We were strangers who met on a bench and then shared that bench every Wednesday afternoon for almost two years. We sat together and looked west, toward the sun as it disappeared into the Pacific.
Soon after we met, he told me he had come to Santa Monica to die. His battle with Agent Orange was over. Nothing anyone could do for him anymore. He lobbied his Senator to get his buddies, those who died from exposure, added to the wall in DC. They were also casualties of Vietnam. He got nowhere and couldn’t fight anymore so every day he came to the beach to sit on the bench by lifeguard tower 28 and watch the sun vanish. And that is where I was sitting one Wednesday when he sat down next to me and where I returned every Wednesday since.
I had come to Santa Monica to trade in my old life for a new one. To rid myself of unwanted accumulations. I was hoping to be more selective as I filled it again. I didn’t just want new things, I wanted different things.
After he died, I bought a typewriter from a thrift shop that sent me to Julius who aligned the carriage and the strike bars and found me a box of ribbons.
I brought the typewriter to the bench the following Wednesday, and just started writing. Typing actually. The words began flowing again and after the sun set, I returned home where I retyped what I wrote onto my laptop.
I was writing the way I had written. The way I had learned to write. Sometimes you don’t realize that things are changing until they already have. By then you’re on a path and the journey has begun.
Elan Barnehama’s second novel, Escape Route (Running Wild Press, May 2022), is set in New York City during the tumultuous late 1960s and told by the first-generation son of Holocaust survivors, and NYMets fan, who becomes obsessed with the Vietnam War and with finding an escape route for his family for when he believes the US will round up and incarcerate its Jews. Barnehama’s words have appeared in 10 x10 Flash Fiction, Boog City, Jewish Fiction, Drunk Monkeys, Entropy, Rough Cut Press, Boston Accent, Jewish Writing Project, RedFez, HuffPost, Public Radio, and elsewhere. Elan was the flash fiction editor for Forth Magazine LA, has taught college writing, worked with at-risk youth, had a gig as a radio news guy, and did a mediocre job as a short-order cook. He splits time between Pasadena and Boston.