On a Friday night I go to the premiere of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, the ’90s TV hit that Lynch, along with the rest of Hollywood, has decided is no longer ’90s anymore. I get invited because my cousin Jason manages a band featured in the show. Jason puts me down as his “assistant.” He calls me twice the day before and texts me three times the day of reminding me to get there by 6:00 p.m. at the latest and not to be late. “Seriously, don’t be late,” he pleads. “It’s David Lynch.”
Because getting anywhere in L.A. before 9:00 p.m. is exhausting, I decide the only way I can make it downtown before 6:00 p.m. is not to go into the office. I spend the day sipping an iced latte and answering emails from my bed. At 5:00 p.m. my boss texts and says he’s coming by the office and asks if we can meet. “I can’t,” I write. “I’ve got a date with David Lynch.”
“Cool,” he says. Cool.
I put on a floral wrap dress my mom wore in the ’70s but it’s long-sleeved and the 90 degrees it is in Highland Park by now is unforgiving. I turn on my keyboard, which also lives in my closet, along with two speakers, a two-way audio interface, and a pile of cables I can never seem to keep untangled. And then I remember Jason, and the please don’t be late, and turn it off without playing a note.
Quicker than I expected, I find another dress, this one worn by my friend’s mom in the ’70s. It’s yellow and orange and has short sleeves and little holes in the front where my chest is. I throw my ID in my Marc Jacobs black-and-white spotted purse, and look in the mirror to see how it clashes. My husband, Juan, has just arrived and is eating a pork sandwich on his desk in our room. “Maybe a plain black purse,” he suggests, his mouth dripping. “I don’t have a plain black purse,” I smile. “And anyways, I can’t be late.”
My Uber driver is seven minutes away and it’s going to take us 25 minutes to get downtown because there’s an eight-minute delay on the 110 freeway. He asks if my event tonight is at the Ace Hotel, and when I say yes, he asks, what for.
“You like horror?” he looks at me through the rearview mirror when I reveal the name of the show.
“Sure,” I nod.
“That’s some creepy shit.” Yeah, I nod again. Yeah. Jason texts me promptly at 5:30, see ya soon.
The streets adjacent to Broadway are blocked off, so I get out of the Uber three blocks ahead and walk. “Beautiful hair,” says a homeless man walking slowly in the opposite direction as me.
Jason is on the corner wearing a checkered button-up shirt and a fedora.
“Hey,” he says, immediately back at his phone once we hug, always on the go. “Here are your passes,” he starts walking. “Now, don’t tell anyone how you got in ‘cause all the band members’ significant others are sitting around you and it was so hard to get extra people in and I didn’t tell them I snuck you and Robert. You’ll be sitting next to my friend Robert. I’ve told you about him. The one with terminal lung cancer.”
We walk past the parking lot on the corner of Broadway and 9th and come to a crowd of people waiting in line to take their picture, it seems. A woman wears a light-gray gown with sequins in the shape of a flower over her chest. A man wears a maroon suit with a yellow bowtie. “People are really dressed up,” I say. I look at Jason, concerned about my choice.
“Well, yeah, it’s a premiere. Anyways, you don’t have to wait there, that’s some red-carpet bullshit. I already got your ticket for you so you can just walk in.” I’m moving slowly behind Jason, my eyes fixed on the sequins. “I gotta run! I’ll see you at the after-party. Have fun! And be nice to Robert.”
Inside, I’m surrounded by people I know are famous but I can’t figure out who any of them are. I order a chardonnay at the bar and stand at an empty table, looking around as if I’d lost a friend.
“Do you mind if I set this drink here for a moment, just a moment,” a middle-aged man with a black tie asks me at the table. “I have to tweet.”
“Sure,” I laugh, wanting to make a friend, “I don’t own the table.”
“You could if you wanted to,” he says.
I consider asking him if he likes horror but then I don’t.
I go down to the bathroom for the second time and enter a quaint little powder room, covered in pink velvet and large mirrors with light bulbs lining the edges. I sit on an ottoman and take a hit from my weed vape pen before realizing that there are other women in the room and maybe that’s an odd thing to think I can do in here. The flavor is “Girl Scout cookies” and it doesn’t smell a touch like pot, dissipating quickly while I put on some lip gloss, another item I never wear (the first being the boobs).
