New York, Nepal and everywhere between had taught him to face instead?
"You know I never meant to make you unhappy, baby," said Angel Juan.
Well, you did, she thought, but held back from saying it. She no longer felt the need to lash out at people these days, the way she had as a child. There was already too much bitterness in the world without her adding to it.
How many years had she spent missing him, hating him for not coming back, hating herself for somehow driving him away with her inadequacy? Envying Cherokee, Weetzie and every other girl happily in love. Ruthlessly cutting off the few boys who had tried to approach her. Skulking around school with her headphones on and her hands in her pockets to discourage people, as if having any friends besides Angel Juan would be disloyal. Yes, Angel Juan – or rather her feelings for him – were at the root of most of her unhappy memories, except perhaps for those relating to Vixanne. But her happy memories were his as well – memories she would not give away for anything in the world.
"You showed me what love is," she said. "That's a big deal, Angel Juan. Thank you."
She picked up her black backpack with the glow-in-the-dark star stickers and pulled it up into her lap, preparing to leave. Angel Juan saw the gesture and made an abrupt move as if to stand up.
"Will I never see you again?" he asked, in such a soft caressing voice that Witch Baby came within inches of changing her mind. She would miss him – playing duets, photographing him, taking trips to the desert, being comforted after a nightmare, soothed by his gentle hands untangling her hair, making love … especially making love.
"I don't know. It's a big world, Angel Juan." She smiled bravely as she stood up and slung the backpack over her shoulders, determined that his last sight of her should be positive. No more screaming; no more slamming doors.
"A big world," he agreed, giving her a last hug. "And all yours. Go conquer it, eh?"
He smelled of coconut suntan lotion and coffee. She closed her eyes to breathe it in.
"Thanks. I think I will."