“Does she still work for that movie studio?” I asked.
“She did until she met a movie producer. Now she doesn’t need to work, and she has a kid with another one the way. We keep in touch on Facebook, but it’s not the same,” sighed Vicky. She gave me a sheepish look. “You know if you stayed out here, we could hang out.”
“You know I would love that,” I said, looking down into my drink. “But I’m close to getting a raise. Plus, I was looking into starting my own school. There’s an opportunity with the state’s orphanages, where I could teach disadvantaged kids.”
“That sounds great,” Vicky acknowledged. “When’s that start?”
“I don’t know if I want it to start, now. Something like that, it’s such a big commitment,” I sighed. “If I’m being totally honest, New York is starting to wear on me.”
“What? Being in Manhattan? It’s supposed to be the greatest city in the world!”
“It is, but it’s too intense sometimes,” I explained. “One of my students got kidnapped by his father right in front of the school. The cops chased him down and stopped him, but the kid was traumatized. The whole school was, really. Another time, there was a shooting. None of the kids were hurt, but it was scary. Happened right outside the playground where I was standing.”
“Oh, my God,” gasped Vicky, sitting up. “That sounds awful. But you know that happens here too, right?”
“Sure-sure, it’s just that in New York, I don’t know, everything’s more intense and tough,” I tried to explain. “The crimes seem to be less arbitrary.”
“Not anymore,” Vicky explained. “I’m not trying to worry you, but lots of arbitrary crimes happen here, and everywhere. No place is immune. That’s why I started looking into prepping.”
“I see. But I guess another thing is that in New York, I feel like the city doesn’t need me,” I explained. “Los Angeles needs help right now.”
“What are you? Batman?” joked Vicky. “You going to clean up the streets!”
“Teaching is a powerful tool,” I said. “You teach kids, keep them off the streets and in just a few years, things change.”
“What you have to watch out for here are the gangs.”
“Yeah, you don’t hear much about them anymore, but they’re still around,” Vicky explained.
“The disparity between the rich and poor just seems bigger in big cities,” I noted. “I wish I could do something about that.”
“Yeah. I wish anyone could.”
“I don’t know. These kids, they just seem…different today. But now I sound like Jim,” I laughed.
“Well, it’s the damned phones,” laughed Vicky. “Parents give them to the kids too early. James is not getting a phone until he’s 13. I’ve already decided.”
“What about emergencies?” I asked. “All the kids had phones in the school. All the way to first grade.”
“Are you kidding?” asked Vicky shocked.
“Well, the phones only call their parents,” I clarified. “Just for emergencies or coordinating rides.”
“So, no Internet?”
“Oh, no-no-no,” I laughed. “Well, one kid figured a way to access it. But most of the kids don’t. They’re not allowed at that age.”
“Well, okay, I could see that,” said Vicky, starting to soften. “I guess I would want James to have a phone to call me in an emergency or for me to call him. But definitely no Internet until he’s 13.”
“Actually, we have school assignments on the Internet,” I recalled.
“What? At what age?”
“You’re not making this kid-rearing easy!” laughed Vicky. “Why would you force us to put the kids on the Internet that young?”
“In New York, it’s part of a drive to go paperless. Most of the kids do their work on a computer at school, but home assignments and over the summer. You need Internet.”
“Summer assignments? Who does homework in the summer?!”
“Do you not remember doing that in high school?”
“Yeah, but I never did them!”
We laughed and I told myself I that I took my job too seriously. Vicky was either teasing me or was too drunk to remember the details of high school.
She was like a lot of parents of the kids I taught. They wanted common sense from the school system, but the system was so stretched out, it often had weird and conflicting rules.
“All right, this is depressing me,” said Vicky waving to the bartender. “I need to get shit-faced.”
“Cheers to that,” I said. “Order one for me!”
On Monday morning, Carina was nursing a hangover. She and Vicki had Ubered around L.A. to a few different places. At one point, Vicky finally passed out in the car and Carina had to beg the Uber driver to take them to Vicky’s house before returning here.
By the time Carina got back to the hotel, the sun was coming up. I was fast asleep and had already packed my clothes. She passed out on the bed and crashed until the hotel gave us a wake-up call.