Upstairs I grab another glass of wine, then the lights flicker, time to head to our seats. Everyone is whisking by everywhere, the celebrity in them perhaps keen on whisking by, being seen but not too seen. My seat is on the top balcony. I walk through to the very middle back row to find an old man with a tote bag in my seat, Robert.
“Hi,” he whispers. “Are you Jason’s cousin?”
“Yes!” I scream, so happy to have someone to talk to at this thing. I need someone who can tell me who all the famous people are.
Robert has long, greasy, silver hair and a long white beard. He wears small no-frame circular glasses, a soft button-up striped shirt that could be mistaken for pajamas and a dark-gray athletic jacket, which he later admits he regrets wearing. “Everyone keeps looking at me,” he says.
“Everyone’s trying to figure out who you are in the show,” I reply.
Robert’s voice sounds like it’s been put through the dryer too many times. It’s the voice of someone you want to talk to, someone who knows a lot and isn’t afraid to tell. Later I think maybe his voice is affected by the cancer, but I shrug at the thought. He just doesn’t sound sick. “I’ve always liked smoking pot,” Robert would later tell me. “But I put tobacco on my joints for years. That was a bad move.”
Immediately Robert and I have everything to talk about. He lives in Santa Monica, I’m from Santa Monica. I was just in Ojai, he has a house in Ojai, too, one with the most amazing tangerines. A middle-aged man in a suit sits in the seat next to me and says, “I think you’re right smack dab in the center. It’s going to be a very aural experience. A-U-R-A-L aural, not oral with an ‘o’.”
I turn to Robert, my eyebrows way up, and laugh.
“That’s the thing about men, you know? You never know what they’re talking about,” he shrugs his shoulders. Robert pulls out his tote bag, stuffed. “Well, I got almonds. They’re lightly salted with some other stuff, they’re like crack. You have to have some.”
“You know who any of the famous people are?” I ask Robert. “Everyone looks famous.”
“That’s just cause they’re dressed nice. Everyone in a suit looks famous,” he replies. “So, what do you think of Santa Monica, do you like it?”
“I do, I love the beach, but I don’t know if I want to live there again. It’s kinda culturally void, you know?”
“Of course! But I’ve got dogs. You don’t need culture when you got dogs.” I laugh. “Plus I live next door to one of those Charlie’s Angels, although she’s gotten so much plastic surgery I’m telling you, it’s horrendous!”
Robert pours another load of almonds into my hand.
The president of Showtime gets on stage and thanks too many people to be important and then Lynch gets on and does the opposite, he talks about wood for three minutes. Douglas fir, to be specific. The lights go down and almost immediately, as if written into the script, the audience collectively gasps, laughs and gasps again. Within minutes, the guy who’s sitting next to me, not Robert, the A-U-R-A-L guy, shows up on screen, a cop. Robert and I look at each other and nod almost in unison, acknowledging our discovery.
Agent Dale Cooper is on the screen and he’s speaking some kind of futuristic gibberish and I have a quick thought then, that maybe David Lynch has lost his mind, or maybe his mind was always lost but people still wanted to get in it. It’s been a good 10 years since I watched or thought about the show, and I am so confused. The week prior, Juan and I had gone to Ojai and fallen asleep watching Blue Velvet. “That movie is so weird,” Juan said in the morning. “I couldn’t sleep.” David Lynch.
About an hour and a half goes by and I haven’t looked at my phone yet, and they haven’t really stopped the thing so I start wondering if we’re still in the first episode, which is making me nervous, because we’re meant to watch two episodes here tonight and I’m starting to feel fidgety. The girl in front of us keeps putting her head in her lap like she’s going to throw up and occasionally glances behind her, at the exit maybe. Robert eats an almond every few minutes.
Eventually, of course, it’s over, so everyone claps and stands up. Robert and I linger, eating almonds and talking about what Danny DeVito’s wife looks like. We don’t really talk about Lynch or the show. An usher comes over and starts to ask us to leave and Robert balks. “They’re always asking me to leave.” To which the guy replies, “It’s always the special ones that stay.” The special ones.
Outside of the theater is a large vintage-looking truck filled with Douglas firs. “Get in front of it!” says Robert. “I wanna take your picture.” In the photo, my hand is awkwardly on one of the logs, and I’m looking up at them smiling huge.
