Discover more from making a list
#9 blind faith
and a landlord's lessons on love
My mom moves to the beach. She rents a one-bedroom flat across from a Catholic Church and, every morning, she goes to buy tuna from a fisherman on the harbor.
When I ask her why she chose the beach, she tells me how a psychic in Kentish Town saw her somewhere with rocks.
She shows me her screensaver. It’s a photo of rocks.
My friends with money are talking about children and my friends with work are talking about IVF. I go over to a line producer’s house by the edge of the park. She lays on the sofa while her husband cooks a big bowl of pasta carbonara. She tells me that at 8pm, she’ll inject a needle into her stomach. She tells me I should stay.
This will be me, one day.
In the mornings I can hear my landlord walking to his studio. Some weeks he gets in at five, and others at six. I’ve never asked him what he does, but I see a van pull up every now and again and a line of mannequins wheeled out through the garage.
After a year of living here, I recognise his footsteps in the morning, and those of his dog, two feet behind him.
He calls her Luna.
On the weekends, when it is too hot, I wait until dinner and then I drive up the coast to swim.
The first weekend, my mom stays on the sand. She says she can’t swim with the waves, they’re too harsh and she’s too used to the Mediterranean. I tell her what Deborah Levy said about swimming every day, and she asks where Deborah swims, and if there are waves.
I leave her on the beach to take photos. She zooms in on me in the Ocean, sending them to her mother with a rainbow emoji and a couple of cartwheels.
Look mom, Sophia can swim with the waves.
I’m eating lunch on Easter Sunday in the courtyard when Luna comes up to me. She wants a bite of my chicken, and when she realizes she won’t get it, she lays down, her stomach directly facing the sun. “Look at my girl!” my landlord says, leaving his studio. He gets down on his knees, then hugs her and kisses her on the belly.
My friend’s mom dies. It happens slowly at first, and then my friend goes home, and in a month, her mom is gone. We go for a walk through Los Feliz, and I pretend I am sweating. We eat kabobs, and I pretend I have allergies. We go for dinner, and halfway through, she looks at me and she goes—
“Sophia are you… crying?”
7. Fear of
I am swimming when I see a father drag his three-year-old daughter into the ocean. He carries a paddle board for her and tells her it will be alright.
I turn to see my mother standing at the edge of the sand. She wears a black bathing suit with Prada sunglasses and silver earrings. I tell her to join. She puts her hands up and winces in a straight line, running back to her towel.
I’m pulling my trash bins out on a Wednesday night when my landlord’s nephew calls my name.
“Did you hear?” he asks. No. “Luna died.”
I realize then that I am standing outside in a face mask and a see-through nightgown.
There were reports of coyotes around the reservoir. On NextDoor, one man described being chased by four coyotes all the way home. Big coyotes with pointed ears and bigger teeth, growing by the numbers.
That morning, my landlord let Luna out as he had his cup of coffee. Within seconds he heard a yelp. He stood at his door, watching Luna get dragged away, her stomach caught between the teeth of the coyote.
10. Blogs in Swiss Cottage
I am driving when I remember a blog post by a mother I used to know. She wrote about how because her husband left, her daughters were more likely to be overweight. They would never go out and play sports, or run, or be physical.
Her father should’ve stayed, so he could teach them to be unafraid.
11. Purple flowers
It’s been a week since the coyotes came. I hear my landlord’s footsteps, walking alone to the shed. When I see his nephew smoking a joint in the courtyard, he says his uncle’s been crying.
I think about how I’d never get another dog again. How I’d never stop seeing that image of the coyote's teeth around her stomach. That final cry before the coyote escaped from the garden.
I buy a bouquet for my landlord and leave it on his doormat. He picks it up, leaving it on his kitchen table.
12. Down under
I pull my mom into the Ocean.
She is swimming maybe three meters from me, closer to the beach. I tell her she has to ride the waves, getting ahead of them before they break. I show her how I swim above, then watch them crash.
I am telling her this when she crashes with the wave, completely submerged, a poof of dyed blonde hair floating at the top.
13. The pound
I am writing at my desk when I hear a cry from next door. I stop typing and I hear it again—this time, louder and high-pitched. I open the door and walk barefoot to the courtyard.
14. Second chances
I join my mother back on the sand. She has sand in her ears, and her nose, and some in the bra of her suit. She is silent, staring at a trio of young boys swimming in the ocean.
I ask her what’s up, and she says she is studying how they do it.
She asks if we can try again.
15. The end
There, staring out the kitchen door, is my landlord’s new dog. She looks a bit like Luna, but she’s older. When my landlord comes home, I ask him what he named her.
“Miss Taffy,” he says, letting her out to run. “Nobody wanted her. She’s eleven, and blind.”
I was so happy to write a column last week for Emma Gannon’s Substack! Emma is a household name in the UK, known for her bestselling books, as well as her beloved podcast. She had me on to talk about ghostwriting, and the role client work plays in my process. Thank you Emma for the opportunity!