On the way to Clifton’s, Robert and I smoke the Girl Scout cookies pot. A homeless woman covered in dirt in a wheelchair stops us and asks for money and Robert quickly pulls out a few dollars. “Was she a prop?” he asks me afterward. “I think she was a prop.”
A young starlet turned cocaine aficionado is walking in front of us in a tiny black dress and bulky boots, her arms flailing over a boy wearing a similar style of boot.
“These kids look like they’re from New York,” Robert nods toward her.
“That girl is always so fucked up, a mess,” I whisper.
“Ah, yeah,” he looks at her. “Young and dumb, what the hell, is it a crime?”
I find the phrase so perfect I type it in my phone minutes afterward to remember the sentiment.
As we’re walking up, Robert talks about how he hopes they have some pie at the party, he’s been craving pie since he found out we were going to Clifton’s, where I guess they used to serve pie in the ’20s.
As soon as we enter Clifton’s, a four-story bar centered around an enormous fake tree, a tree made of Douglas fir wood, perhaps, we’re handed a map. A map of a party, every stoner’s dream. Immediately to our left there is pie and coffee and Robert and I are there in seconds, on the same beat.
We eat our cherry pie and coffee on a pair of red diner stools not far from the entrance. People walk by with bags emblazoned with Twin Peaks, and I say “Robert! Maybe we can get some gifts,” to which he replies, “We need to eat our pie first. Eat your pie.”
Robert bites slowly and tells me he’s been laying off the sugar, it’s not good for him, but tonight will have to be an exception.
“Jason told you about my condition, right?” he asks then.
I can’t lie, “Yes,” I nod. Yes.
“You know my mom came to visit me for 10 days, 10 days. It was miserable. That’s the thing about mothers is they want to take care of you but then you just end up taking care of them. It’s horrible. You know, I think it’s hard when you’re a parent and your kid is sick. But she’s miserable. It really is a drag.”
I nod. Yes. It must be hard.
“You’re not gonna finish your pie?” Robert laughs then. “Well let’s check out the treats then.”
We head to where all the people with the bags are coming from and find walls lined with candy, Lemonheads and Now and Laters, which Robert and I each eat one of and spit out, having forgotten how disgusting they are. There’s malt chocolate, and milkshake chocolate and violet caramel. Robert and I are two kids in a candy store stoned on coffee and vodka, and we can’t decide what we want. “I found the good stuff!” he yells at me, crouched down on the floor. “Which one do you want? Milk or toffee?”
A beautiful woman in a red dress comes toward us with a tray of tall, red drinks, dirty Shirley Temples, she tells us. I grab one immediately and Robert looks at it for a bit thinking before he grabs one too, and we do cheers. He doesn’t take a sip. “I just wanna look at it,” he says to me later after ordering a tall scotch. I just want to look at it.
The next morning my father calls me, my mother screaming in the background.
“You have to tell her to stop!” he yells. “It’s abuse. Please, please. Tell her to stop.” My mother grabs the phone then.
“I’m sorry he called you, that is so childish.”
“Mom,” I say slowly. “Just stop.”
“Why is it me that always has to control myself? Can you please tell him to watch this episode of 60 Minutes? I just want him to watch it and he refuses. He’ll listen to you.”
Once off the phone I text my mother: He’s 65. He’s not going to change. Which is great! We love him the way he is, right? It’s Saturday morning and your pool is newly resurfaced and it’s cherry season. Let it go. Life is too short.
I see Jason at brunch and tell him about what a fun night Robert and I had together and how he asked me to come visit him at his house in Santa Monica. “We gotta go with him to Ojai,” he says. “He’ll give you so many tangerines.”
I show Jason a photo I took of Robert in front of a neon green Twin Peaks sign at Clifton’s, scotch in hand. “Just how terminal is his cancer?” I ask, still looking at the photo. “He seems so alive.”
He doesn’t answer the question. “We gotta go with him to Ojai,” he says. “He’ll give us so many tangerines.”
Alexa Carrasco has been writing since she was 8 years old and wrote a poem about wanting to be an astronaut. A writer and musician (who goes by Lexi Whatever), she writes articles from her bed and songs on a piano in her closet.
Alexa lives in Highland Park and is a graduate of Pitzer College. This is her first published literary essay. Find her at @lexiwhateverforever.
Feature image: David Lynch / via flickr